OK…I didn’t do such a good job of documenting my last big project, so we’re going to try again.
I was asked today to build a rocking chair to donate to a fund-raising auction for an organization called ChristianWorks. This is an adoption agency and family counseling center supported by Churches of Christ here in Dallas. Each fall, on an October Saturday evening, they hold an auction at the Anatole Hotel in Dallas. This is a very nice affair every year, and past honorary chairs have included George W. Bush. The auction raises a couple-hundred-thousand-dollars toward the operating budget, plus it’s a fun night.
There are always several trips donated to auction, and other things like signed hockey jerseys, golf clubs, portrait sessions, etc. A few years ago, I decided to build a piece of furniture to donate. (See the project here on Lumberjocks about the Barnes Blanket Chest). Last year, I built a cradle from quartersawn white oak, but this year, it’s a rocking chair.
I’m delighted to make these donations, because it raises a lot of money for a great organization, and someone gets an heirloom-quality piece of furniture (at least better than the mdf monstrosities that pass for furniture in retail stores). I’m a little selfish about these projects, too, because I get something as well—a chance to challenge my woodworking skills, and a chance to acquire several new tools!
Anyway, back to the subject at hand—-when asked to build a rocking chair, the first picture that popped into my mind was the Maloof-style rocker. I just happen to have a set of plans that I’ve been saving for just such an occassion, and I’ve already started the research part of the project. More later..but for now, here’s some info from an Atlantic Monthly article:
“For much of the twentieth century, however, the rocking chair received little attention from the design world. Then, in the early 1970s, Sam Maloof began to experiment. He designed long, elegant skis that curve inward at the back like an antelope’s horns. To make them strong enough he used seven laminated strips of wood for each ski: the result is both visually striking and as hard as iron.
He had sold only a few chairs before he met a potential customer with a lower-back problem, Maloof told me recently. He took a piece of wood, held it against his own back, and curved it to fit, creating what has become his trademark ergonomic spindle. He lowered the seat to relax the angle of the sitter’s legs; raised the arms, which encourages deeper breathing; and completed a design that has found its way into the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the White House, the Vice President’s mansion, and President Jimmy Carter’s office in Atlanta.
“Maloof took the rocker to a new plateau of expression,” says Jonathan Fairbanks, an art consultant who was for many years the curator of American decorative arts at Boston’s MFA. Jeremy Adamson, a curator at the Smithsonian, calls the chair “among the most comfortable ever devised—and a creature of rare beauty.” At eighty-five, Maloof still builds chairs in a workshop next to his house, in the foothills of California’s San Gabriel Mountains. If you have $20,000 to spend and don’t mind waiting years, you can own a new Maloof rocker. This is a steal compared with the early Maloof (nonrocking) chair that went for $120,000 at auction last year.
Maloof’s design has been copied by countless mundane furniture makers, and it has also inspired the work of younger artists. ” (By the way, that article was from 2001. That would make same well over ninety now….)
Another sawdust therapy session later…DAN
—Dan in Dallas
-- Dan in Dallas