On Christmas Day 2010, my daughter’s first baby was born. They named her Noelle Rose. I was immediately obliged to make her a chair, to uphold a tradition that started with my first grand daughter in 2007. This ladderback chair was Rose’s gift on her first birthday, and second Christmas, in 2011.
It is made of maple with elm stretchers, and the seat is elm bark. It is 12” wide across the back and 15” across the “mushrooms” atop the front legs. The seat height is 8 ½” and overall height is 27”. Rockers are 20 ½” long. The finish is alkyd paint and varnish and metallic powder stenciling. The seat is red elm bark dyed with aniline dyes and woven in the traditional “under 2 over 2” pattern. The decoration is adapted from period precedents, including faux rosewood panels (black over red) on the back.
The chair is inspired by the work of a chairmaker in Frontenac County, Ontario, who worked in the 1860s. The chair itself was made in 2000 and saved unpainted, along with a few others, in hopes that grandchildren would come along to use them.
The maple came from a tree that was brought down by the ice storm that hit the northeast in Jan 1998. The turned parts and back rails are riven from the log to eliminate any weakness from grain runout and to facilitate steam bending. The bark for the seat was harvested about 1986 when I was able to get the bark from two red elm trees that had been cut before they died (Dutch elm disease usually kills them early). I harvested a few hundred feet of inner bark in more or less uniform width and thickness. The material is a lot like leather in texture, and often lasts a hundred and fifty years in use.