Monday, December 15, 2008

History Repeating

My great-great grandfather was a Pennsylvania Dutch furnituremaker. I have two pieces he made; I like them because I can see the evidence of his hands in the work, and that work connects me more deeply to a part of my family history. I also love the fact that even though the pieces are well over a hundred years old, I'm still using them every day.

This same old German-American had two Keller grandaughters, Kay and Edna. Kay is my grandmother. Among Edna's grandchildren is Kathy, who is a chemistry professor and also my second cousin. About four months ago Kathy sent me an email and asked if I would design and build a buffet for her and her husband Tom.

It's always great to build something for your own family. This commission was particularly meaningful because I felt I could give Kathy -- and her heirs -- the same opportunity to connect with a part of their history as I had. As I built the buffet, I was very careful to use methods I knew would ensure the piece's longevity; I've fixed enough furniture in the past 27 years to have a pretty good idea what lasts and what doesn't. And so I dovetailed the case and the drawers, used mortise and tenon joints on the frames and doors, and used the matching, highly figured mahogany veneer on top of solid poplar rather than plywood, since I've seen a lot of delaminated plywood over the years.

When it was done, I felt like I'd done what I set out to do: With just a bit of good fortune, one of Kathy's great-grandchildren will be connected with a tiny bit of her past, just as I am today.


Blogger Clarice said...

Beautiful pieces--the buffet and the blog entry. Enjoyed reading

June 1, 2009 at 2:45 AM  

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