Journal

12 November 2015

A CLOSER LOOK AT A BRANCH AND SIX PLANKS

ONE BRANCH, a good eye and a naturally inventive instinct, are the elements that led to the creation of this unique sweeping brush.

Swedish and dating from the later-1800s, it is an inspired example from the colourful history of Swedish design.

No extraneous ornament, no fuss, just the vision to identify the form of a natural branch and translate it into a functional object.

Works of folk art were often born of necessity, yet fashioned with such sensitivity and ingenuity that they appeal to generation after generation and outlive their owners and creators by centuries.

Unique by definition, practical and still functioning perfectly, well over a hundred years after it was made………. and it makes you smile. I think most designers would be happy with that!

 

SIX PLANKS, a top, a bottom and four sides, that’s all it takes to make a chest, so what makes it special?

This ancient example was made in Northern Sweden from fine, hard, slow-grown alpine pine.

It is hard to date accurately, but it certainly dates back to the 1600’s, which we know from the form, materials and construction.

It is fashioned from massive well-seasoned, riven planks, averaging close to 3cms thick.

No cut joints, dovetails or adhesives were used in its construction. The base and all four sides are simply overlapped and fixed with large square wooden pegs and re-enforced by the original metal brackets towards the top.

The large hand forged metal strap hinges, corner brackets, small drop ring handles, triangular escutcheon, internal lock and key, are all original.

The surface is dry, raw, untouched, almost like driftwood and there are enticing remnants of the original paint, now worn and faded with age, which has developed a wonderful almost contemporary abstract appeal.

The sides are slightly tapered, with the base being wider than the top, which in conjunction with the robust construction and the “in use” wear is evidence enough to suggest that it was made to serve as a bench seat as well as a storage chest.

Internally, it is fitted with a candle box on the left hand side and a taper till on the right hand side, and that is that.

Swedish design is recognised for its spare economic lines, its sensitive minimal qualities and an understated elegance, from the Baroque period through the Gustavian era and right up to the Mid-Twentieth Century Modernism. Pieces of this nature are from the roots of that tradition, which can really be traced back to the Vikings.

This is a powerful object, almost monolithic in appeal, yet of comparatively small scale. The materials themselves are magnetic and temptingly tactile, the natural raw timber with its traces of paint now softly worn, but left to age gracefully with no “improvements” or interference throughout multiple generations. The functional hand wrought metalwork draws the eye and is integral to the design, due to its scale, colour and exact positioning. These are the qualities that make it special and lend it a natural, albeit inanimate, charisma.

A model of simplicity that lives on as an heirloom, some 400 years after the maker selected his timber and created it with rudimentary tools, patience and talent.

The next chapter in their journey will be to travel to New York City, to be exhibited at the Winter Antiques Show in January 2016. So life goes on.


 

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