Bodger’s camp in the Chiltern beech woods, late 19th century (from The English Regional Chair, Bernard D. Cotton, Antique Collector’s Club, 1990)
The strategy behind my residency at Mildred’s Lane will be multi-tiered, ranging from the development of a working, craft production facility on site to the promotion and marketing of Goods to be produced, via the World Wide Web. I’m calling the craft production facility Field Lab, and it will build on the tradition of Windsor Chair making that originated along the Thames River during the 18th century, upstream and to the West of London.
Windsor chair making in the The Chilterns and Thames Valley (from The English Regional Chair, Bernard D. Cotton, Antique Collector’s Club, 1990)
The actual product will be determined through a survey of available skills and resources reflecting the aspirations of Mildred’s Lane as well as its bioregional provenance. Whatever the specific outcome, my farther-reaching goals will be to introduce some icon of elegant utility that upholds the Deepcraft ethos I’ve articulated on these pages, where equal pleasure is derived from the making, distribution, use and improvement of the Goods made. Beyond my residency, the Field Lab will live on as a contemporary interpretation of the traditional ‘bodger’s shack’ (pictured at top), taking advantage of modern conveniences befitting the Deepcraft paradigm. My hope is that the Field Lab will elicit the same feeling conveyed in a 1955 letter by Mr George Dean, one of the last traditional chair makers of the Chiltern Woodland:
“It was a strangely enjoyable life, carefree and a bit lonesome if your mate was away. In the spring it was lovely as the trees took on their fresh green leaf, and in the winter, the sighing of the wind and the sight of the birds gathering in the branches when the smoke ascended at meal times. Occasionally the robins would build by the lathe side in the thatch, and hatch the eggs and rear the young. Now and then a wren would make a cosy nest and flit about. Once a flock of pigeons descended on the trees around our shops just after dark. The noise of their flapping wings was alarming as they settled in the tree tops, too exhausted to heed us very much as we worked by candlelight in our primitive way.”
-from The English Regional Chair, Bernard D. Cotton, Antique Collector’s Club, 1990
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