Friday, February 6, 2009

Rocking Chairs I Love: Parker Converse Edition

Parker Converse makes gorgeous chairs from the best lumber available. He was an apprentice to Hal Taylor (the next and final entry in my rocking chair series) in 2001. The first photo I want to show is from Parker's section on how he makes his rocking chairs.

What Parker is doing in the photo, in my opinion, shows the difference between handmade furniture and furniture made in factories. Sitting on the floor of his shop, he isn't conducting a religious ceremony -- though what he is doing is certainly spiritual in many ways. Rather, he is reading the wood. He is studying the grain to find pieces that lend themselves to certain parts of the particular chair he is making. He's also looking for structural defects to avoid and particularly beautiful parts that he would want to make prominent. This is what furniture makers do. From here, he will make marks to show where to make rough cuts to begin the incremental process of getting the wood closer and closer to the final shape it will take on in the chair. Have a look at the other photos in this section to see the rest of the process (though keep in mind that it doesn't show the multiple, arduous steps it takes to get the wood even this far). It illustrates how decision making is perhaps the most important skill in making furniture. His decisions are informed by experience with wood's inherent strengths and weaknesses, his own vision of how a rocking chair should be, the needs and expectations of his client and the constant play between engineering and artistry that make his chairs some of the best being made today.

That's enough babbling from me. Have a look at some Converse rocking chairs and some detail shots showing the level of Parker's skill. First, his Amboyna Rocker.

Curly Maple Rocker

Detail of lumbar support

Detail of Fiddleback English Walnut Rocker

I hope you enjoy Parker's work. His website is