Friday, December 07, 2012
Something Special: The Evangeline Table
Ye who believe in affection that hopes, and endures, and is patient,
Ye who believe in the beauty and strength of woman's devotion,
List to the mournful tradition still sung by the pines of the forest;
List to a Tale of Love in Acadie, home of the happy.
Longfellow was from Maine, and lived in the first brick house in Portland. The whole town is brick now. It's a fitting metaphor for his life. He was one of those people whose work was so accessible and popular that eventually no one wanted it any more. It can't be any good -- everyone likes it. I still like it.
I don't create things as much as I'd like. I make things, which is honorable, and gratifying, but it is not always the "whole" thing --the process from soup to nuts, concept to sticks and bricks. I wanted to make the whole thing for a change.
I had this raw material. I'd purchased a pile of flame birch many years ago. It's the king of all American woods, if you ask me. Hard as a banker's heart, and beautiful as a girl that won't talk to you. I tucked it away to do something with it -- eventually. Eventually is a terrible word in my life now. There was potential in the rough planks of wood that could be brought to bear for the right project. But what?
Creation is the whole thing, as I said. I set up my lathe again. I like the lathe. It's quiet. I don't have to put a vise on my head to use it. It's not a rote operation, ever, even when making the same leg over again. My little son said, "Daddy is sculpting again." I adored that. I was. But more, I was thinking. I was trying. I was striving to make something, the whole thing.
What to do with flame birch? Shakers used it once in a while. But I was not thinking spartan. The wood is the hardest stuff America produces. I was thinking of the forests from whence it came. I was thinking of Acadie. And so I thought of Longfellow, and Evangeline.
It was going to be a nineteenth century table, the legs would have tulips for their toes, and the wild, iridescent grain would be revealed, but somehow tamed by the soft shapes of the turnings. The heaviness of the forest would be transformed into something sophisticated and delicate. I went back and forth over dimensions, proportions. I made it small enough to seem delicate, but big enough to be elegant and useful. I think I made it beautiful, but that is not for me to say.
There is a statue of Evangeline in Nova Scotia. It is where my father's family came from, and the statue was made by a sculptor who used the actress my mother is named for as a model. So I had this whole idea, a mishmash brought together into an object.
The table has a look of unreality to it. The grain flips from dark to light when you walk past it. It becomes a negative of itself and then goes back again as you move. It's like tortoiseshell. I made it for my Father, who is gone, and my Mother, who I do not see often enough, and for Acadie, and for the nuns that read Evangeline to me.
I cannot keep it because there's nothing wrong with it. We can only keep the things that aren't right somehow. You can buy it. It's not on my furniture website right now, so my readers can see it first, here. This table is either the first one, or the only one; I'm not sure which yet. But I must put it out in the world because it's the best thing I've done, and there is no eventually for me any more.
$399.00, Ready to ship. Free shipping to anywhere in the lower 48 states. 16" x 16" x 27" high.
[UPDATE: Sold to Bob in Missouri. Why do I have so many friends in Missouri? I don't know, but I'm glad of it. Thanks, Bob]
[Saturday Update: Due to the overwhelming interest in this item, I've decided to accept orders for Evangeline Tables here on my blog. They'll be ready for shipment approximately six weeks after you place your order. Many thanks to all my friends for their kind words and their interest in Sippican Cottage. Still $399 each, free shipping included]
Buy one now: