Menushopping cart
Tools for Working Wood
Invest in your craft. Invest in yourself.

JOEL Joel's Blog

Primary Sources


Primary Sources 4
Bedroom furniture isn't something one pays much attention to in the evening. It's in the morning when we wake up, look around, see our surroundings in the warm light of daytime and begin to figure out what we got into the night before.

I played hooky from work the other day and my wife and I spent the morning at The Brooklyn Museum. The best part of the Brooklyn Museum IMHO is their decorative arts collection. It's one of the best in the country and some of the stuff they have on display is amazing.
I mention this because even if you are a thousand miles from Brooklyn, hopefully you are a reasonable distance from seeing the real thing in your area. What I am talking about is primary sources.
The reason I like going to museums, good antique stores, and auctions periodically is to see the real thing. To get inspired by seeing the stuff we all talk about - classic furniture - it's one thing to see a fabulous picture of some Rhullmann furniture, it's another thing to go to an auction preview and lie down in a quarter million dollar starburst macassar ebony bed that was made for a Parisian bachelor in the 1920's and has a leopardskin coverlet. This is a bed so sexy that just walking past it makes your clothing loosen. I am sorry I could not dig up a picture.
Nothing beats getting to see the real stuff in 3D. Not a picture, not a copy, the real thing.
I saw that Rhulmann bed over 15 years ago and I haven't seen the exact same bedroom set in any Rhulmann books (which is not surprising if it got sold to a private collector) but the experience of it is stuck so far in my mind that it's with me until I excise my brain and build the darn thing - or something better.
Something Better Or At Least As Nice
Since I did my first carving only a couple of months ago I'm more in tune to carved stuff and at the museum I saw (behind glass can't touch) the bed above. It's really something. I don't know anything about it. I guess it's late 19th century, but I forgot to take notes on the caption. But this bed is what I want now - or something like it. I don't know. In any case, and this is the whole point of going to see the stuff, my furniture juices are flowing, filled with ideas about the bed and all the other stuff I saw today. It's a shame that this bed is way too complicated for my level of skill right now.

I am aware that not everyone lives within subway rides of some great furniture collections but I bet almost all of you are within a day's drive of one. And it's worth the time and planning. If your serious about furniture take that trip - you won't regret it. and you will get inspired.
If you visit New York City The New York Historical Society has lots of good stuff and Duncan Phyfe's toolbox. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has one of the finest collections of furniture anywhere, The Old Merchant's House has a houseful of stuff from 1832 in context, and The Brooklyn Museum even with a lot of furniture galleries closed, still has some great stuff on display. Their collection is smaller than the Met's but collected by a real, real connoisseur. There's thousands of other good places to visit all over the country.
Join the conversation
05/06/2008 mark
I've been to the collection at the Met a few times. Very nice. Unfortunately, part of the exhibit was closed down the last time I was there. They have a section in the back where the extra furniture that is not on main display is stored. It was all sitting in glass cases side by side. This was excellent to bring my wife to. Whenever I would ask questions such as "do you like this" when showing her pictures she would always use terms that didn't help me understand what she had problems with in the design (her favorite word when describing furniture is "clunky"). I finally figured out what "clunky" means, and have a better idea of what she likes.
05/09/2008 Michael
It's amazing to me but even after living in Brooklyn for more than half of my life (I'll be 50 in September)one forgets how many great places there are in this wonderful borough. The aforementioned Brooklyn Museum, BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music), Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, where I almost got married, Prospect Park, Grand Army Plaza Library, TFWW, etc,. It's been many years since I've been to any of these places and since traveling is very difficult for me I especially appreciate these blog entries as they allow me to at least get to see some of Brookly without being there. I do hope to get there this summer and I will certainly want to visit you and the shop when that time comes, but until then, you have my permission to play hookey periodically.


PS-I didn't realize that you just started carving! What make tools are you using?
05/09/2008 joel moskowitz
The tudor rose was carved using Ashely Iles tools. We stock to cherries also (on-line) but the Ashley Iles come sharp and there is a wider selection, and they are less expensive, so I lean towards them
Comments are closed.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the blog's author and guests and in no way reflect the views of Tools for Working Wood.