A Note from the Editor:
It’s been years since I went antiquing in Essex. That’s the old ship-building town next to Gloucester, which is incidentally famous for a cluster of antiques stores, most of them right on the Essex River and close by Woodman’s eat-in-the-raw lobster and clambake establishment. Going to Essex was a highlight of my early trips to Cape Ann, but I’ve been a local for twenty years and I haven’t needed furniture lately. Then last week I decided to look for a big oak bookcase, to hold two hundred books I’m bringing home from the office.
In the shops, lots of things are labeled Mission, shorthand for oak, Arts & Crafts, or overpriced. Some of these pieces are Grand Rapids production furniture. Some looked like high-school shop projects. I saw a few English pieces and a notable Mission Oak desk with its original finish. I did find the right bookcase—A&C period but not collectible, credibly beat-up, open shelves—but the proprietor said it was not for sale; she didn’t want to move the books in it. She suggested a place up the road, which I knew specialized in early furniture, but I went anyway.
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A few antique chairs, tagged for sale, sat in the stony courtyard, but the majority of pieces in this store were new work: artful tables made up from old boards and even wainscot and doors, and chairs in the Windsor tradition. My eyes went immediately to a bow-back chair finished in red milk paint, its extraordinarily fine, knife-edge seat obviously sculpted by hand. The chair’s delicate proportions bely the strength inherent in its springy spindles and tight joints. It was made by a man who uncompromisingly crafts one chair at a time.
Like the Sussex chairs so popular during the English Arts & Crafts movement, and the design for the original "Morris chair” found in a country woodshop, that red chair is true Arts & Crafts.
108 East Main St., Gloucester, MA 01930