This Modern Chair is Made from a Whopping 220 Feet of Rope
What was it like working with your father on this project?
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I love working with dad. Dad actually works for me part time—he and my mom moved out to Hood River, Oregon, from Michigan a few years back. He taught construction trades at a technical center for high school kids for 20 years, built the house I grew up in, had a furniture business when I was a little kid, and built wooden sailboats. He's responsible for so much that's happened with Phloem.
I've wanted to make a woven-rope seat for a while now—I love the size and the tactile nature of it. It feels good, too—it's soft, but firm. It seemed like a natural jump from mid-century seats woven in Danish cord or Shaker furniture woven with cotton tape—but the rope we use has a much more contemporary look and feel than either of those mediums.
Dad made loads of Shaker-inspired furniture when I was a kid. When we talked about using rope, the weave pattern came to him quickly from having a lot of cane-weaving experience. The chair has this simplicity that makes me remember the type of furniture Dad built when I was a kid. This chair has that memory of home for me.
How did your father's work influence your own career?
Dad used to make quite a bit of Shaker-inspired furniture and also some classic Windsor chair reproductions. I grew up sweeping his woodshop floor, and sanding and making Adirondack deck chairs in the summer for extra cash, but I didn't really take to it as a kid. It wasn't until my late 20s that it made sense as a career. We were a very creative family. We were always taught to appreciate beautiful handcrafted things and the work and effort involved to make something right and make it last for a long time.
The engineering abilities in his brain definitely take over when he sees a weak chair joint. It's important for him (and me) to go that extra distance to get it right. We've scrapped fully completed chair prototypes and started from scratch because we both didn't like the back angle. He stresses the importance of keeping things simple in all ways.