Brackets and Cutouts

The angularity of wedges and curved cutouts lends a refined look to Arts and Crafts pieces.

ot all details are perfectly rectilinear. Small accents, many in the form of brackets or cutouts, enliven otherwise straightforward designs.

Brackets, though square-edged, unmolded and flat, often are given a gently curved profile.

Nouvenu styles, the influence of the more flowing, nature based Art Nouveau style is felt in many Arts and Crafts pieces- for example, in the products of various "Utopian" workshops such as the Byrddiffe Arts Colony in Woodstock, N.Y in the form of pastel-colored painted sections, tulip inlays, and lily patterns.

Central to the principle of craftsmanship in this style of furniture is the use of other natural materials, such as teed and rush for seats, leather upholstery, and hand-wrought hardware made from iron or hammered brass. The hardware often is as square and sturdy as tin furniture it serves and stands 111 complete c ontrast to the elegant and finely wrought shapes found on 18th-century pieces or the overworked fantastic shapes common on much 19th-century furniture. A gratuitous form of decoration in terms of structural function, but one that is consistent with the incorporation of natural materials, is the frequent use of a row of hand wrought nails as an edge decoration.

6. Finish It would be inappropriate to finish an Arts and Crafts piece with a glossy lacquer. But while natural finishes like sim pie oiling and waxing may predominate, other processes, such as filling, staining, and fuming, are common.

Careful surface preparation is most important. In the case of an open-grained wood like oak, a matching wood filler should be used. If oak is filled first, it then may be waxed or perhaps lightly oiled and dien waxed. If wax alone is used, it should be colored so diat the wax-filled pores in the wood do not show white.

I liming, die process of exposing oak to the fumes of ammonia, is a common method of turning oak darker without pro ducing die irregular color that can result from careless staining.The popularity of fuming, especi;dly among early proponents of Arts and Crafts furniture, resulted from the misconception that genuine Gothic furniture was extremely dark. That darkness, in fact, came from centuries of exposure to smoky atmospheres. When new, however, most Godlic furniture was brightly painted or valued precisely for its light golden color.

GRAHAM BLACKBURN is a furniture maker, author, illustrator and the publisher of Blackburn Books (www.blackburnbooks.com).

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