We are properly conserving a French-made Planter’s Chair, circa 1860.
(You can begin here, if you like.)
We’ll follow the chair through excavation to the new show-cover.
We left off in the last posting with the seat partially excavated.
Removing the second generation hair topper,
we encounter an original hair topper, properly lashed to the seat deck.
He notes the lashing pattern, then cuts and lifts it.
The seat deck hessian is exposed; after vacuuming we inspect it.
Mitchell wears a mask when he is excavating after encountering molds and
various types of dust and debris which can mess with your lungs!
Lashing patterns noted, and details of the fit.
We loosened the inside arms to inspect the carvings and connections.
Above, an example of what careless upholsterers do to frames, including carvings,
or when the frame maker does not include tacking foundations which allow for tacking without encroaching into decorative elements. Mitchell will change the frame slightly to include a tacking block to preserve the carving from future mistakes..
We will repair the lovely carving.
There is damage to the connection between the carving and the metal frame on both arms,
also to be repaired. This may be a wear-and-tear issue, or possible a design issue.
These are the types of issues we discuss with clients as we find them.
The original fiber seat pod comes off, to be cleaned and conserved.
The spring deck is exposed. Over the years the hessian stretches on both
spring deck and seat deck to conform to the stresses.
Lashing patterns are noted.
Spring deck burlap is removed, and we see the original springs.
We inspect the dirt (we find odd bits sometimes, including coins) and vacuum the debris.
The springs are heavy rolled steel, which we will clean and conserve.
Mitchell notes the tie patterns, but does not cut the ties yet.
He usually does not cut ties until the last moment necessary.
He also counts and notes the tie hole patterns,
as he lifts the tacks holding ties to the frame.
The chair is turned over, and under the dustcover we see two layers of
webbing applied in order to save the springs.
This second layer (top) is the creamy webbing above, not lashed to the springs below.
The first webbing applied over the original in order to save the springs
is the darker herringbone webbing in a criss-cross pattern.
It was also not lashed in any manner to the springs.
As Mitchell removed webbing, he notes holes and tack positions. They tell the story of the number of times the chair has been upholstered and in what manner.
Mitchell is down to the original webbing, properly woven in a basketweave pattern,
and can say he knows the history of the webbing patterns, which,
along with tacks from upholstering showcovers and hessian,
and after noting and marking the spring tie tack patterns,
gives us clue as to the number and nature of the upholsterings.
He feels secure in that the chair was reupholstered twice in its lifetime beyond the original,
and the person who performed the second upholstering did not retie the springs.
The seat drops out!
Some of Mitchell’s musings about the Planter’s Chair…
The woods… European Beech (frame) was not commonly imported in the states.
Persimmon wood (carving) is native to India, but was grown all over the south,
and even into the colonies, which offers other clues.
The original webbing and subsequent webbings were uncommon to the USA,
but found in England and Europe.
The contraction and patina of the foundational woods (European Beech),
and the excessive rusting of tacks and metal objects were consistent with exposure to very high humidity, such as might be found where there is good rainfall and relatively high temperatures, and possibly salty air. This information, coupled with what little provenance was available, led Mitchell to surmise the piece may have lived in France (where it began life) but also lived in either the tropics or a city like New York.
The fact that it is a planter’s chair, with carvings reflecting plants that grow in tropical regions (sugarcane or tobacco) makes him lean toward Latin American or the Caribbean.
The seat is fully excavated,
and we move to the inside back, next post!
(I suggest you turn off the music!)
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