Touch the past

A friend of ours, from German-Polish descent, invited me over to photograph a beautiful piece of antique furniture. She and her late husband brought it with them when they immigrated to South Africa many years ago. This was a typical present given to a bride on her wedding day and the custom probably dates back to who knows when… BC ?

This is something you ought to treat with respect, or at least that’s how it seemed as I ran my fingers across the chip carved surface. I tried to imagine the craftsman as he worked on this bridal-gift chest. Was he the bride’s father or brother or was this the local furniture maker? He might well have been a journeyman, a carpenter/cabinet maker who had finished his apprenticeship and was required to do a three-year stint travelling from village to village and often cross border making furniture as he went. He would have been wearing a typical corduroy suit and would have carried all his belongings (woodworking tools included) on his back.

Whatever his tools they were certainly not today’s precision-cast close-grained cast iron bodies with A-2 steel blades and other sophistications we buy off the rack.

A long time ago

A good many of his tools would have been self-made and yet, when you look at a some of the surviving furniture that built was centuries ago you become more modest in your pronouncements of skill. Add to this that some of the most valuable antiques today were produced when the only electricity around were those in storm clouds.

Forgive me if I risk abusing this blog for unrelated issues but I need to get it off my chest.

We live in a presumptuous age. The only thing you have to do to be the best is to say so. And if that doesn’t work you change your marketing agency. And I have a lot more to say but not now.

Everyone (including the bride) must have loved it


So in 1739 some cabinet maker was bending over his workbench somewhere in Europe and carved out those repetitive motifs on this beautiful chest for a bride-to-be. This piece of furniture then travelled around and was handed down until it landed up in South Africa for you and me to behold. Behold what, timelessness? Not quite but it is lasting well isn’t it?

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