December 15, 2012

Child-Sized Orkney Chairs

orkney_child_chair_bonhams.jpg

The International Herald Tribune has a little feature on Orkney Chairs, a type of make-do, homemade chairs built by residents of the Orkney Islands, originally from carved driftwood and woven straw, because trees on the islands were so scarce. The tall, woven backs, we're told, "shielded their occupants from icy draughts" on the frankly kind of grim-sounding, North Sea islands.

The chairs were popularized around the turn of the 20th century by a joiner named David Kirkness. Orkney joiners, we are told, "made a range of wooden objects there, including coffins: Like many joiners of that era, they doubled as undertakers."

Among the standardized designs Kirkness produced was a child's chair. This example of a "Kirkness type" child's chair sold last August at Bonhams for £500, which looks to be toward the higher end for Orkney chairs, but not outrageous.

Personally, I don't like this chair, or any of them. But the depressing combination of cold winds, children, and undertakers seemed to fit the bill today.

Treasures That Sprang From Rustic Necessity [nyt]
30 Aug 2012,
Lot 570: A late 19th/early 20th century child's Orkney chair David Kirkness type, Kirkwall, sold for £500
[bonhams]

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