28 February 2012
First it was just the fascination of seeing makers turning out beautiful and useful furnishings using "horizontal", the tough, impenetrable and ubiquitous scrub of West Coast Tasmania. (See particularly the work of David Ralph in the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney) Then it was locating the fine and beautiful Jimmy Possum chair, an early 20th century regional expression of -- almost certainly -- earlier English models such as the Windsor, and most closely associated with the farming, trapping and timber country around what later became Tasmani'a "craft capital", Deloraine. Just between these two examples can be seen an ongoing vernacular tradition in Tasmanian craft demonstrating clearly the impress of both colonialism and the natural environment on contemporary making. If you can find a copy, look at the catalogue of an exhibition at the Tasmanian School of Art in September 1978: Chairs - made by Tasmanian bush carpenters during the 19th and early 20th century. The result of a research project by then-students Michael McWilliams, Mary Dufour, Jenny Sharp and Adam Thorp, this publication remains the most complete published record of these wonderful remnants of innovative everyday furnishings.