by W. Mickey Callahan

SAPFM’s second members’ exhibition, A Tradition of Craft: Current Works by the Society of American Period Furniture Makers, opened at the Connecticut Historical Society (CHS) in Hartford, CT, on Friday, March 30, 2012, with an evening reception hosted by CHS. The sm CHScatalog
exhibition is ongoing through September 8, 2012. Over 200 people attended the festivities with a warm and enthusiastic welcome by Kate Steinway, CHS Executive Director, and Mickey Callahan, SAPFM exhibition cochair and coordinator. 
 
In addition to the welcoming ceremonies, reception attendees were treated to the playing of Steve Lash’s reproduction of the Ben Franklin glass armonica by Vera Meyer, a well-known
sm SLashArmonica
armonica musician and composer. The evening was also highlighted by a chance for reception attendees and dignitaries to meet and interact with many of the exhibitors.
 
With careful planning that spanned more than a year, SAPFM and CHS were able to bring together 34 juried objects from members located all over the United States. As many as 46 members submitted work, with more than 90 objects entered for jury selection. The jury was made up of George Walker, design expert, author, and teacher; Mark Schofield, Managing Editor at Fine Woodworking Magazine; Bob Van Dyke, Director of the CT Valley School of Woodworking; Steve Lash, SAPFM Co-founder, past President, and Advisory Board member; Randy Wilkinson, CT cabinet maker and furniture conservator. 
   
  List of Exhibitors
 
Member 
Piece Selected for Exhibition
 
Kevin Ainsworth 
Langley Boardman arm chair
 
Peter Aleksa 
Bow-front sideboard
 
Jim Altemus 
Thomas Elfe side chair
  Matthew Bickford  Molding planes
  Donald Boule Dunlap-style highboy
  W. Mickey Callahan  Chippendale corner chair
  Richard Crouse  Federal knife boxes
  John Davis  Virginia Tea Table
  Aaron Hall  Federal Tea Box
  James Hardwick  Philadelphia High Chest
  Benjamin C. Hobbs  NC Arm Chair
  Philip Houck  Newport Tea Table
  Don Irving  Massachusetts Shelf Clock
  Glen Jewell  Pillar & Scroll Clock
  Jeff Justis  ½-Scale Queen Anne Chair
  Terry Kelly  Rod-back Arm Chair
  Nickolas Kotula  Sack Back Windsor Chair
  John LaGattuta  CT River Valley Tea Table
  Iulia Chin Lee  Miniature Dutch Kas
  Philip Lowe McIntire  Sheraton Arm Chair
  Gerald McAleavey  Tall Case Clock
  Larry Mauritz  CT Bonnet Top Highboy
  Sharon C. Mehrman  Hepplewhite Card Table
  Richard J. Nucci  CT Sunflower Chest
  John Rexroad  Chapin chair
  Freddy Roman  Seymour Chest with Mirror
  Alf Sharp  McIntire Shield-Back Chair
  Brooke Smith  Philadelphia Desk & Bookcase
  Robert G. Stevenson  Federal Game Table
  J. Wesley Sunderland  William & Mary Boston Chair
  Robert F. Surette, Jr.  CT Valley Dressing Table
  Gil Tyler  Tilt Top Candlestand
  Peter Van Beckum  Baltimore Side Chair
  Bruce D. Wedlock  Federal Work Table
     
What made this exhibition unique was the inclusion of eight original pieces from the vast CHS collection of authentic 18th– and 19th–century furniture: a side chair and low boy by Eliphalet Chapin, a pillar and scroll clock by Eli Terry, a 1781 Windsor chair, CT River Valley tea table and dressing table, along with a 1680 sunflower chest and a Federal, mahogany shield-back chair. The intent was for the public to see and learn what inspires our members and to help with the comparison and interpretation of American craftsmanship then and now. 
 
In addition, one of the five galleries was set up with a 1789 workbench and antique tools owned by CHS coupled with furnituremaking props and printed references to help explain the period furniture-making process.
 
On Saturday, following the reception the night before, a day-long conference was conducted at CHS, allowing conference-goers to hear Philip Zea, President of Historic Deerfield, give a keynote lecture entitled A Collector’s Passion for Craftsmanship: The Pioneering Path of Alfred Cluett (1873-1955). Phil’s talk highlighted the work of an early collector of American furniture and analyzed some of the unifying passions that are common to collectors, historians, and craftsmen, such as connoisseurship, craftsmanship, quality, and an interest in the meaning of things. 
 
Following Phil’s lecture, five exhibitors provided case studies of their work on display that included insight into their inspiration and motivation to continue the tradition of American period furniture making and provided the audience with a stepby-step description of the processes needed to bring their projects to completion. The exhibitors for this part of the program included John Davis with his Robert Walker Virginia tea table; Sharon Merhman and her Federal style inspired card table; Glenville Jewell, who talked about his experiences with his pillar and scroll clock; Nickolas Kotula expounding on his Windsor chair; and Freddy Roman who talked about his Seymour-inspired dressing table with mirror. The picture of Freddy’s piece was used for the exhibition logo and promotional materials.  The program continued after lunch with Steve Lash giving a talk about his research and building of a replica of the glass armonica that was originally built by Ben Franklin in 1761. Steve’s talk was followed by a concert performed on his armonica by Vera Meyer, who entertained the audience with both her playing and sense of humor.
 
Following the concert, participants were broken up into three smaller groups that allowed each group to rotate into smaller sessions that included a behind-the-scenes tour of the CHS collection, a self-guided exhibition tour, and an up-close and personal session with Thomas P. Kugleman, co-author of Connecticut Valley Furniture:  Eliphalet Chapin and His Contemporaries, 1750-1800.  Tom used a CT high chest from the CHS collection to highlight design and construction methods.