Results 1 to 19 of 19

Thread: Chris Schwarz' new project - substack "American Peasant."

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Fredericton, New Brunswick
    Posts
    49,567

    Default Chris Schwarz' new project - substack "American Peasant."

    Christopher Schwarz, longtime proprietor of the Lost Art Press and writer of blogs, has started a substack to try to monetize some of his not-quite-so-polished writing. He's calling it the American Peasant, and it's free 'till Dec 15, when he says he'll put a $5/month paywall on most of it.

    Presumably, given Schwarz' multiply documented (if idiosyncratic) anarchistic leanings, he's feeling his inner 14th Century commoner, lurching towards the Peasants' Revolt.

    It's an interesting idea. Mostly, with some changes in the Lost Art Press' employee structure, he's got some free time on his hands again. And says he's irritated with only having highly finished and expletive free prose as his outputs, whether on the LAP blog or in his many books. This new foray is to be rougher, a bit more experiential and experimental. I haven't figured out yet if I'll pay, but I might.

    One recent scribble of his is about ornament on furniture. How he's mostly not used it, how he's discovering the "coded" messages within quite a lot of ornament which have been used over the centuries; the ubiquitous "Egg and Dart" moulding is commentary on birth (egg) and death (dart). Etc.

    Schwartz has had his interest piqued, and is playing with the idea of using ornamentation in some of his stuff, which he devises ... and about which he explains the symbolic meanings he's intended. Shows one such he's created - showing the lines of drop ceiling panels and fluorescent fixtures in the vision of Hell he left in the corporate world.

    Ahem.

    Me, I'm all for symbolism. As someone commented on his substack post, the choice to NOT ornament something is also a choice redolent with symbolism.

    What do you think? Do you like ornament? Do you see and appreciate the symbolism hidden within many classical ornamental forms? Do you try to put symbols into your own work?
    If I use the word "God," I sure don't mean an old man in the sky who just loves the occasional goat sacrifice. - Anne Lamott

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 1999
    Location
    St. Paul, MN, USA
    Posts
    62,481

    Default Re: Chris Schwarz' new project - substack "American Peasant."

    I have a real love-hate relationship with Chris Schwarz's stuff. He's generally interesting, very talented at resurrecting old pre-electricity techniques, but he's SUCH a ****ing Luddite, and seems to be getting worse. I'm sorry - suspended ceilings (which allow easy access to wiring, lights, ducts, and building structure for repairs and changes) as a vision of hell? Give me a break.

    No, I don't put symbolism into anything I design or build. Nothing wrong with it if you like that kind of thing, but I don't.
    "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations,
    for nature cannot be fooled."

    Richard Feynman

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Fredericton, New Brunswick
    Posts
    49,567

    Default Re: Chris Schwarz' new project - substack "American Peasant."

    Yeah, he's a Luddite with a guilty conscience. In the post I read today, prompting this thread, he wrote how much he loves making things with hand-tools, but also has developed a deep appreciation for the power tools that let him turn wood into groceries these past many years. That if he'd gone full Luddite, he'd have probably had to get a job at the lumberyard.

    Suspended ceilings are pragmatic as all get out. There's a very good reason they're in virtually every office building where I've ever worked. Also why when I've come across them in 2 old houses I've owned over the years, I ripped them out and fixed the sagging plaster and lathe.

    Do you use mouldings or other ornament, Keith? Or are you a clean line guy, whether Craftsmanesque or later?

    Living in my Victorian era house, I'm surrounded by beads, coves, etc. Some of which have started to make appearances not only in how I renovate this or that, but in bits of new furniture I squeeze in the time to make. Didn't used to do that, but I like my simple antique bead planes, and my handful of hollows and rounds.
    If I use the word "God," I sure don't mean an old man in the sky who just loves the occasional goat sacrifice. - Anne Lamott

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 1999
    Location
    St. Paul, MN, USA
    Posts
    62,481

    Default Re: Chris Schwarz' new project - substack "American Peasant."

    "A Luddite with a guilty conscience." - I like that a lot. Makes total sense. There have been many times I've been very thankful that the lower floor of my house has suspended ceilings, makes repairs VASTLY easier. But it's very far from beautiful, although it sort of goes with the period (1979)

    Do you use mouldings or other ornament, Keith? Or are you a clean line guy, whether Craftsmanesque or later?
    No moldings, at least not ornamental ones, but most of my furniture is Craftsmanoid. Some inlay, but restrained. I'm not skillful enough for anything more elaborate, and it wouldn't work with the style anyway. This is about as fancy as I ever get.

    Last edited by Keith Wilson; 11-29-2022 at 11:14 AM.
    "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations,
    for nature cannot be fooled."

    Richard Feynman

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Fredericton, New Brunswick
    Posts
    49,567

    Default Re: Chris Schwarz' new project - substack "American Peasant."

    Very sweet. I'd argue that the corbel-like supports down from the top of that piece qualify as ornament, and I like the inlay. Enough to provide interest, not so much to distract from the form.

    This is a chest I made for my older son last year. The wood came from the house itself - was rough cut 1" thick sheathing boards we found when doing a renovation, nailed in place in 1840 or so. It's supposed to look like a well used carpenter's chest, so I didn't worry about blemishes on the boards etc., nor about sanding to a pristine surface Was huge fun making my own milk paint - undercoat and topcoat - distressing it a bit, and then finishing with linseed to make it pull together. Never done that before.

    The curve and bead profiles were from my antique planes. While Schwartz would have approved of the joinery making the lid, and the dovetailed reinforcing bands 'round top and bottom, the box itself was rabbeted, glued and nailed. Alas, not with hide glue nor cut nails.

    Chris' chest.jpg 203.jpg
    If I use the word "God," I sure don't mean an old man in the sky who just loves the occasional goat sacrifice. - Anne Lamott

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 1999
    Location
    St. Paul, MN, USA
    Posts
    62,481

    Default Re: Chris Schwarz' new project - substack "American Peasant."

    Oh, nice! The paint came out very well; I've never done anything that was supposed to look old.

    Yes, the corbels are pure ornamentation in this case, although they pretend to be structural.

    And using hide glue in almost every case is - well, I'll be polite, and say ' an affectation'.
    "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations,
    for nature cannot be fooled."

    Richard Feynman

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Fredericton, New Brunswick
    Posts
    49,567

    Default Re: Chris Schwarz' new project - substack "American Peasant."

    I've got an electric guitar build underway at the moment, for the other son. My first instrument, so probably not the best idea to make it a present, but ...

    I'll be using hide glue to laminate and set the neck, again, my first time using it. It's still the go-to glue for violinmaking, both because one can open up the instrument to do repairs if needed, and because it dries to almost a crystalline quality of hardness. The theory is that anything that damps energy in an instrument is reducing resonance - arguably important if one's building an artist-quality acoustic instrument like a violin, cello, or acoustic guitar. A whole lot less so when one can compensate for lost resonance by turning up the amp a nudge, and the sound is all mushed about by various other ways of molesting the electronic signal. But still.

    I've never liked a painted finish as much as that one on the chest. It was great fun experimenting on test boards, and making paint myself from yoghurt, a couple of primary colors of artist's pigments, a few tablespoons of builder's lime, and some ground up charcoal from the fireplace. Then enough coats of a drying oil to pull it together. Simply wild.

    I've really liked how people like Peter Galbert do multiple colors of milk paint on their Windsor chairs, with intentional bleed-through of the undercoats. I pretty much followed Galbert's instructions somewhere on his website on how to do the process, and to not lose heart when you're only a little ways in and it looks like hell.
    If I use the word "God," I sure don't mean an old man in the sky who just loves the occasional goat sacrifice. - Anne Lamott

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 1999
    Location
    St. Paul, MN, USA
    Posts
    62,481

    Default Re: Chris Schwarz' new project - substack "American Peasant."

    Hide glue does make a lot of sense when you might need to take it apart. I'm skeptical of 'crystalline hardness' affecting the sound much; there's a lot of mythology in traditional crafts, but what do I know? It's at least plausible.
    "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations,
    for nature cannot be fooled."

    Richard Feynman

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Fredericton, New Brunswick
    Posts
    49,567

    Default Re: Chris Schwarz' new project - substack "American Peasant."

    What I liked in Schwarz' piece on his new substack was the thought that many traditional types of decoration on architecture and furniture have embedded meanings. That they had metaphorical importance, which builders and ordinary citizens alike knew and "read."

    That was news to me. I've read a lot about how traditional moldings for things like window surrounds, door surrounds, casework in furniture - how they developed to solve specific problems, as well as to look nice. Cast a shadow in the right place, and the gap that opens in the Winter and closes in the Summer is insignificant. Do the proportions right (as Jim Tolpin and others argue) and the shapes and sizes of moldings imply what we see in the natural world - swellings below branches off the trunk of a tree, or the swelling at the base of a tree. Importing such into furniture or architecture "feels" right and looks beautiful, because it feels like a lot of what surrounds us - what we're neurologically wired to find familiar.

    So it's interesting to me to think of moldings also having narrative meanings. The egg and dart referring to birth and death, the labyrinthine "key" pattern in some architraves referring to eternity, etc. It had never occurred to me. It should have - Church architecture is littered with symbols, I won't bore you with rehearsing even the less familiar of them. In a pre-literate time, such symbols (and actual pictures in stained glass) were teaching tools.

    Lots of other cultures do the same - "moon" gates in Chinese gardens, yin/yang symbols, etc etc. Stylized Arabic calligraphy is a hugely impactful (and beautiful) element of Islamic architecture, past and present.

    It just didn't occur to me that such had made its way into traditional crown molding patterns etc.
    If I use the word "God," I sure don't mean an old man in the sky who just loves the occasional goat sacrifice. - Anne Lamott

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    beer city usa
    Posts
    118,928

    Default Re: Chris Schwarz' new project - substack "American Peasant."

    i'm actually quite enjoying it so far
    Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Rockford, IL
    Posts
    13,221

    Default Re: Chris Schwarz' new project - substack "American Peasant."

    I once designed a door pull for the World's largest and most successful manufacturer of Aluminum storefront entrances which proudly displayed, right there for God and everybody to see, a counterbored hex socket machine screw which served to fasten the pull onto the door stile, even though that sort of thing is usually concealed. I used the term "high tech" to describe the look of it. The idea was seriously entertained my management for awhile, and I would often overhear the boss using the term "high tech". However, when my sales-oriented boss was transferred to another corporate site, my new engineering professional boss asked me (late in the game) "exactly what does 'high tech' mean?" I had to tell him "nothing, really, it's more of a buzz word". In my world of designing products for various facets of the building industry, clean lines go a lot farther than ornamentation.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Fredericton, New Brunswick
    Posts
    49,567

    Default Re: Chris Schwarz' new project - substack "American Peasant."

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Pless View Post
    i'm actually quite enjoying it so far
    Me too, though the jury's still out on whether I'll pay for it once the paywall drops. I'm not yet convinced into buying one of those knife thingies to scratch designs in either.

    After all, I can do just as sloppy work with a gouge, but maybe I've more talent than some.
    If I use the word "God," I sure don't mean an old man in the sky who just loves the occasional goat sacrifice. - Anne Lamott

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    beer city usa
    Posts
    118,928

    Default Re: Chris Schwarz' new project - substack "American Peasant."

    Quote Originally Posted by TomF View Post

    After all, I can do just as sloppy work with a gouge, but maybe I've more talent than some.
    you could make the knife thingy, that'll keep ya busy for a week or two
    Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Fredericton, New Brunswick
    Posts
    49,567

    Default Re: Chris Schwarz' new project - substack "American Peasant."

    There's a thought. Room for some judicious bloodletting too.
    If I use the word "God," I sure don't mean an old man in the sky who just loves the occasional goat sacrifice. - Anne Lamott

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Fredericton, New Brunswick
    Posts
    49,567

    Default Re: Chris Schwarz' new project - substack "American Peasant."

    So, I decided to try it out for a month. Found a link to this amazing video among comments on one of the stories. All in German, with no translation ... but what you're watching is this guy making an amazing bit of furniture starting from splitting out the boards from a log. Crazy skills, and clearly shows why Schwarz is interested in what he calls "peasant" furniture.

    So far as I can tell, this is an old film of a Hungarian woodworker's stuff. 20 minutes, and worth it.

    If I use the word "God," I sure don't mean an old man in the sky who just loves the occasional goat sacrifice. - Anne Lamott

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Walney, near Cumbria UK
    Posts
    59,557

    Default Re: Chris Schwarz' new project - substack "American Peasant."

    Quote Originally Posted by TomF View Post
    Very sweet. I'd argue that the corbel-like supports down from the top of that piece qualify as ornament, and I like the inlay. Enough to provide interest, not so much to distract from the form.

    This is a chest I made for my older son last year. The wood came from the house itself - was rough cut 1" thick sheathing boards we found when doing a renovation, nailed in place in 1840 or so. It's supposed to look like a well used carpenter's chest, so I didn't worry about blemishes on the boards etc., nor about sanding to a pristine surface Was huge fun making my own milk paint - undercoat and topcoat - distressing it a bit, and then finishing with linseed to make it pull together. Never done that before.

    The curve and bead profiles were from my antique planes. While Schwartz would have approved of the joinery making the lid, and the dovetailed reinforcing bands 'round top and bottom, the box itself was rabbeted, glued and nailed. Alas, not with hide glue nor cut nails.

    Chris' chest.jpg 203.jpg
    Nice.
    I have a genuine joiners chest, made by a ships carpenter from the yard.
    The carcase is pine, dovetaied, and the banding top and bottom are oak, dovetaied the other way, so that when the banding was screwed on it locked the construction together.
    The lid has a false top of 1/4" pine as a sacrificial work surface so that the chest can be used as a (low) workbench.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

    The power of the web: Anyone can post anything on the web
    The weakness of the web: Anyone can post anything on the web.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    beer city usa
    Posts
    118,928

    Default Re: Chris Schwarz' new project - substack "American Peasant."

    i like schwarz
    alot
    but fear he and meghan have jumped the shark with gummy bear glue
    Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Toronto Canada
    Posts
    2,086

    Default Re: Chris Schwarz' new project - substack "American Peasant."

    I used to use “old brown glue” which needs to be heated up to use, but even keeping it in the fridge at the rate I work (like a very slow turtle) it went bad. Now I use Titebond hide glue which is at room temp and am happy with it. It will still probably go off but I buy small bottles.
    To give you an idea of how slow here is a pic of a chair I was making in 2021 with the first coat of red milk paint. I’ve traded much dishwashing for my wife Mary to finish the chairs. Since we have lots I don’t care how long she takes.

    image.jpg
    Attached Images Attached Images

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Fredericton, New Brunswick
    Posts
    49,567

    Default Re: Chris Schwarz' new project - substack "American Peasant."

    My son in law gave me the wee Lee Valley glue pot for Christmas, with the electric coffee-cup-warmer hotplate to go underneath. I feel inexplicably joyful looking at that silly anachronism, but I'm looking forward to trying it out. Only holds an ounce of hot hide glue at a time, inside a double-boiler jacket that holds about double that amount of water.

    As to the scratched or gouged patterns to decorate ordinary furniture, I'm far from convinced. Does nothing for me, so far at least.
    If I use the word "God," I sure don't mean an old man in the sky who just loves the occasional goat sacrifice. - Anne Lamott

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •