Another Symposium Done Gone

Brian built himself into this block front desk.

Brian Weldy built himself into this blockfront desk.

It’s a bit embarrassing writing with the realization that we have been silent for so long.  The last post was about the next symposium.  This will be about the same symposium, but we’ll have to call it the last symposium now.

We think it went pretty well, or at least we enjoyed ourselves and learned a lot and hope all of our attendees did as well.  Conferences such as this are made possible by the work of many people within Colonial Williamsburg and we are, as always, grateful to them.  Ron Hurst, Vice President of Collections, concluded our opening night’s program with a eulogy in honor of Jay Gaynor, the founder and now guiding spirit, of these annual gatherings.  He highlighted Jay’s commitment to good scholarship, good work, and good humor, which are the same qualities we strive to impart in our presentations.  Sometimes we get it right and other times…

By covering a fairly broad topic like desks, we were able to span the entire eighteenth century in terms of style and construction.  It is easy for woodworkers and writers to treat the eighteenth century as a single moment in time, a time in which people worked with hand tools, built great furniture, and dressed funny.  Our aim was to juxtapose pieces and presentations to reveal substantial changes and surprising similarities in workmanship, design, and technique among early, middle, and late century pieces.  Handwork was different in 1707 (the date of our earliest piece) from what it would become ninety years later (roughly the time when the Seymours built the latest piece we explored).  This, in turn, is different from how many people approach hand tool woodworking today.  Changes in time and place, changes from one craftperson’s perspective to another’s, these are the things we hope to bring out as we move through these conferences.  To that end, we all learn a lot from the insights of our audience. Insights that support, contradict, or challenge our assertions are precisely what make these symposia a valuable experience.  All of us in the Hay shop are grateful for all who attended and were willing to get down and dig through the arts and mysteries of eighteenth century work with us.

For those of you who have never been to one of these, here is a small sampling of what came to pass over our two sessions of this year’s conference.  We look forward to seeing you next year!

Look for more active blogging in the coming year and the launch of our Facebook page in the coming days (we are only several years behind on that one).

The Hay Shop's leader, Kaare Loftheim, guides the audience through the many structural refinements found in a Norfolk, VA made

The Hay Shop’s leader, Kaare Loftheim, guides the audience through the many structural and aesthetic refinements found in a Norfolk, VA made desk and bookcase from the decade preceding the American Revolution.  The original is on display in the museum gallery right above the auditorium.  This is a reproduction Kaare built some twenty-five years ago and usually resides here in the shop’s ware room for all to examine.


Tara Chicirda, Colonial Williamsburg’s curator of furniture, opened the conference with an in depth look at the evolution of various desk forms. She also prefaced presentations by offering a curatorial perspective on the pieces being demonstrated. Her increased role in the symposium was greatly appreciated by all of us and those in attendance as well.


Brian Weldy demonstrates one of many sculptural methods employed to reproduce a Norfolk, VA blockfront desk.


Bill Pavlak demonstrates resawing techniques in Atlantic white cedar, the wood used for drawer bottoms in the 1707 Philadelphia escritoire he presented. Notice the large screen and fine detail oriented camera work that are an integral part of every conference.


Guest speaker Rob Millard demonstrated many aspects of a Seymour lady’s writing cabinet including the decorative inlay work on this tambour door. Rob’s skill and humor were a very welcome presence.


Ted Boscana, leader of Colonial Williamsburg’s joiners shop, demonstrated wedged dovetail construction as part of his exploration of a Virginia desk on frame.

Here’s to a new year of woodworking!

The Hay Shop.

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5 Responses to Another Symposium Done Gone

  1. Dennis Heyza says:

    It was a great and informative conference as always! Thanks to everyone at CW and Rob for all the hard work. Looking forward to the increased blogging and Facebook page. I’ve been following the six or seven that already exist for CW groups.

    I hope someone will post a photo of the tie quilt when it’s completed.

  2. John says:

    I will 2nd Dennis’s request for a photo of the finished tie quilt.

    This year’s symposium felt different in a looking forward/looking backward kind of way and everyone at CW clearly stepped up to fill Jay’s vacant shoes. The organization and presentation were outstanding.

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