Twenty seven Ashley Iles carving chisels for sale as job lot. Nearly new condition, one or two loose ferrules, some tiny marks, no big deal. I can email you more pics. Selling these on eBay.
Back in September last year, I had the pleasure of visiting a wonderful violin shop and its restoration workshop called Bridgewood & Neitzert.
If you look at the slideshow, you will see the superb cabinet work of Michael White. I asked Gary Bridgewood for more information about Michael and how he came to meet him. His response via email was such a lovely portrait of Michael that I asked if I could reproduce it in full. Gary’s email is below, with some pictures he also kindly forwarded to me.
I started this blog because I wanted to show the work and skill of proper traditional cabinet makers, joiners and woodworkers like Michael and I hope to connect with many more like him.
Michael White made all of our cabinets, sadly he died nearly three years ago, and he is terribly missed. He worked with us for 18 years. It’s quite an interesting story, an artist friend asked me to help her deliver a painting she had made of a woodworker. She had been commissioned to paint the inside of a lid for Micks tool cabinet. Mick lived in the Goswell Road in a tower block on the 14th floor. His tool cabinet was truly incredible.
He had started out as an apprentice at Cubitt’s, I think in the Grays Inn Road. He was a sea cadet and involved in D-day but as a skilled woodworker was conscripted to stay repairing London during the blitz. The cabinet was about 8 feet high with another bell shaped cabinet below, which had a pull out section made of exotic woods. He had inlaid the old three penny coins around the edge. He had never finished adding to it and amending details, it was truly a superb piece of work. My artist friend painted Mick planing some wood with his tool cabinet in the background.
We got on very well and Mick was very interested in violin making, which I was doing a lot more of back then. I invited him to come and visit and said if he ever wanted to use any of our machines in our basement he would be very welcome, as they rarely got used.
I didn’t see Mick for about 6 months when one day he arrived in his best suit at our door. After tea and a good look round he was ready to leave and once again I offered use of our facilities, Mick said he’d think about it. About four months later Mick arrived in his work wear and asked me what I wanted doing first! I was quite taken aback and said why he hadn’t brought his own work; Mick said he’d prefer to help us first. Anyway this conversation was to be repeated for the next 16 years, only towards the end when Mick was not well did he decide to finish his cabinet and the last job was finishing the pull out section with carousel which was full of drawers and hanging sections which had a handle in the top and could be removed when working on site. I supplied Mick with pieces of ebony, rosewood, and quilted ash and of course violin maple for the drawer fronts, it was spectacular when finished.
Mick kept finding things to do and useful places to make a cabinet or shelf to maximise storage, his last project was our violin/viola/cello case display cabinet which was finally finished and installed by my friend Hugo.
Mick told of his master whose name I think was Spirro, he trained at the Vatican and Mick said his training was not only woodwork but carving, gilding , drawing/painting and stone work, his apprenticeship lasted 16 years! Mick was lucky enough to train under Spirro at Cubitt’s. He also told many, many stories. One was for one of the old carpenters who worked at Cubits whose tool chest doubled as his coffin and was kept at the end of his bed.
The forthcoming exhibition at The National Portrait Gallery put me in mind this week of Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement. I’m looking forward to having a look round this show. In east London, we are also very lucky to have the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow, (William Morris was born in Walthamstow). We took the family there last year and the whole gallery is superbly done out, with very clear signage, things to do for the kids and items you will probably never see anywhere else, such as original wooden printing blocks that Morris used to build up his complex wallpaper designs.
Well, They say it always comes in threes, so as I ducked into a local charity shop last week to escape the London rain, I saw this book on sale for a princely £2.50 and snapped it up.
If you can find a copy of ‘Arts & Crafts in Britain and America‘ and are interested in the Arts & Crafts era I thoroughly recommend you buy it. The book explains how the movement was born, with industrialisation, religion, socialist ideals and many other factors all coming together to forge a new way of thinking about craft. Morris’s idea of promoting ‘fitness for purpose’ would be well suited to today’s modern age I think. And it is very evident that people are once again finding pleasure in craft that feeds the soul and reflects the honest labour of the sole maker and not wholly the industrial process.
(All captions and pictures are taken from the book and remain copyright of the publisher).
The book cover many firms of the time, Gillow, James Lamb of Manchester, Holland & Son to name but a few, but also gives excellent accounts of the individual makers who pushed the movement forward. Mostly associated with Morris, they developed styles of decoration or ‘free styles’, as they were known. Often with references to nature, items were usually designed with the material in mind to show it to best effect. The movement transformed glass making, furniture, silverware and later progressed via stores like Liberty of London or Heals, to be widely available to the public.
As makers got busier and the ideals of socialism as strong as ever, we saw a rise in the establishment of ‘guilds’, co-operatives designed to support and the maker and to provide a natural symbiosis with makers who could provide, say, iron work for a wooden furniture maker. People like Ernest Gimson therefore found themselves making the metalwork for the furniture designs of Sidney Barnsley, for example.
By 1852 those same ideals based on ‘regularity is beauty’ and ‘beauty rests on utility’ were thriving in the US through the Shaker community, although towards 1860 the US started to follow the style of the English Arts and Crafts. Makers such as the German, Daniel Pabst in Philadelphia rose up through the ranks, as indeed did Gustav Stickley of Syracuse, New York. He later become the foremost proponent of the movement in the US and his furniture is now widely collected.
What was most interesting to me was that a lot of these makers, particularly Gimson, ended up purely designing pieces and not having a hand in the actual making of them. It seemed to me that things went full circle and as short-run production pieces came into being for the likes of Liberty, it perhaps wasn’t too far away from the industrialisation the makers had fought so hard to get away from.
Something today’s artisan’s and makers still struggle with, the need to make enough money to enable you to carry on doing what you want to do.