Published at Friday, March 30th, 2018 - 20:08:58 PM. Balloon Chair. By Ernest Barnier.
The 1890s led to another major change in both style and design. The quality of timber available for furniture manufacture was by no means good compared to the timber used half a century earlier, but we were smarter now and knew how to make things stronger, quicker and even less expensive than before. However, this was done at the expense of hand carving, crisp, tight turnings and to the cherished designs of the past. Unfortunately this is progress; otherwise we would still be in the dark ages with clubs and caves. The style of the period was square, with turnings, machine-carved decoration, and pressings, and designed for mass-production, losing much of the character and finesse for which the earlier cedar chairs were renowned.
Australian chairs followed the designs of their European counterparts very closely, the major distinguishing factor being that our local cedar timber was not as hard or as tight grained as the mahogany used in England, and was prone to breaking through the short grain of the back legs or in the shallow turnings and tenons. Bearing these problems in mind, cedar chairs will often have larger proportions to allow for the lesser structural properties, and most examples show considerable wear to the legs, especially the front pair. Fine quality examples of Australian cedar chairs are made of select cuts of cedar utilising the closest and straightest grained timbers for strength and also for their similarity to mahogany. There was quite a prestige associated with being able to afford goods from abroad, primarily England.
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