The seven year apprenticeship was a sine qua non of the master cabinetmaker in the 18th century. No one could be a master without that training even though a good part of it was servile, making tea, sweeping floors, toting materials. Little thought was given to talent as the rule was the rule.

I had a class in high school called “Situation Ethics”. The idea was that every situation, every problem that might arise, was different and called for tailored solutions. Of course, situation ethics occasionally contradicted both law and mores, but that was the point–solutions were paramount. Situation ethics was discredited for this approach. It was just too…., amoral.

There are no more seven year apprenticeships. The concept started to die in the 18th century. The demands on cabinetmakers for goods required that businesses, at least businesses that wanted to prosper, adapt. It is interesting to note how when businesses adapt to situation, it is a good thing, when people do, it is not.


I was talking to a dealer friend the other day about clients and he mentioned that he had a client that would not buy from anyone else. Occasionally, the client would ask the dealer to look at things in other shops for which he would pay for his opinion. He would not buy something without the imprimatur of my friend. Conversely, the dealer noted that many known English furniture buyers never come into his shop no matter how good or well priced his goods were.

Teenagers cannot be told to stop smoking. Most teenagers know that they are going to live forever and that cigarettes are cool. However, in a novel approach, someone thought further on the subject and decided to show the ingredients, in raw form, of what actually gets put into tobacco, one of those ingredients being urea, that is the same substance that is the majority of urine. The drop off in tobacco smoking among teenagers that saw the film was virtually instantaneous.

Politics, a subject I will never get a grasp on as the obvious just seems to be so regularly avoided, has become a national sport. The budget deficit has become like a supernova and everything of importance including jobs, infrastructure projects, health and education have become like Pluto, virtually inconsequential. The Tea Partiers have the answer which is that everyone in Washington, D.C. is to blame and that we should just stop spending money unless it is for one of their programs.

Is human nature, by definition, self destructive? Like myself, my dealer friend knows that many of his pieces are well priced, but that many buyers won’t ever look at his stock. Teenage smoking has been curtailed not because of the health risks involved, but because one of the ingredients in tobacco is yucky. And politics! Hopefully, the man who figured out how to freak teenagers out will run for office and bring some sanity to Washington, D.C. He is doubtlessly too smart for that.

 


It is hard for me to imagine not knowing what I know about English furniture. When I walk into an auction house, it is usually quite clear to me what is of the 18th or early 19th centuries and what isn’t. I make my living through really bad cataloguing. Fortunately, it happens a lot everywhere.

What exactly marks something to make it of an era?I am not so sure, but I have, on more than one occasion, found myself tearing out the door to get to some sale somewhere because I have seen a thumbnail photograph of something coming up for sale in some venue around the U.S. I have yet to regret any of those things that have galvanized me into action. They have all been superlative lots.

The real marks, the age, the color, the materials, the design add up to a whole which bespeak an era. Objects are made in an era and the people of that era die. The new people to make similar objects either don’t have access to or the desire to make things as they were before. There is a loss and a gain here. It makes a great deal of sense to me.


When a friend of either my son or daughter tipped back in one of the Chippendale chairs in my dining room, I thought about all the responses I could have. The one I chose was non-dramatic and it worked. The damage that I see some furniture to have suffered is probably mostly due to undue stress placed on it, natural or otherwise.

Stress is certainly a function of everyday life. I think back to the Kingston Trio song, “Rioting in Africa” for the great line, “what nature doesn’t do to us will be done by our fellow man”. Not much has changed since they wrote that line except that today, we know so within hours.

Man is, however, unremittingly committed to movement, whether it is forwards or backwards I could not say. That is the spin I have to put on American politics and politicians, each of whom thinks that their vision of the world is the right one. Right and wrong are two sides of the same coin so I look forward to the wrongs being righted. At some point.