Sunday, September 21, 2008
LiNeN pReSs ~ Ashley Blackburn
By: Edna M. Walker
Byrdcliffe Arts and Crafts Colony
The linen press is, I believe, what we would most likely call an armoire or wardrobe in any furniture retailer nowadays. This linen press was handcrafted by the Byrdcliffe Arts and Crafts colony, located close to Woodstock, New York. Made in 1904, its materials consisted of oak, tulip poplar, and brass. It measures in at 55 x 41 x 18 ¾ inches. However, it was the creative talents of Edna M. Walker that constructed the surface decoration of this piece. Her precision work is represented in the polychrome panels, which are made up of carefully placed sassafras leaves. When admiring this crafty linen press, it is difficult not to have thoughts of the fall season. The coloring of the leaves, the way the little glimpses of green peek through the overwhelming presence of reds, oranges, and yellows, leaves you wanting to pull a cozy sweater out of it. Not only does the sassafras leaf tie in with the idea of autumn, sassafras leaves were also used a lot in the production of perfumes and soaps. Therefore people liked not only the aroma of the sassafras leaf, but also its pleasing aesthetic qualities. All over this linen “cabinet” there is a definite presence of movement in the wood patterns and texture. Thus, even though the actual sassafras leaf is only present on the door panels, there still remains a theme of leaves blowing in the wind carried throughout the entire piece. Looking even closer at this linen press you notice that the brass door handles have a fluidity about them. Opposite to the breezy feeling conveyed in the decoration of the linen press, its actual structure and shape is very stiff and static. Excluding several arcs on the bottom piece, the doors, drawers, crown molding, and overall shape are predominately rectangular. Being that the linen press was a prominent piece of furniture throughout the Arts and Crafts movement, which emphasized craftsmanship, I would have expected more of a coherent design. Overall though, I believe it to be a gorgeous piece and would love to store my fall sweaters and linens in it! :)
Similar: I found that the Tall Chest of Drawers by Rose Standish Nichols was the most similar to my linen press. Although materials were visibly different, there are many aspects about the visual appearance that these to share. They both have a presence of drawers. Both feature an almost identical crown molding. Both are very rectangular. Beyond the physical traits, their functions and purposes are quite alike, both store clothes mainly and lines.
Different: What I found in direct contrast to Mrs. Walker’s linen press, was Hector Guimards Cabinet. Although both are considered cabinets, their overall designs are polar opposites. Where as the linen press is rectangular the cabinet is curved and rounded. Even its drawers have rounded corners. The arrangement of the cabinet is more unbound where the linen press is structured. Although the linen press’s handles have a more flowy quality opposed to that of the cabinet.