Francis Cape: Utopian Benches

comments (13) December 4th, 2013 in blogs

JonBinzen Jon Binzen, senior editor
thumbs up 27 users recommend


Francis Cape, an Englishman now living in Upstate New York, learned about American utopian communities by measuring and building benches made by each of ten societies. Although the original benches were built in a variety of woods, Cape built all his reproductions in poplar, to give them a feeling of unity when they were displayed as a group. The book he wrote about the project, We Sit Together: Utopian Benches from the Shakers to the Separatists of Zoar, includes photos and measured drawings of all the benches he built as well as photos of the originals, along with essays on each of a dozen communities. 

 

Cape came at the project not as a furniture maker per se, but as a sculptor. In his early 20s he spent five years in a traditional apprenticeship learning to carve in York, England. The shop specialized in restoration of all sorts of antique furniture and buildings and also produced lettering and deep-relief carving for coats of arms. The experience, he says, "was like living in the 18th century during the day; then I would go out and listen to rock music at night." After the apprenticeship, he decided to take one year of drawing at an art school before entering the carving profession full time. As it turned out, he says, "I got the art bug," and never returned. Thirty years later, Cape is a sculptor whose work, displayed in galleries and museums across the country-is often rooted in furniture and architectural woodwork.

 


posted in: blogs


Comments (13)

Purl Purl writes: I've lived at Twin Oaks Community for 12 years where the top bench was made. As with many things in communal life, the bench is simple and unadorned. People in our community would be amused by it's esteemed inclusion in this show. I build windsor chairs using woods on our property. I own few of my own tools but have access to many tools from a sawmill to machine shop. I'm very fortunate indeed! Tis a gift to be simple...
Posted: 7:19 pm on January 7th

WOODSRUNNER56 WOODSRUNNER56 writes:

YES THERE COMMUNISTS THAT'S A REAL UTOPIA. GO IN THE FRONT GATE AND GIVE UP ALL YOUR WORLDY GOODS.I WOULD BET MY WHOLE SHOP FULL OF TOOLS.
NOT MANY WOULD GIVE UP THEIR HOUSE AND ALL THEY OWN FOR THAT LIFE.

OH I LOVE THEIR FURNITURE
Posted: 1:47 pm on December 18th

JCorry JCorry writes: I note that the benches are made from poplar. How were they finished? Did Francis Cape use oil or any form of dye?
Posted: 9:42 am on December 17th

davei davei writes: What joy, what beauty, what wonderful work!
Posted: 8:38 pm on December 16th

Varp Varp writes: Wonderful.
Posted: 8:22 pm on December 16th

graydane graydane writes: Simply beautiful
Posted: 9:08 am on December 14th

bobkronberger bobkronberger writes: Excellent work, truly beautiful and clean results. The video describes why most of us spend so much time in the shop. It’s got nothing to do with money.
Posted: 7:37 am on December 14th

Zabo2 Zabo2 writes: Very nice benches, They are very simple but made with wonderful craftsmanship. I love to make benches. Thanks
Posted: 5:30 pm on December 12th

Zabo2 Zabo2 writes: Very nice benches, They are very simple but made with wonderful craftsmanship. I love to make benches. Thanks
Posted: 5:30 pm on December 12th

Zabo2 Zabo2 writes: Very nice benches, They are very simple but made with wonderful craftsmanship. I love to make benches. Thanks
Posted: 5:30 pm on December 12th

user-2917264 user-2917264 writes: Thank you so much for this wonderful contribution.As a woodshop teacher of thirty some very odd years this is very motivating to me . The drawings, photos of originals,and the final group made an impressive presentation of craftsmanship and the beauty of simple design. Also no one should have a problem with poplar it works well with handtools is economical and has beautiful color variations . SORRY BUT I DO PLAN ON BORROWING SOME OF THE DESIGNS AND USING THEM IN CLASS .
Posted: 11:11 am on December 10th

user-2917264 user-2917264 writes:
Posted: 10:48 am on December 10th

lindhrr lindhrr writes: A real craftsman,enjoyed the video.
Posted: 11:35 am on December 8th

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