Sometime during 2018, in an auction room on viewing day, a piece of furniture caught my eye and for a moment there wasn’t another piece in the room. In fact at that precise moment there wasn’t another piece of furniture on the planet that I was faintly aware of. More interesting and more shocking to me was that the object was everything I’d trained my eye to ignore. Three-legged tables, or to use their vernacular term, cricket tables, have been on my radar and my bench ever since.
To begin with I should point out that cricket tables weren’t made to an existing plan by people who read the classics, let alone understood the principles of composition through an elaborate and arguably questionable formula. Instead, they were made by people in tune with something far less esoteric, something earthly and perhaps even divine: necessity and ingenuity. Fibonacci might be the talisman of choice for accountants, but that the extrapolation of number sequences that suggest a golden ratio can and should be used to design anything is, to my mind, unimaginative and restrictive to the point of being just plain dull. I know, I know, statements like this are bound to ruffle a few feathers – but just for a second consider the value of a system where perfection is the benchmark of success and eventually you’ll see that it’s neither precise or workable.
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The dozen or so examples of cricket tables I’ve made to date have been either replicas of period pieces or interpretations of the form, and they’re helping me to understand what I enjoy most about this style of work. It’s required me to let go of a lot of concepts that were hard-wired into my methodology from an early age. Of course it’s therapy – I know that, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed that I’m both patient and therapist – but the results are still valid. For example, I’ve hit upon a few principles that nearly always lead me towards producing tables that appear slightly squat. I’m also at the point where I can predict a relatively harmonious blend of ratio and proportion, but thankfully still light years away from anything like perfection. In short, I guess I’m learning to embrace a process where mistakes are more valuable than perfection.
Maybe a year into experimenting with two basic designs I figured the information might be of interest to other makers, so I kept notes with the view of one day publishing them. I’m excited to say that day, sometime in the future but hopefully not light years away, will happen through Lost Art Press.
The core content shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that’s familiar with the LAP back catalogue. It’s aimed at encouraging you to engage with concepts involving furniture that might at first appear awkward, unfamiliar and difficult to reproduce. Cricket tables range from the most basic stick variety to complex joined examples that can only be resolved when you’ve broken free of 90° and square. I’ll talk a lot about techniques and the transition of one form to another, and of course I’ll offer my explanation for how cricket tables got their name. Spoiler alert – the gentle thwack of leather against willow doesn’t feature in the soundtrack to this story.