Saturday, September 25, 2010

Object of the Day: An Antique Victorian Sewing Bench

This attractive sewing bench is a rather unusual piece of furniture. It appears to have been made specifically for someone—perhaps even in the home. It’s most assuredly hand-crafted. Ebonized wooden sides have been pierced and heavily carved with clear Eastlake influences. The splats are adorned with bas relief stars which have been gilt. The legs are saw-scalloped and resemble ferns.

Turning the piece over reveals a rather bold signature. The date of creation and some sort of maker’s mark are painted in huge black letters, “1883, W. KISS.”

What’s most peculiar about this piece is that the footrests and hinged lid are upholstered in red carpet with a pattern of ochre and black crosses. Four very small, but obvious, burn marks on the top tell me that this piece most likely spent a good deal of its early existence in front of a fireplace. A lady would have kept her sewing in the casket, and removed it in the evenings to work in front of the fire.

Its quirks give it a certain charm. Today, it resides quietly at the end of a hallway—its casket empty and only touched when being dusted. I must confess that sometimes I feel that pieces of furniture have personalities. This one seems to want to be used. It’s a pity I’m such a mess with a sewing needle.

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