Working in the past

For Hidden in Plain Sight: The Furniture of Nathaniel Gould,  opening this Fall, we want to not only feature the fine furniture made in Gould’s shop, but also share some of the this craftsman’s process in the 18th century. To do this, we’re working with the Beverly-based Furniture Institute of Massachusetts. Phil Lowe, director of the Institute, is making some replica pieces of furniture that will be touchable for an interactive we’re developing.

We think the interactive will come alive if people can see pieces made in an environment that suggests Gould’s shop, now long-gone. Luckily for us, in one of those “You can’t make this stuff up” stories, an 18th-century woodworker’s shop was discovered a couple of years ago in Duxbury, MA on the property of the Berrybrook School. Here’s a link to the original Boston Globe story. We asked the school if we could come down and shoot in the space, to which they graciously agreed. So earlier this month, we packed up a van load of cameras, lights, tools and woodworking paraphernalia (including a bag of wood shavings), and spent the day in Luther Sampson’s shop watching Phil work. Here’s what is was like:

The Luther Sampson joiner's shop, on the grounds of the Berrybrook School in Duxbury, MA. They were kind enough to let us film there for our upcoming exhibition on the 18th century Salem furniture maker Nathaniel Gould. The original building is hidden under a modern roof and vinyl siding.

The Luther Sampson joiner’s shop, on the grounds of the Berrybrook School in Duxbury, MA. They were kind enough to let us film there for our upcoming exhibition on the 18th century Salem furniture maker Nathaniel Gould. The original building is hidden under a modern roof and vinyl siding. All photos by Ed Rodley

 From the outside, there's no indication of what awaits inside, other than an old shed-like building.

From the outside, there’s no indication of what awaits inside, other than an old shed-like building.

The shop when we opened it. In the gloom, you can just make out the foot-powered lathe on the back wall, and the screw holes where a wooden vice used to be.

The shop when we opened it. In the gloom, you can just make out the foot-powered lathe on the back wall and the screw holes where a wooden vice used to be.

An original door latch

An original door latch

One of the work benches.

One of the work benches

This painted man wearing a slouch hat and pointing is almost 2 feet tall and covers one door into the shop.

This painted man wearing a slouch hat and pointing is almost two feet tall and covers one door into the shop.

The space got filled up pretty quickly, even with a small crew.

The space got filled up pretty quickly, even with a small crew.

The pattern for a Mainwaring style chair splat, one of the pieces being created for us.

The pattern for a Mainwaring style chair splat — one of the pieces being created for us.

AV Producer Chip Van Dyke, working Camera Two, the closeup view of Phil's hands.

Audio/video producer Chip Van Dyke, working camera two, the closeup view of Phil’s hands.

Phil Lowe carving a ball and claw foot. It's probably been more than a century since a woodworker plied his craft in this shop.

Phil Lowe carving a ball and claw foot. It’s probably been more than a century since a woodworker plied his craft in this shop.

If you'd walked by, this is what you would've seen.

If you’d walked by, this is what you would’ve seen.

Phil working on the chair splat.

Phil working on the chair splat.

 

3 Comments

  1. gail spilsbury says:

    In addition to the rich offerings of this exhibition described above, there’ll also be a stunning book by the same title as the exhibition and available at the museum shop. Keep an eye on this blog for an illustrated description of how this amazing book evolved.

  2. Ray Teerlink says:

    where can I view what was filmed here?

  3. Robert Mussey says:

    The woodworking shop at Berrybrook School has what must be the world’s steepest stairway leading up to the wood storage loft — basically two crude boards (you can barely call them even that) nailed together in a large V, with a few rudimentary “steps” nailed at uneven intervals in the V. A make-do job that has lasted all these years.

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