January 9, 2012

Rock on

The rocking chair's enduring appeal makes it a best-seller still today, Maine craftsmen say.

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Who wouldn't want a chair that rocks?

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Thos. Moser’s Pasadena rocker has a fluid, sculptural appeal.

Courtesy Thomas Moser

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This chair by S. Timberlake has a Shaker shawl bar for hanging a shawl or a throw.

Courtesy Ross Timberlake

Additional Photos Below

The rocking motion, after all, is calming to most people, and it's fun for kids.

Plus, the sight of a rocking chair conjures up images and memories of grandmothers knitting away, of mothers with new babies, and of gatherings on the front porch.

So if you think of the emotional power rockers can have, these chairs really do rock most people, both figuratively and literally. That's why, Maine craftsman say, while lots of furniture forms come and go, rockers seem to endure.

"That slow repetitive movement is very comforting, therapeutic," said Thomas Moser, the founder of Auburn-based furniture maker Thos. Moser. "The challenge in making them is trying not to make the curve too shallow or too sharp. You don't want it want to be too hard to rock, but you don't want people tipping over. A rocking chair should give people a sense of comfort, not fear."

Furniture makers around Maine continue to meet and exceed the challenge of making rockers that are functional, pleasing to look at and well-built. So with 2012 just a week or so old, maybe this is the time to think about rocking into a new year, with a new rocking chair.

To help you get an idea of what Maine furniture makers are doing with rocking chairs these days, we asked three -- Moser, Peter Turner of South Portland and Ross Timberlake of Bethel -- to talk about their rockers and the thoughts behind them.

EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW

Furniture maker Peter Turner thinks there are no new ideas, that everyone takes little bits and pieces of other ideas to create new things. He did that when he created his striking Arrow rocking chair. It's got a low back, and a very simple, sleek design.

"Some elements are Shaker, some are Danish, and some are mine," said Turner, who makes a lot of custom furniture in his shop. "With rocking chairs, it comes down to seeing others who build rocking chairs and looking at what they've done, what works."

Turner has made the Arrow chairs of oak or ash, with a Danish paper cord seat. The design began with a sketch of a candlepin leg he hoped to use for a headboard for a bed. But before he could make the headboard, he decided to make the Arrow rocker.

He's only made a few, as he does custom work on order. The first one was made to show in a gallery, and he's got one on view right now at Flat Iron Gallery in Portland. So far, the Arrow rockers have sold for about $3,800 apiece.

Turner has been heavily influenced by Shaker rockers, he said, and so the chair has Shaker elements, including the way the rocker pieces and chair are joined together. Like Moser, he admits it's a challenge to a woodworker to make the rocker curve just right, so it doesn't rock too fast or too slow.

When designing any furniture, Turner says he tries to make things he loves and find buyers that love the same thing. And many people have a love for rockers already.

"When someone sits in a rocking chair, they assume the position, and that position usually includes a smile," said Turner. "Rocking chairs aren't going away. They are one of those furniture items that people have an emotional attachment to."

To see more of Turner's work, go to his website at Petersturner.com.

DON'T MESS WITH PERFECTION

Ross Timberlake started his Bethel mail-order furniture company, S. Timberlake, 38 years ago. He makes some 30 or more rocking chairs, and all are based on traditional Shaker designs. He says that in his long career, he's found that when it comes to rockers, the Shaker design works best.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Thos. Moser’s Edo rocker is a contemporary take on the classic wooden rocker.

Courtesy Thomas Moser

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Peter Turner’s Arrow rocker is made of oak or ash, with a Danish paper cord seat.

Dennis Griggs photo

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A close-up of Peter Turner’s Arrow chair shows the flared armrest.

Dennis Griggs photo

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S. Timberlake’s Enfield rocker is based on a Shaker design.

Courtesy Ross Timberlake

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Moser’s New Gloucester rocker is his nod to Shaker design.

Courtesy Thomas Moser

 


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