Restoring furniture is an intimate task that I take to heart. If you have ever bought a piece of furniture that I have painted or if you will buy a piece from me in the future, I’ve been thinking of you. If I have painted a piece of furniture that you once owned, I’ve been thinking of you as well. If you built a piece of furniture that 60 or 70 years hence that I paint, I’ve been thinking of you too. Maybe you designed drawer pulls for a dresser, or planed wood that became a piece of furniture, or even manufactured the screws and glue that holds furniture together, I’ve been thinking about all of you.
Sometimes I paint furniture with other people. It is nice to have great talks and companionship when working. But often transforming furniture for me is a solitary pursuit, where I can just think and ponder the mysteries of the universe. Many people who paint furniture call it re-loving a piece – returning it to its former glory or making it something better than it ever was. I like that idea. I often wonder of what joys and griefs of life that a piece of furniture has borne silent witness. Sometimes I find clues about the prior owner in drawers. I have found photographs, newspaper clippings and long-forgotten greeting cards that give me some small glimpse into the past. Often the pieces I buy to paint look somewhat forlorn, but I don’t see the chipped veneer or the cracking lacquer, I see someone’s story. I imagine it as a central cast member in the drama of a family’s life. Once upon a time someone decided that it was just right for them and were excited when it was delivered. It was lovingly cared for, until it wasn’t.
Then my mind drifts from the previous owner to the future owner. When I buy something to paint for my store, I don’t really own it. I am just its caretaker for a little while. It is my job to re-love it for a new person or family. I try to imagine the room where it will be. Who will touch it, who will use it and who will dust it? It will once again become a central character in a new family’s life. I don’t just think of that person or family, I pray for them. I am a Christian and when I paint I talk to the Lord. One of the things I pray for is you. I pray for great joy in your life and that when the losses come they will be manageable. I pray that this piece of furniture will be in midst of both celebrations and the magic of ordinary days and that when it gets a chip or a mark on it, as it surely will, that it bears witness to a well lived life.
I just wanted you to know that I’ve thinking of you.