wooden spiral staircases from Morlaix to Esherick

In 1997 I visited Wharton Eshericks house in the USA and was utterly charmed. The whole house is a piece of functional sculpture. Centerpiece is the spiral staircase which has been much copied elsewhere. It is rare for me to find the work of a 20th century woodworker that I admire as much as that of medieval woodworkers but here was one.

That staircase lives in my mind and is a great inspiration, I also have a large photo of it framed on the wall. The story told at the Esherick museum was that the design grew from Esherick’s sculptures but 13 years later I came across a design of staircase that was sufficiently similar that I can hardly imagine that Esherick was not aware of it. This one dates from 1522-30 France and is in the Victoria and Albert Museum. It has been in their possession since 1909 but I have never seen it before, whether it has been in store or hidden in a gallery I did not visit I do not know but it is superbly presented in the new medieval galleries and I think is probably my favourite object in the world.

I could cut and paste info about it but better to just post a link to the V&A website.

As with Eshericks stair the beauty is in the detail of the execution. The coarse but highly skilled toolmarks, the mark of a master craftsman. working at speed.

And just for fun to see what folk think this video is what brought the staircase to mind today, it only appears in the background behind a modern architect designed tea house. I like the tea house and find it though provoking but can’t help questioning the build quality and thinking that the textures are an imitation of the workmanship that I love and will not last.

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3 Responses to wooden spiral staircases from Morlaix to Esherick

  1. flyingshavings July 22, 2010 at 7:11 am #

    I can think of better uses for an oxy-acetylene set up! If charring really works so well why aren't there more buildings done in it. Looking forward to visiting the Nashe exhibition at YSP to see his charring. There's a good overview of the process here: http://www.culturecolony.com/news?id=1964

  2. Robin Wood July 22, 2010 at 7:20 am #

    Hi Richard,Charring is actually a good way of preserving wood and it has been traditionally used for that area 6" above and below ground of a gatepost where it rots. The amount of energy involved in this system is hardy green mind you.I will probably visit Nash at YSP though I rarely find his work as inspiring as Goldsworthy, Long or Partridge.

  3. flyingshavings July 22, 2010 at 8:48 pm #

    Yeah! I've been a Goldsworthy addict for some time. My daughter once borrowed a Goldworthy library book for me for a Christmas present! Sloane mentions charring fence posts now I come to think of it.Charred my bench at work yesterday, by accident; smithing and woodwork are uncomfortable bedfellows! But found that an Aldi airbed blower makes an ace forge with charcoal.

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