The definition of the word “heirloom” in the dictionary is “a valued possession passed down in a family through succeeding generations.” What types of objects are going to be passed down by the families of today? Those objects passed down evoke emotions in people. Perhaps it is a piece of jewelry, a lamp that sat on your grandfather’s desk, or the rocking chair your mom rocked you to sleep in as a baby. It could be a set of Lego toys which you played with and perhaps your grandchildren will play with thirty years from now. These objects carry memories and bring to life our past.
In what has become our “throw away” society, I would guess that IKEA and Pottery Barn furniture is not what we think we will want to pass onto our future generations.
Today many artisans use the word “heirloom” in marketing their work and there are those people who are willing to spend the extra money for it. A craftsman will use better quality materials and devote more attention and time to the details which will make it last for decades unlike something made of synthetic materials and made in a factory. The latter usually ends up in the dumpster due to breakage, or trends changes rendering it worthless. When considering what to invest in, those objects which serve a purpose may be appreciated longer than those which are just decorative. Simplicity of style and function is what has made Shaker style furniture so popular and timeless.
We in Rhode Island are blessed with a great number of artists that live and work here. Among furniture makers, there is Warren Chair Works (mostly Windsor chairs) and O &G Studios in Warren making classic furniture with a modern twist, who advertise their pieces as “modern pieces with an old soul.” Timothy Philbrick from South Kingstown produces updated classics which are in several museums (including RISD) and Studio Dunn in Coventry, which names of all of its pieces after towns in Rhode Island. There is a good list (not all) of local artists at www.custommade.com/rhode-island/us which includes furniture makers, ceramicists, jewelry and glass makers.
What will you leave behind?
Karen Waterman is a fine art, antique furniture and decorative arts appraiser in the East Bay area and will answer as many questions about your own “hidden treasures” as possible. By sending a letter or email with a question, you give full permission for use in the column. Names, addresses or e-mail will not be published and photos will be returned if requested. Send e-mails (digital photos are encouraged) to [email protected] Send snail mail to East Bay Newspapers, attn. Karen Waterman, P.O.Box 90, Bristol, RI 02809.