Pull up a chair - Designed for use

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Pull up a chair
Designed for use
Craftsman or artist?
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Or how about the sumptuous elegance of a chair made of mixed exotic woods and contrasting light apple wood? The back angles slightly away from the seat and holds a triangle of apple wood about 6" wide across its top. A series of natural knotholes work their way up the right side, a reminder of the wood's natural origins and a contrast to the fine, smooth finish on the rest of the chair. The apple's triangle point sticks straight down into the chair, wedged between the rich red-brown sapele that forms most of the chair back. Strips of chocolate-brown wenge run up apple wood's edges, setting the light apple off from the darker sapele. The wax and oil finish allows the piece to glow in the wood's natural beauty — Mulcahey now uses two coats of post-catalyzed varnish, which he says is much faster and still gives the same natural effect.

The chairs — ranging from sophisticated sculptural pieces to children's whimsy to the rustic chairs of recycled and salvaged wood — reflect the combination of Mulcahey's technical expertise and his imagination.

Designed for use
Mulcahey combines a master's craftsmanship — he hews his chair seats by hand with an adz and uses traditional mortise-and-tenon joinery — and a deceptively simple design sense.

The most sophisticated designs present both unity and visual complexity that consistently pull the eye to the chair.

 

Just as complex as the wood combinations in the sapele chair is the geometric design — a theme of interlocking triangles. The chair back has the apple triangle, inverted, with its point driving down into two triangles of sapele, which point up, away from the seat. The apple triangle joins the two counter-pointing triangles to give the back a full unity.

The seat, too, forms a modified triangle, or a trapezoid. The front edge curves gently out from the ends to the center — the only curve in the design — and softens the presentation. The sides angle to a narrower back edge, which joins with the chair back via a through tenon at perhaps a 100-degree angle. The backward tilt provides enough comfort to make the chair usable and more than a mere sculptural curiosity.

Mulcahey designs the chairs for use and believes that will help their market appeal. He's going slowly by introducing them to the studio-furniture market. He's working with a marketing company specializing in the Long Island/Hampton market and figures he'll be ready to expand there by summer.

"I've looked at the competition," says Mulcahey. He sees his chairs as fitting into a new design and price niche. "It's not really studio furniture. The closest thing I can compare it to is stick furniture, but it's not really that, either."

For now, he's working with a local gallery.

"I'm in this for the long haul," says Mulcahey. "The next step is figuring out a way to market and sell them."

Making the connection
At the Celtic Corners Gallery on Cabot Street in Beverly, owner Elaine Barry has carried the chairs for about a year. The chairs retail for between $120 and $450 and Barry has sold about 20. For the right client, the chairs make that significant connection Mulcahey envisions.