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Weigand's furniture merges form and function

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The Independence artist and woodworker recreates classic and complex furniture items for collectors

By April Wright, Reporter

 

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It might look like just a regular old chair to many, but there’s nothing simple about it, said woodworker Richard Weigand of Independence, who poured hours and hours of building an exact replica of a Greene & Greene chair.
Weigand and his wife, Judy, moved from Florida to Independence seven years ago when they were searching for a second home — a small cabin in the mountains. However, the Weigands fell so in love with the mountains, the cabin in the woods became their primary home.
Richard Weigand has always been into all forms of art, he said, as he showed a finely chiseled elephant head he sculpted. As an art consultant, Weigand has worked in pottery, in art galleries and has even taught art classes.
But woodworking is his newest venture, which he picked up when he moved to the area after needing furniture for his cabin. “It’s artwork that is functional, beautiful and sensual,” he said. “It was so quiet when I moved here, and I needed chairs for the porch, so I set out to do it myself.”
Teaching himself about woodworking, Weigand tore down the cedar wood from the walls of his home and built a few patio chairs. Then he took a shot at building some Morris chairs — an early type of reclining chair — for his living room.     
Now almost all of the furniture in his home is made from Weigand’s craftsmanship, and has since became an expert, building chairs, tables, cabinets and other items for clients, including a presidential press secretary in Washington, D.C., after a friend recommended Weigand for the job of building a desk.
With no direction, Weigand built a Greene & Greene-style desk.
Greene & Greene — an architectural firm established in Pasadena, Cal., in the late 1800s by brothers Charles Greene and Henry Greene — became well known during the American Arts and Crafts Movement.
“The Greene brothers are inspirational in their designs,” said Weigand. “They didn’t skimp on anything.”
Weigand, who has a shop outside of his cabin, designs and builds custom furniture pieces in collaboration with clients. His love of art is displayed in each piece of furniture he makes.
“I’ve always admired expertise and anything really well built especially older pieces with their sense of history,” said Weigand. “Not fancy things, just good craftsmanship with lots of care put into it. I particularly like the turn of the last century, when the American dream meant building things that would last. Great design, great materials and great craftsmanship.”
Weigand, who works with Chestnut Creek School of the Arts, has worked to restore two buildings downtown — one of which became the Oldtown Pottery studio, and the other he plans to turn into an art gallery.
An acquaintance of Weigand’s asked him to build a Greene & Greene-style chair for his Greene & Greene house in Pasadena.
Their houses have become prized over the years, and the brothers still influence craftsman and architects today. One of their most famed houses is the Gamble house, which was built for David Gamble of the Proctor & Gamble Company.
What sets the Greene brothers’ designs apart is their use of joints, pegs and complex woodwork, said Weigand.
“Only 20 of their houses are left today, and they’re very cherished,” said Weigand. “Many people just didn’t have the skill they did.”
Homeowners who are aiming to preserve the famed architects’ Bolton House asked Weigand to create a reproduction of the home’s original hall chair. The original is preserved in a museum in Pasadena.
In 1906, the Greene brothers drew up plans for the Bolton House in Pasadena, even designing all the furniture that went with it, explains the homeowner on Weigand’s website.
Dr. William Bolton commissioned the Greene brothers to build the house, but died before the house could be occupied, with only the dining-room furniture completed. Bolton’s widow rented the house, partly furnished, to Belle Barlow Bush, who continued as the Greenes’ client, commissioning the remaining furniture and making alterations to the house in 1907.
Their furniture, which began in the Bolton House and became a signature to Greene & Greene architecture, was made of mahogany and incorporated square ebony pegs.
Of the Bolton House furniture, the best known pieces are from the entry hall — a pair of chairs and a table.
“As the current owner of the Bolton House, I wanted to reproduce this furniture so I could re-create the entry hall exactly as it was in 1907, when Belle Barlow Bush... received the original furniture from the workshop of the Hall brothers, and placed it for the first time just inside the front door,” wrote Bolton House owner Tom Reitze on Weigand’s website.
In 2010, Reitze commissioned Weigand to reproduce the entry hall chair. It and the table had survived the last 103 years and were on display at The Huntington library museum in Pasadena.
The Huntington allowed Reitze to inspect these pieces at close range, carefully measuring and photographing their details.
“When it goes into angles, it gets hard to do,” said Weigand. “The chair is made up of contrasting angles, and you have to match each side to the other.”
Through trial and error, Weigand built and rebuilt, measuring exactly each line and angle of the chair, made with parallelograms and tiny pegs.
“Armed with this data, Richard was able to reproduce the entry hall chairs to the exact dimensions and with the exact finishing details employed by the Hall brothers in 1907,” said Reitze.
Weigand used old-growth Honduras mahogany, from a large log salvaged from a river bottom, to come as close as possible to replicating the look and feel of the original chairs.
“Richard’s pair of chairs are now in place in the entry hall of the Bolton House, and they contribute significantly to re-creating the look and the atmosphere of the house when it was first built by Greene & Greene,” he wrote. “Richard is a master woodworker, and the chairs are a work of art.”
The Bolton House was featured in Style 1900 magazine and the issue included a picture of Weigand’s reproduced chair.

For more information about Weigand’s woodwork, call Judy Weigand at 768-7710. To view more of Richard Weigand’s work, visit VirginiaMountainWoodworks.com.