The Sussex chair, named after a country chair found in its namesake county in the south of England, was presumed to have been refined in 1860 by William Morris. It was put into production in 1870, leading to a full collection of Sussex seating including children’s chairs, corner chairs, and settees. These were crafted up until the Second World War and proved to be a very successful range for Morris & Co. As it happens, a 1912 catalog featured a Sussex armchair much like the piece I have made which was priced for the equivalent of 49 pence – this was considered a good deal even back then!
The concept of the BBC show was to give modern craftspeople the opportunity to recreate original pieces from the Arts & Crafts Movement within a limited time. As such, I was shown an original Sussex chair for a short period (20 minutes) and given the opportunity to note the intricacies of the design and construction. I totaled 36 separate pieces of the chair, requiring a combination of cleaving, drawknife and spokeshave work using a shaving horse, turning on a pole lathe, steam-bending, drilling, seasoning, and assembly. All of this was to be accomplished within five days without any power supply – and without any previous green woodworking experience.
–Abdollah Nafisi, excerpt from “Making the Sussex Chair,” in Issue Nine