The Chair Maker: Lawrence Neal
Master craftsman Lawrence Neal has been handcrafting exquisite ladder back chairs for over half a century. The Chair Maker explores his making process, the historic lineage of ladder back chairs, and the existential threat facing modern craftspeople.
From the ash woodlands and rush-filled rivers of rural Warwickshire to the Art Workers’ Guild meeting hall in the heart of bustling Camden, The Chair Maker tells the story of Lawrence Neal and the ladderback, rush-seated chair tradition. Chair making is part of our ‘intangible cultural heritage’, a highly skilled process for which comprehensive instructions have never been recorded, instead passed on between generations of masters and apprentices. Today the accumulated knowledge of over a hundred years of craft practice resides with one man: Lawrence Neal. Lawrence left school at 15 to be apprenticed to his father, the beginning of 50 years of chair making. He is the only rush-seated chair maker in the UK who lives entirely off his craft.
The Chair Maker also explores Lawrence’s desire to continue the Clissett tradition. In 2017 he received funding to take on two apprentices. But in order for the sixth generation in this long line of makers not to be the last, there must be conscious decisions to recognize the value and heritage of traditional crafts, and to support makers as they continue to produce these beautiful and historically-resonant objects.