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Why do people consider aesthetic qualities as well as utilitarian ones in the making of everyday objects? Why do they maintain traditions? What is the nature of their creative process? These are some of the larger questions addressed by Michael Owen Jones in his book on craftsmen in the Cumberland Mountains of eastern Kentucky. Concentrating on the work of one man, woodworker and chairmaker Chester Cornett, Jones not only describes the tools and techniques employed by Cornett but also his aspirations and values. Cornett possessed a deep knowledge of his materials and a mastery of construction methods. Some of his chairs represent not objects of utility but aesthetic developments of the chair form. Cornett sought to cope with the problems of his life, Jones maintains; their massiveness provided a sense of security, the virtuosity of their design and construction, a feeling of self-esteem. Jones also compares other area craftsmen and their views about their work.

The story of a complex man who through his chairs tries to transcend his limitations, yet seems to be thwarted. He withdraws more and more into his craft and looks toward it as some kind of salvation. Just may change the way we look at handmade objects. -- Atlanta History

Reminds us why studying folklore makes us feel good. -- Journal of American Folklore

Jones investigates the lost tradition in the context of folklore, exploring the craft of chairmaking through the bittersweet stories of those who keep the traditions alive. -- McCormick (SC) Messenger

An outstanding work. It describes chairmaking in southeastern Kentucky as a craft in fine detail, and it fulfills its promise to answer some more fundamental questions about chairmakers themselves, their families, their friends. -- Southern Folklore

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Kentucky, Chairs, Cumberlands, Chair makers, Furniture


Interdisciplinary Arts and Media

Craftsman of the Cumberlands: Tradition and Creativity
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