Journal Article

The Social Rise of the Orkney Chair

Annette Carruthers

in Journal of Design History

Published on behalf of Design History Society

Volume 22, issue 1, pages 27-45
Published in print March 2009 | ISSN: 0952-4649
Published online March 2009 | e-ISSN: 1741-7279 | DOI:
The Social Rise of the Orkney Chair

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In the 1890s, a new market was created for the Orkney straw-backed chair, which hitherto had been a vernacular product used largely in the homes of its makers on the Orkney Islands in the north of Scotland. This article discusses the standardization of the Orkney chair and its rapid acceptance into the houses of the British aristocracy and middle classes through the agency of the Scottish Home Industries Association. Within eleven years of its first display at an international exhibition the Orkney chair had inspired close copies and brand-new related designs made in the Netherlands by the Dutch firm of John Uiterwijk and Chris Wegerif. Its social rise was thus followed by geographical diffusion. This article also analyses the roles of the maker and of the promoter of an unusual item of furniture which has provided work for craftspeople in Orkney for over 100 years.

Keywords: Arts and Crafts Movement; furniture; International Exhibitions; the Netherlands; Scotland; vernacular revival

Journal Article.  9785 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Art ; Art Forms ; Industrial and Commercial Art ; Art Styles

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