“You take for granted you have a chair. You never realize how much goes into that product to make the chair. Now sometimes when I go in a store I’m really looking at the chair, checking it over. I’ve done that in doctor’s offices, I flip it over. People are like, What are you doing? I’m just looking to see where it was made.” -Dale Lucier, Nichols & Stone employee for 33 years
Gardner, MA has an identity as “chair city” but almost all of its furniture factories have closed. Still, this region is full of people who know how to make things. Gardner has an important story to tell, a story that resonates across this entire country, and the process of telling this story is rich with potential to problem solve for a productive and hopeful future.
Making handcrafted books that share firsthand accounts of people who made their living in the furniture industry will honor the history of Gardner as well as provide a tool for community members impacted by deindustrialization to rebuild their community.
The Chair City Oral History Series is currently comprised of a series of oral histories collected from 12 Nichols & Stone employees. Each interview will become a hand-made book, printed in an edition of 400. Each book will be printed on a letterpress using handset type, polymer plates, and woodcuts. Hand-printing each book will honor the spirit of “Chair City” and the many hands that made each piece of furniture. The finished books will be given to local people who worked in the furniture industry, a copy of each will be donated to the library and Gardner Museum and remaining books will be used to spread the story and raise funds to complete more books.
The Chair City Community Workshop houses the production of the books as well as provides a space where people can rebuild the social networks that were lost when factories closed. Community members can learn how to use the letterpress, bind books and help make the books, read the books, participate in events and social gatherings, and interview each other and share their experiences.
Volunteers who donate at least 3 hours of their time can have a finished book.
Volunteers who donate at least 10 hours of their time get a book and their name printed in the "Thank you" section in the back of the next book.
Purchase a book:
If you don't have time to volunteer but would like a book, a $50 donation will get you one, and all the funds go directly to making more books.
Youth groups, schools, book clubs, sewing/knitting clubs, senior centers, etc. are welcome to come by for a tour or to volunteer. Groups should call or email ahead of time and make an appointment.
If you are interested in getting any of the books from the series, would like to learn more, or would like to hire Tracie or a furniture worker to speak at your organization please email. The books are free for people who work or worked in the furniture industry, and $50 for everyone else.
This program is funded in part by Mass Humanities.