I met a man the other day who is so passionate about what he makes for a living that he has it tattooed proudly on his forearm. What gives? As I soon discovered, this is no ordinary man: this is Benny The Weaver. For more than 20 years Benny’s job has been to hand weave the paper cord seats of Hans Wegner’s Wishbone chairs, a job he loves so much he’s had himself inked with the silhouette of one of the most iconic chairs of the modern era.
A Wishbone chair has been high on my lust-list for years but the real deal – produced by Carl Hansen & Son to the same Wegner design for more than 50 years – has always been out of my price range. I’ll be honest, I’ve been tempted to buy a replica but something always held me back – I’d like to think it was principle. I’m glad, because when I found out what it takes to make a chair that costs north of $1300, I developed a new appreciation for the work of Benny and his fellow craftsmen back in Denmark.
The Wishbone’s smooth, simple appearance belies the fact that the flawless, finished product requires skilled craftspeople to take three weeks and 100 different steps to bring Wenger’s design to life. There are 14 different components that must be prepared and assembled, mostly by hand. The back rest is a single piece of solid timber which is expertly steam-bent into shape with absolute precision. Meanwhile the seat takes someone as skilled as Benny up to 90 minutes to tightly and symmetrically weave it from 120m of paper cord – enough to stretch across a typical football oval! It takes time, a high degree of skill, patience and, dare I say it, love, to make a real Wegner Wishbone chair. And that’s what makes it worth the investment. Anything else is just a pale imitation that I’d rather live without.
Words: Jacqui Moore, Contributing Interiors Editor, Greenhouse Interiors