The Moina B. Michael Story

Moina Belle Michael (1869-1944) was a professor at the University of Georgia when World War I began, when she became a volunteer trainer for the YWCA. Inspired by the Canadian poet John McCrae’s tribute to the war dead (“In Flanders fields the poppies grow . . .”), she vowed to wear a red poppy in their memory. Later, she promoted the idea of selling tiny red silk artificial poppy flowers as a way of raising money to help disabled veterans, which was supported by the American Legion, and became a national campaign. We have very early school memories of our parents giving us a dime to take to school so we could buy our poppy on Veteran’s Day each year. Michael became known as “the Poppy Lady,” and had a postage stamp issued in her memory in 1948, as well as a “Liberty Ship” named for her in the Second World War. 

MoinaM_Stamp

 The World War II Liberty Ships were built to supply the war effort in Europe in the face of massive loss of merchant ships due to U-boat torpedoing. Over 2,700 of the 440-foot ships were built by 18 American shipyards from 1941 to 1945. Most were built in about one month – a phenomenal achievement. SS Moina Michael was launched on November 9, 1944. She saw service until the war’s end, and was finally broken up for scrap in 1971, in Florida.

 MoinaM_LibertyShip

A canny preservationist company, Nautical Relics, Inc., of Pensacola, Florida, obtained the deck hatches, which were beautifully reclaimed, and, inlaid with plaques and medallions giving their provenance, used as table tops for the riverboat Paddlewheel Queen, a cruise boat and restaurant based in Fort Lauderdale.

 Some of these table tops eventually made their way to an antique shop in our little nautical community here in New York City, where we purchased one for use as a coffee table top.

 The hatch evinces the simplicity with which the ships were constructed. Two inches thick and about four feet long, its planks are joined by a simple rivet: an iron rod whose ends were heated red-hot and the pounded out over a large pan washer on each side. The lifting end is bound by an iron strap, and has a lifting strap, recessed so that the seamen wouldn’t trip over it.

 The hinged end has been trimmed off by the makers of the original table tops, and the whole encased in acrylic to protect it. Our table’s legs are reclaimed dockwood, and the shelf beneath it is a teak panel from the beautiful 1920s motor yacht reportedly once owned by the film star Mae West.

 MoinaM_Table

MoinaM_Plaques

 

“Wood is timeless.”

– Ross Lovegrove, speaking to Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Design Watch members at the Bernhardt Design showcase, May 17, 2014, at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York City

Ross Lovegrove was asked why he chose wood for his new “Anne” chair design. His statement about the “timeless” nature of the medium resonates thoroughly with us at Dockwood Furniture; it is at the core of our approach: letting wood carry on with its functionality by re-adapting it in a way that lets its functional narrative be continued.

Interestingly, however, Lovegrove’s approach to wood is almost diametrically the opposite of ours. He loves a challenge, as he “extends the boundaries of technology,” and “pushes the . . . process to the limits,” whether with plywood in the “Orbit” chair,” or walnut in the “Anne” chair.

[Thanks to Bernhardt Design – http://www.bernhardtdesign.com

Axe (2013)

Axe / . . . 2 informal a musical instrument, esp. a jazz musician’s saxophone or a bass guitar.                         – New Oxford American Dictionary, Second Edition (2005)

Axe . . . 2. In olden warfare : A battle-ax.                                                                                                                   – The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (1971)

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A young musician with his axe.

Photograph by Clara Grimm                                                                                                                                ©2014 by Clara Grimm. All rights reserved.

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Axeman.

Axe (2013)

Sculpture by Dave and Sharynne Wilder – shipworm-riddled dockwood.

 Part of our sculpture “Conflict Series”

The Narrative – Allowing the Wood To Remember Its Story

Narrative / ‘naretiv / > n. a spoken or written account of connected events; a story . . .

    – New Oxford American Dictionary, Second Edition (2005)

The narrative for our furniture is as old as mankind itself. From the time that we became “humankind,” we had to relate to and with Nature to survive. Man’s use of wood is a story that begins at the beginning, and is continued with our work. The basic plotline is: From Nature to Man, back to Nature, then back to Man again. So, wood is cut in a forest and used by Man to create something, then and it wears out and is reclaimed by Nature. The Dockwood concept is to again reclaim, and up-cycle, that material, to keep the story going.

 Boat docks are simple, and rough in their construction, but strong. Time-tested engineering makes them last as long as possible. But when they are ultimately destroyed by storms or worn out by ceaseless wave action and the drilling of shipworms, they continue their role as characters in the Man/Nature narrative.

The narrative is continued in the fabrication of each piece of our furniture. The wood remembers its history, which is perpetuated in the rough joins and exposed fasteners in our work. We don’t try to force the material to be something it never was. And if you sit on one our benches, or run your hand over the surface of the wood, both smoothed and roughened by decades of use and wear, riddled by the thousands of shipworms, you yourself become part of the narrative.

It’s said that a good story bears repetition. We feel that ours is as universal and timeless as Nature itself.