Master craftsman to demo trade at Museum
By Jan Ohrmundt
Montross native Bill Jenkins received the title Earl of Windsor from Michael Dunbar in 2006 after taking all 11 of that master chairmaker’s Windsor chair classes. If you’ve never seen Jenkins’s elegantly crafted pieces at shows, fairs or markets in Kinsale, Tappahannock, Montpelier, Staunton, or Richmond, now is your chance. Jenkins is the featured local artist at the July 17 to August 17 Westmoreland County Museum’s Art and Wine event. Those who come on July 17 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. can meet and talk with the artist at the opening reception – perhaps learning a few of the many facts and legends about the design, which dates to the 18th century, that he has learned over the years.
Jenkins work has been judged at the Artisans Center of Virginia in Waynesboro, which then accepted him as a Virginia Professional Artisan. Another claim to fame is that several dozen of his chairs were used in the 2008 HBO mini-series John Adams based on the David McCullough book of the same name. There has also been a recent inquiry about the possibility of renting some for another film set in the Colonial era.
Since starting his second career as a sack back chair maker in 2002 (he retired in 2001from his first as a United Airplines pilot) Jenkins has expanded his line to include the New York City Bow Back with Brace, the Boston Fan Back, the Windsor Rocking Chair, Philadelphia Lowback Settee and the Nantucket Arm Chair, double and triple settees, stools and tea tables.
Jenkins has also added his own modifications to several of these designs to add to the comfort of what were already very sit-able chairs. Indeed, one of the reasons he started making Windors was to replace the less comfy Ladderbacks he had inherited with the farm home his grandfather built in 1910. Pieces he makes using pine are usually painted, but those for which he uses walnut, cherry or ambrosia maple are finished to show off those more decorative woods. To date about 500 of his pieces have found new homes where they will likely become family heirlooms.