The Latest Item of Endangered Furniture

Photo by the amazing Tom Way
Photo by the amazing Tom Way

As alert readers of this blog know, one avenue of the Endangered Alphabets Project is Endangered Furniture, a series of collaborations between yours truly, the carver, and a series of woodworkers who actually know how to make furniture. Joints. Mortise and tenon and stuff.
The latest piece is a king-sized bed headboard, featuring a Zen-style design and a central carving of the word “Sleep” in Chu-Nom, the endangered traditional script of Vietnam. (Translation by John Balaban of the Vietnamese Nom Preservation Foundation.) The fact that it looks so polished and professional and the joints are actually joints (instead of screws, if I’d been the one trying to make this) is thanks to my collaborator Tim Peters, of the excellent Vermont Woodworking School.

We would love the opportunity to show you and even make for you this and other items of Endangered Furniture. And we are open to suggestions for other possible collaborations between Tim and Tim.


2 Responses

  1. Jason Saari

    I love this! Although i think the western use of oriental characters is cheesy (at best), the style is timeless.

    • Tim Brookes

      In general I’d agree with you, but for the fact that this isn’t just, say, Japanese because Japanese looks cool. (Though I willingly admit to having done commissions for people who had their own reasons for wanting me to carve Japanese characters.) The whole point of the Endangered Alphabets is to present writing systems that are in imminent danger of extinction, and with them the entire history of materials written in those systems. The text here is a great example: for a thousand years Vietnamese was written in these Chinese-like characters called Nom or Chu-Nom, until missionaries and French colonial forces forced the Roman alphabet on the Vietnamese. As a result, almost nobody in Vietnam can read anything written in Nom, so a thousand years of documents have been lost to them. This is especially a loss because one of the great poets of Vietnamese literature was a woman (highly unusual) who wrote in Nom. Needless to say, her work loses a great deal in translation into Roman characters.