Jeffrey Cooper

‘More from the Menagerie’
maple, various wood veneers
table: 21″ deep x 21″ wide x 20″ high
chairs: 25–28″ high, 13-3/4″ seat height

When our daughter was a toddler, I made the first batch of animal chairs. They won a prize at Living with Craft, and when I placed one, an elephant, on a page in The Guild Sourcebook, I got a call from Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. They placed a large order and followed up with another. That got me on the road to what is becoming a trademark design. I have made more than 120 of them so far; I lost count after a computer meltdown several years ago. Over the years they have become more sophisticated, yet they retain that childlike simplicity.

‘Judy’s Impulse’
English elm, walnut base
25″ deep x 25″ wide x 21″ high

Surfing the web, Judy happened across the Berkshire Products website, where she saw this wide slab of English elm with a crotch and flame pattern down the center. She had a brilliant idea. Impulsively, she snuck off with the pickup truck, drove to western Massachusetts, bought the English elm, and showed up with it that evening. To Tony she said, Surprise!” He said, “What are we going to do with it?” And she said, “Jeff Cooper made that terrific lamp with the carved birds for our friend Ric. We’ll have him make a base for it, and we’ll move our metal table to the garden.”

The challenge was that the base design had to accommodate a top that is wider at one end than the other, and is divided into two parts at the wider end. I made Judy and Tony three sketches: two very much Nakashima–inspired and one with a divided base reflecting the two branches on the table top and relief carvings on wide end caps. Both immediately pointed to this one.

The slab was large enough for four to dine at, but to be sure people wouldn’t be kicking each other or the table base, I made a full-sized cardboard model.

The next challenge was how to bridge between the two sides of the divided base. That inspiration came from a Tim Coleman table that featured an understructure of two long stretchers connected by short cross ties. I modified that idea in accordance with the shape of the slab table top, adjusted the spacing and proportions using some mathematics based on the golden mean, designed some relief carvings for Judy and Tony based on what they see in their own garden, and voilà!

See More from Jeffrey Cooper »