Tom Clatworthy


The seam had four holes – welcoming and entirely gratifying to see, they were positioned there for me as far as I was concerned, appealing as if the dining room was in every respect an invitation. I forced my four right-hand fingers into the holes and clung to the chair. An elm and cherry tree chair. A Windsor blow-back that could be seen in a number of drawings in the Gillow Estimate Sketch Books of 1798. The chair would have cost around 9S., of which the materials amounted to 5S., and the making to 4S.

A set of them, c. 1776, at Powis Castle, would be discernable as grass green. They were designed by Lord Clive of India in 1772-73, built for Claremont, Surrey, and came to the castle by the marriage of the 2nd Lord Clive to Lady Herbert in 1784. The one before me had an old inscription painted beneath the seat: ‘GARDEN CHAIRS FROM CLAREMONT’.

Focusing on this sign was first and foremost as no action of clinging feels wholly true unless you are to understand description; specifically, that message from the maker to the various thousands of sitters and now finally myself, perfectly bound. I can try to understand why this description is in place and to who it may be for, for what history it implies and if anyone would have received it fully.

I pressed my right cheek firmly into the back of the chair. I did this in the hope that when I removed myself, in however many hours that may be, I would have two or three crimson streaks running along the right side of my face, perhaps accented by a pale yellow shade of white to indicate some kind of relief. My knees were rooted solidly into the wood panel flooring, and again, I intended for some form of vertical skin relief by placing each knee in-between two floor-boards.

These markings would give to my flesh the defined characteristics of the ageless appearance of the chair. I could indicate that it had four splayed turned legs linked by swelled side-stretches and a long, turned cross-stretcher. They were made in elm and yew of a height of about 18 in (45cm). The grain of the yew was consistent.

Underneath the inscription I blindly etched a throwaway poem. I regulated the force with which I pressed my face into the chair’s back. Feeling calm and poised, these thoughts and troubles were here but were only a small part in the larger play of constitution; that of the chair and myself, and of whatever order had happened.

Tom Clatworthy is an artist based in London. He studied MA Photography at the Royal College of art and is now writing.