Much of my work deals with history, and specifically how we preserve, present, and re-create objects from the past. This interest in re-making drew me to the bundle of spindles from the John Grass Company, with the old, weathered spindle in sharp contrast to the crisp new duplicates. Neil Donovan’s Walking Stool attracted my attention for its quirky impracticality, but the shoe lasts that serve as the stool’s feet yielded up an interesting piece of history.
In 1822, the inventor Thomas Blanchard developed a machine for copying irregular forms in wood from a master pattern. Blanchard’s machine was originally used to duplicate gunstocks, but it was eventually adapted to carving wooden shoe lasts.
A shoe last is a strange approximation of a body part: it only vaguely resembles a foot. A copy is always somewhat less than the original; a wooden leg is a poor stand-in for a human leg. And so the duplicating machine’s task is rather sad, making identical copies of an already-copied object.