StumpChair takes to the streets

Arts and Crafts
By PHILIP EIL  |  August 22, 2012

StumpChair2_main
HAVE A SEAT Two of StumpChair’s creations.

StumpChair — the street-art superhero who whimsically glues the tops of wooden chairs to tree stumps — won't tell me his real name. But here's what he will disclose. He grew up in Providence and still lives here a few months out of the year. He works frequently with wood, though most of his projects are more intricate than the stump thrones that dot Hope Street, Rochambeau Avenue, and other boulevards. He hasn't been hassled during his guerilla DIY excursions. In fact, one night on Power Street, a few Brown University patrolmen passed by, mid-stumping. "The cops were psyched," he says.

And most importantly, he wants you to stump, too. "I promise it's easier than IKEA," he says. "All you need is a drill, not all those little Allen wrenches and instruction manuals." The process is simple: find a broken or unwanted wooden chair and a corresponding tree stump. (Inspiration first struck StumpChair last summer when he saw the two items within yards of each other.) Remove the back of the chair and drill holes in the stump to line up with each spindle. Put glue in each hole and tap the chair down with a rubber mallet to get the spindles in tight. Then drive in a few screws to hold it in place while the glue dries. The day he comes across a stump chair he hasn't made will be a good one, StumpChair says.

It's Friday morning and StumpChair — who permits me to call him by the alias "Johny Chair Seed" (yes, Johny with one n) — is sitting on a stump chair on the median of Blackstone Boulevard. He wears work boots, jeans, a dark T-shirt, and eyeglasses that, he warns me, could reveal his identity if described too well. He rolls a rusty old racing bike by his side. The sun is shining and, when he stands, the chair looks beautiful: bright red spindles sticking firmly out of a freshly-shorn stump, framed perfectly by a white clapboard mansion across the street. Morning walkers and joggers slow down to peek at the object, their little dogs sniffing the stump as they draw near. It's one of two chairs on the boulevard, the artist tells me. There's another stump with armrests and a pokeberry plant nearby, he says.

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