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Western North Carolina Fibers/Handweavers Guild

Monthly Meeting

  • 6 May 2023
  • 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
  • Historic Johnson Farm, Hendersonville NC


  • Sign up to bring goodies to share with the meeting attendees.

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Please note that this is the first Saturday of the month, not the second.

Walter Turpening

Benches, Stools & Chairs

My late wife Ellen and I lived in Texas and Pennsylvania before moving to northeast Tennessee in 1998. Ellen didn’t want to live in Houston anymore and she found a position at Holston Valley hospital here in Kingsport, TN. I decided to become a chairmaker.

For nearly 20 years woodworking was a hobby. While struggling to make a comfortable footstool we took a vacation to the Southern Appalachians in 1992 and I saw Shaker and rush woven chairs and benches. Returning to Houston, I began teaching myself how to weave curved seat surfaces. Ellen helped teach me various weaving patterns. Upon moving to Kingsport, Ellen encouraged adding color to the weaving. I learned about cord braiding and added color braided cord to the designs.

Since 1998 I have been making benches, stools, and chairs full time. Starting with simple benches custom fitting the weaver to their loom, things evolved into barstools, spinner’s chairs, dining chairs, and others. Once I felt I was a chairmaker, I tried to make a rocking chair that a few people liked and ordered. All in all, 20 or so design variations have been developed. I have taken the advice from a professional woodworker, ‘As you get older, make lighter things.’

In August 2021, Peggy and Randy Rauch joined me as apprentices. They have progressed to making the bench and chair frames and weaving. Our work schedule is out to December 2023 and we are teaching 2 workshops a year at Exchange Place in Kingsport, Tennessee.

One lesson learned early when I worked in the oil and gas industry, ‘… ‘retirement’ can be a bad thing … I witnessed too many retiring to nothing but travel, golf, fishing, … and dying in three to five years. I removed the retirement concept from my attitude. I only changed careers.

I will show images of benches and chairs and discuss various aspects of making the custom braided cord in volume. Also, I will talk about our recently published book 'Benches, Stools and Chairs - A guide to ergonomic woven seating.'


Please note that this is the first Saturday of the month, not the second.

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