Chip-carved table

This demountable occasional table was produced by English trained carpenter George Stevenson Liggins (1874-1907) shortly after his arrival in Melbourne, Australia around 1902.

In the manner of a ‘sampler’, the upper and lower table tops display medallions with individual geometric motifs of small and delicate, shallow-cut designs between sweeping curved lines. Having been passed down through the Liggins family, it is unclear if the table had been crafted for family use or trade purposes. It may have been a means to display workmanship and available design options to prospective clients.

Chip-carving comprises geometric patterns incised into timber surfaces in low relief, by means of chisels, gouges and parting tools. Originally a popular woodcarving technique in 17th century Northern Europe, late 19th and early 20th century examples are commonly represented by small decorative objects such as picture frames, panels in pieces of furniture and small boxes produced from softwood timbers such as pine and cedar.

The [Australian] Arts and Crafts Magazine (1895-1898) promoted the idea of a system of Australian arts education in Australia and the Brisbane Technical College (est. 1894) initiated courses in Chip-carving for working artisans. By 1900 these classes were taught by tradesmen, to provide for apprentice craftsmen, aiding in the integration of the Arts and Crafts Movement with Australian manufacturing industries.

Chip-carving became a fashionable hobby for the middle classes in Australia, particularly amongst women, during the Arts and Crafts Movement (1880s-1930s). As an addition to the many handcrafts used by women to decorate interiors, chip carving was suited to the home environment as it was inexpensive, required few tools and created little mess.

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Marina Grilanc

Marina Grilanc

Former assistant curator

Marina Grilanc was the former Assistant Curator. She has a special interest in the social and material history of NSW and Australia since European settlement and her research has focused on both 2D and 3D holdings at MHNSW. Marina is also engaged in ongoing research into the construction and design of furnishing textiles and their history of use in Australian homes.

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