Structural parts of rustic furniture were usually unpeeled cedar or yellow birch poles along with slab pine, sometimes salvaged from packing crates. Bark and split twigs, from a variety of trees and shrubs, were applied to each piece in striking patterns and colors. Unpeeled wood was collected in fall and winter and bark was stripped in early spring while the sap was running.
Woodcraft skills are essential to survival in the wilderness. Rustic makers employed them and a host of other skills to make their living as jacks-of-all-trades. Furniture-making and boat-building often occupied their winter months.
Seth Pierce (1828-after 1910) described his occupation as "guiding, fishing, hunting and sometimes I take my tools and go at carpenter work." Pierce assisted in constructing Camp Fairview on Raquette Lake and Camp Cedars on Forked Lake, and may have worked for a time for General E. A. McAlpin at Brandreth Park. He incorporated a flower basket pattern—a popular quilt motif—into the mosaic twig work design of this cupboard.
Camp Cedars (built 1881) was described as "…a shapely villa of solid logs, set beneath the grand old hemlocks and pines, with accessory buildings for cooking, dining, sleeping, the children, the guides, and what not—a village in rustic, touched with an elaboration of interior furnishings which tell not so much of wealth as of loving care and exquisite taste."
William West Durant began the construction of Camp Cedars in 1880 for his cousin Frederick Clark Durant (1853-1926) on a 30-acre tract at Forked Lake. The interiors were finished with an eclectic mix of locally made rustic furniture (including this cupboard), store-bought furniture, Japanese decorations, American Indian blankets, Oriental rugs, animal skins, and snowshoes.
Ernest Stowe (?-1911) lived near Corey's on Indian Carry, Upper Saranac Lake. Stowe was a skilled carpenter who was hired to help construct several camps in the area, but is best known as a rustic furniture maker. He was one of the most prolific, producing furniture characterized by his use of white birch bark and yellow birch rounds, and his rustic adaptation of traditional furniture design. In 1911, Stowe moved to Florida, leaving his tools and cabin to his neighbors, the Petty family. Stowe died shortly after leaving the Adirondacks.
Joseph O. A. Bryere (1858-1941), carpenter, guide, and camp caretaker, was born in St. Anne de la Parade, Quebec. He came to Raquette Lake in 1882. In 1890 he opened a hotel, Brightside-on-Raquette, where he spent the winter months making rustic furnishings. One day in winter, Bryere went through the ice as he brought groceries home by horse and wagon.
Bryere constructed this clock case—the first of several—from a wooden shipping crate for his home. The clock survived a fire that destroyed the house, and sat in the hotel that replaced it, until it was stolen while the family was out of town. The thief had crossed the frozen Raquette Lake and removed it; 35 years later, the clock reappeared at an auction. The auctioneer recognized it, and reunited the clock with Joseph's daughter Clara. In 2006, Joseph's granddaughter, Janet E. Buckley, donated the clock to the Adirondack Museum.
Twig mosaic, an early form of American folk art, is created with round or half-round twigs nailed or glued to a flat base This table, made between 1897 and 1925, has been attributed to rustic furniture maker George Wilson, and was used at Sagamore Lodge near Raquette Lake.
The octagonal top is designed with a complex twig mosaic with a large six-pointed star at the center. Rustic makers who employed this technique often created intricate geometric patterns or images of cabins, lean-tos, and popular quilt block patterns.