Jennie Alexander, aka JA (1930-2018) passed away on July 12, 2018 after a long and full life. Her passions for greenwoodworking came through very clearly in her writing, teaching and collaborations with other woodworkers. She cherished the connections she made through woodworking, and kept in contact with both old and new friends right up to the end.
Her iconic post-and-rung ladderback chair is her legacy. It started long before the 1978 publication of Make a Chair from a Tree: An Introduction to Green Woodworking. Years of study of old tools and old chairs led Jennie step-by-step along her path. Decades of teaching workshops about the chair resulted in great refinements in the process. Alexander was always looking for ways to make the chair better, and to make it easier to build. Even after her health prevented her from regular shop work; students, colleagues, friends, and professionals in related fields were all well-accustomed to hearing from Jennie on a regular basis about fine details related to improving the chair-making process.
Recently, her notes and papers pertaining to over 40 years worth of study were donated to the Winterthur Museum and Gardens in Wilmington, DE, for research. As we collect and organize her effects, we will update this site with announcements about the upcoming third edition of Make a Chair from a Tree, Jennie always welcomed questions, we’ll do our best to continue in her stead. For greenwoodworking questions, try Peter Follansbee or search his blog https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/.
JA always said, “Wood is Wonderful!”
Harper Alexander Burke
My name is Jennie Alexander. Until 2007, my name was John Alexander. I thank all those who have been so supportive and kind. Yes indeed, people change, times change, wood continues to be wonderful!
I am a chairmaker. I have made traditional post and rung chairs with hand tools for over 40 years. In 1978, I wrote Make a Chair from a Tree: An Introduction to Working Green Wood (1978), a practical book about of post and rung chairmaking. An enlarged edition was printed in 1994. Both are now out of print. The book has been a part of the growing interest in the actual practice of traditional crafts. It led me to coin the word “greenwoodworking.”
In 1999, Anatol Polillo, a good friend and a craftsman, produced a two-hour DVD of Make a Chair from a Tree. It is available on this site.
The two books, and DVD, extensive teaching and research have led me to the wonderful world of kind and sharing traditional craftsmen and scholars. I have learned more than I have taught. Thanks to them I have grown both as a person and chairmaker.
The third edition of Jennie’s book is now available at Lost Art Press