‘You can sit on it if you like,’ said the woman behind the shop counter. Sitting on it wasn’t in my mind, but I did want to photograph it.
We had driven to Harestanes Countryside Visitors Centre, near Ancrum to have a wander around. Barely had we parked when we discovered a friend parked alongside us. So off to the café for a blether, a cup of coffee and slice of carrot and passionfruit cake.
It was when we were leaving that I noticed the chair, though chair is hardly an appropriate word. Throne is how it is described. And that is when I was told I could sit on it.
The throne was part of a small exhibition, in an adjoining gallery, of the work of Tim Stead, an extremely gifted and highly-respected artist-craftsman, who died in 2000 at the age of 48. Tim lived and worked in the Scottish Borders where his love affair with Scottish hardwoods drove him to produce distinctive furniture that will long be cherished.
As well as the throne, the exhibition includes keynote pieces which highlight his love of burr elm which he often inlaid with slivers of other wood or pencil-line patterns in metal that flowed with the grain.
The throne is a stunning piece, commissioned for the visit of Pope John Paul II to Edinburgh’s Murrayfield Stadium in 1982. Made of oak, inlaid with designs in other woods, it has a soaring back and short legs.
After his death Tim’s workshop was kept going as The Workshop of Tim Stead by his widow, Maggy, and a small team of skilled craftsmen who were apprenticed with him. This year the Workshop, from which came so many sculptural items made from locally sourced hardwoods, will close.
Although sad the distinctive furniture will no longer be made, I can treasure one of the axe heads Tim made to raise money for projects close to his heart including the Borders Community Woodland.
Our axe head, bought many years ago, is signed by Tim, dated 13th February 1986 and is made of his beloved burr elm.
The visitors centre exhibition space, café and shop are housed in former estate buildings with a character of their own.
Alongside is a design and crafts shop which displays locally made furniture, wooden items and crafts, and a number of craft workshops – a tile maker, a potter, a jeweler and a maker of beautiful leather handbags.