English oak furniture and furnishings by Robert ‘Mouseman’ Thompson have been a favourite at auction for many years. With their distinctive blend of traditional craftsmanship, beauty and practicality, prices have remained high - resisting the fluctuations that have affected classically designed ‘brown’ furniture in recent years.
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Stan 'Woodpecker' Dodds, Yorkshire Critter Carver
Collectors of Mouseman are now turning their attention to the work of the ‘Yorkshire Critters’ craftsmen, a group of talented designer-makers who trained in the Kilburn workshop of Robert Thompson before branching out on their own. Using the same traditional materials and techniques as their master, each craftsman created a signature carved ‘critter’ to embellish their oak creations.
The first of the ‘Critters’ was Stan ‘Woodpecker’ Dodds (1928-2012). Stan began working as an apprentice for Robert Thompson in 1942 at the age of fourteen. Initially, Stan made the 60 mile round-trip from his parents’ home in Normanby by bicycle every day; however he soon found lodgings with a Miss Bowes in Kilburn. Stan trained under the watchful eye of George Weightman, the workshop’s senior carver who was responsible for some of the finest carvings produced at Kilburn. Apart from a two-year National Service stint in the RAF, Dodds continued to work in the Thompson family workshop until his retirement in 1994.
In 1960, Stan married Norma, who was the niece of Robert ‘Mouseman’ Thompson’s granddaughter-in-law. The newly married couple were given the use of a Thompson house in nearby Osgodby. Here Stan set up his own little workshop where he made fine oak carvings in his spare time. Small scale oak figural carvings were produced by Robert Thompson’s workshop from the early 1960s. Largely consisting of traditional animal subject matter, they were sold at The Great Yorkshire Show. However, as each carving took around one hundred hours to produce, they only ever formed a small proportion of the workshop’s output.
Stan initially signed his work with a carved rabbit, however, he switched to a woodpecker in the late 60s when fellow Kilburn craftsman Peter Heap registered the rabbit as his own trademark.
The carvings that Stan produced under his own name, both during his years at Kilburn and after his retirement, are particularly fine. The inherent strength of English oak that makes it such a suitable and durable material for furniture, also mean it is very difficult to carve. The level of detail and refinement in Stan’s carving is testament to his skill and deep understanding of oak; he was one of Robert Thompson’s best carvers. Avid collectors of Mouseman know and appreciate the fine carvings Stan produced under his own signature – they have become highly prized at auction. Indeed a Fox sold at Tennants in March 2018 for £5,000.
13th December 2019, 10:30
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