Hat Box Chest of Drawers

  • John Eric Byers, Hat Box Chest of Drawers, 1999, mahogany, milk paint, lacquer, and wax, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the James Renwick Alliance in memory of our nation's loss on September 11, 2001, 2002.2

John Eric Byers combines intricate hand carving and painting to create dazzling pieces of furniture. He begins each piece with a sketch, then spends many hours incising hundreds of squares on the exterior that he individually covers with five to six layers of milk paint. Byers typically uses milk paint made from clay fillers and earth pigments, because it has a tactile quality and warm color that he doesn’t find in commercial paint. He thoroughly sands and polishes the squares after each coat to create a weathered antique appearance. Byers prefers Honduras mahogany, because it lends itself well to carving and he likes the dark red outline that is visible after the sanding process is finished. In Hat Box Chest the combination of whimsical colors and asymmetrically stacked boxes create a playful feeling in this functional item.

My goal is to produce beautiful, functional furniture that works. I can think of few things as beautiful as the repetitive pattern carried out in the application of mosaic tile work over the centuries.” The artist, quoted in Woodworker West, May-June 2001
Hat Box Chest of Drawers
722120 in. (182.953.350.8 cm)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of the James Renwick Alliance in memory of our nation’s loss on September 112001

Mediums Description
mahogany, milk paint, lacquer, and wax
  • Object – other – container
Object Number
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