Chairmaker (Film)


  •  Rick DiClemente
  •  1975
  • Color IconColor
  •  22:15
  •  16 mm film
Film Description
Chairmaker follows 80-year-old Dewey Thompson from Sugarloaf Hollow, Kentucky, as a rough-hewn rocking chair takes form under his experienced hands and well-worn knife. But this “how-to” film is as much about how to live as it is about how to make a chair: Thompson’s philosophy and insights into his character are gently interwoven with the depiction of his work. For the student of folk culture, the film provides a rare opportunity to see a folk artist creating his craft in the context of his everyday life, and for the student of history, Chairmaker offers a glimpse into the past, when Thompson's skills and values were once widespread in rural America.

Screenings & Festivals
  • American Film Festival
  • Columbus International Film Festival
  • Smithsonian Institution, Festival of American Folklife
  • International Festival of Documentary

This film was preserved by Appalshop Archive with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. To support the work of preserving and safeguarding the collections, please consider designating a donation to Appalshop Archive.


“A tour de force … Anyone of any age wanting to stay young should see this relaxed film. Dewey’s is the kind of individual enterprise that makes a man along with a chair.” — Film News
“The tone and pace of the film match the personality of Dewey Thompson and the rhythm of his work–unhurried, uncluttered, understated ... Chairmaker is a fine demonstration of folk craft and a warm portrait of an Appalachian highlander.” — Journal of American Folklore
“In an amazing demonstration that begins with the chopping down of one tree and ends in a beautifully crafted rocking chair, Thompson shows off his skills while carrying on a casual and thoroughly winning conversation with the camera. A delightful visit.” — The Louisville Courier-Journal