In 2014, aboard a ferry from Portland, Maine, Tom and Mary Moser headed 185 nautical miles northeast to Nova Scotia. But it wasn’t the scenery that caught Tom Moser’s eye; it was the simple cafeteria chair he was sitting in.Read More
Great-Grandpa joe’s bookshelf
Atop an Arts and Crafts bookshelf rests a wedding picture of Joseph and Sabina Moser. Years before that picture was taken, Joseph’s family immigrated to the United States from Austria and settled in Milwaukee when he was just seven years old. In 1925, to celebrate his sister Anna’s birthday, Joseph built a cherry bookshelf. For the next seventy years, this bookshelf would hold many of her favorite books and keepsakes.
Tom, on the left, with his mother, Sabina, and brother, Joe. Tom’s father, Joseph, and his bi-plane.
In the 1980s, the bookshelf was passed on to Tom and Mary Moser. While Joseph had been extremely meticulous and craft-oriented in his profession as a stereotyper, he was not known to be a woodworker. As Tom recalls, this bookshelf is the only thing his father ever built from wood.
Arts and Crafts furniture of the time stressed the inherent beauty of natural material and showcased the value of simplicity and utility. With three legs on each side, joined to grain-matched shelves with simple flat-head screws, the bookshelf is the perfect piece for Tom and Mary’s grandchildren as they can easily disassemble the piece as they travel and settle into a new home, apartment or dorm room. When looking to introduce a bookshelf offered by Thos. Moser, the Arts and Crafts motif of Joseph Moser’s simple bookshelf would be reimagined with removable shelves, traditional joinery, and other subtle aesthetic variations culminating in the design of our Windward bookcase.
Recreating His Father’s Design
Now, nearly 100 years later, Tom and Mary spent the early weeks of quarantine doing what has always given them joy- creating pieces of furniture that hold special meaning and tell a story. This time, they would create nine near-perfect replicas of Joseph Moser’s bookshelf, one for each of their grandchildren.
Settling into what became their routine, Tom and Mary strolled past the freshwater pond that lies alongside the driveway between their home and workshop and picked up tools that are often called upon to work out prototypes of Tom and David’s possible designs or explore other mediums like sculpture, another passion of Tom’s. Now, these tools would build new memories as Tom and Mary sat down, replicating the design of a one-of-a-kind gift.
Presenting his Father’s Design
Upon completion of the shelves, Tom and Mary invited the family over to their home on the coast of Maine. The day was filled with boating along the coast and a luncheon comprised of a traditional Maine lobster bake. In the afternoon, the nine grandchildren, their parents, and Tom and Mary gathered outside the workshop. Each grandchild was handed an envelope at random that contained two things -a note that told the story of Great-Grandpa Joe crafting a bookshelf for his sister Anna and a numbered card that matched their own unique bookshelf inside the workshop.
After they opened the envelopes and read the note together, they ran up to the workshop to find the bookshelves. What was special to them, as their granddaughter Rachel Moser shared, was thinking of her grandparents devoting this moment in history to doing what they love while bringing to life Great-Grandpa Joe’s legacy in such a beautiful and creative way.
An Heirloom to Cherish
It’s hard to know which of the items we build today will be the ones that inspire us tomorrow. Often, it is a special piece that was given to us as a gift. It’s the pieces we use every day. It’s the wear marks on the armrests of our favorite chair or a dent on the edge of a table that was nicked from when you brought it into your new home, or the way the smell of a cedar chest reminds you of your grandfather’s favorite wool blanket that you would snuggle underneath for a fireside story. However, through the use of thoughtful design, carefully chosen materials, and master craftsmanship, the pieces we build at Thos. Moser and share with our families can inspire a new generation of well-lived memories.
There is a reason we call these pieces heirlooms— they’re the keepers of our family’s history. While the design of Joseph Moser’s bookshelf may be simple, it’s a physical symbol that represents the continuity and love of four generations of the Moser family.
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