This year, the Eisteddfod Chair, presented for a poem in more than one of the traditional poetic measures of no more than 250 lines, is sponsored by Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of St Fagans National Museum of History. The subject is Porth (Gateway or Entrance) and the adjudicators are Ceri Wyn Jones, Emyr Davies and Rhys Iorwerth.
The Museum was keen to see a connection with St Fagans in the design, and this was the challenge for sculptor Chris Williams, who lives in Pentre and works in Ynyshir, Rhondda. He was inspired by the form of the stick chairs in the Museum collection, in particular one chair that was made in Trealaw, only a few miles from Chris’s workshop.
He said, “My design is inspired by a number of different chairs I have researched in the St Fagans collection. I have designed a modern chair which nods to the traditional yet has the presence of a ceremonial chair. This is achieved through a number of design elements including wide heavy seat, open arms and high back.”
Chris chose to make the chair seat and back from elm, and ash for the legs and arms. The seat and back is lightly engraved with a traditional wool pattern that is based on a cartoon in the collection of St Fagans, woven at Esgair Moel Woollen Mill, one of the first buildings to have been re-erected at St Fagans in 1952.
Chris has successfully combined traditional elements with new technology within his design. Many of the pieces were created by hand using traditional tools while the pattern on the seat and back were engraved using a laser-cutting machine.
Elements of the chair were made at St Fagans National Museum of History in a purpose-built building, Gweithdy. This is a brand new sustainable building celebrating the skills of makers past and present where visitors of all ages can experience traditional craft skills first-hand. At Gweithdy, Chris demonstrated and shared the process of making the chair with visitors – a first in the history of making the National Eisteddfod chair.
The financial prize is presented by Gaynor and John Walter Jones in memory of their daughter, Beca.