HUMBOLDT — Two modern artists who use century-old techniques will be recognized with a reception today at the Chanute Art Gallery.
Works by woodworker Patrick Haire and his son, glassblower Collin Haire, are on display at the gallery through June 29 and the reception today will begin at 1 pm. Haire will give an Art Talk about the exhibit at 2:30 pm, and there is no charge to view the exhibit or attend the reception and talk.
The exhibit is titled “Contemporary Artisans: 19th Century Work” and features not only furniture and glass, but also Patrick Haire’s Victorian botanical pressings.
Haire’s shop, Neosho Valley Woodworks, is on the downtown square in Humboldt and features 19th Century belt-driven machinery using an old-fashioned overhead flat-belt line system. He said he has been a woodworker all his life, starting out doing modern pieces on modern equipment. Some of the pieces on exhibit go back 44 years to show his early evolution.
He grew up in Iola, and started out studying biology before he realized he had less of a scientific bent.
His first woodshop was on the upper floor of a farmhouse in Coffey County.
“I started intensely at a young age,” he said, adding that he is a believer in reading and he researched woodworking through books.
Iola was home to one of the last woodworking mills from the 1880s-1890s. The mill was abandoned and had discontinued for 50 years when he bought it in 1987.
“That opportunity was extraordinary for me,” he said. Most similar shops disappeared around World War II.
He moved his modern equipment into the former Iola Planing Mill and began restoring the antique equipment there, including the overhead drive. It took 2 ½ years to restore the equipment, and as he did he sold his modern machines.
“When I finished restoring one, out the door went the modern equivalent,” Haire said.
His forte was architectural cabinet work, making a built-in fixture to fit the style and period of the house or business.
“They are not just a stand-alone item,” Haire said.
After four years, he sold the antique machines to a Wichita museum. Haire said he came to Humboldt for the history, and bought the old Landers Carriage and Wagon shop, built in 1876. He still owns the building on Bridge Street, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
His current location was built in 1866 as one of the first brick buildings in Humboldt. He collected the antique machinery from all over the US, including from Massachusetts, Texas and Montana.
He works alone in the shop and lives upstairs. The pre-Occupational Safety Health Act equipment can be dangerous, although Haire’s only concession to modern times is to use electric motors for the drive instead of steam engines or a water wheel.
He said his pieces are one of a kind because of the different woods, styles and finishes.
“I could not be a production shop,” Haire said.
He said his work goes into old houses being restored and also new houses built in an old style. He said his customer base is rare.
Haire is starting a job for an historic building in Yates Center.
To build cabinets for the visitors center at Fort Scott, he was able to go into the fort itself to profile and measure the old pieces.
He also did pieces to restore the Northrup House bed and breakfast in Iola, and molding for the Bailey Hotel, located diagonally across the Humboldt square.
He was recruited to teach at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colo., and rode out the recession that took 80 percent of similar shops out of business.
He said he is glad to have the Chanute Art Gallery exhibit, since many of his works are unavailable or stationary.
A big part of the show is his botanical pressings. He said his mother was famous for her pressed flowers and cards, a Victorian hobby.
“I always had the background,” Haire said.
With modern machinery, Haire said, the final product is the point of satisfaction but with more than 25 antique machines, he gets satisfaction from the process.
“It’s just been an evolution,” he said.