2013 Award Recipient | CHAIRMAKING, Royal
Dallas Bump of Royal was named the 2013 Arkansas Living Treasure for his work as a chair maker.
Born in 1918, Bump, a fourth generation artist, has been making chairs for 75 years. The art of chair making was passed down from his ancestors who trace their lineage from France. As a young boy, Bump apprenticed under his father, Fred Bump, who learned the trade from his father, Philander Bump. Philander came to the United States from France and opened the chair shop in 1870 in the community of Bear, Ark., where it still operates.
Bump runs the Bear Chair Shop with his nephew, Leon Sutton, whom he has trained for six years. The shop is a rustic barn where Bump uses many of the 100-year-old tools, patterns and equipment that his father used. He enjoys showing visitors and other craftsmen around the shop, and he gives demonstrations to high school students and students from the National Park Community College in Hot Springs.
Sutton selects and cuts the trees, mostly red and white oak, and dries the wood in a kiln. He and Bump turn each piece by hand using a hand-turning lathe. They assemble the chairs one at a time using a unique method that involves no glue or bolts. Sutton's wife, Donna, who learned how to weave from Bump and his late wife, Amelia, weaves the seats with white oak strips.
The most popular of his legendary chairs is known as the "Bump Rocker," which is made of red oak and white oak strips for the seat. The Bump Rocker comes in two basic sizes: one for the average size person and an extra-large version known as the "John Lewis," which will seat up to 350 pounds. Bump also creates rockers for children, stools and a double-seated rocker known as the "Love Seat."
His customers come from all over the United States, and include such notables as former president Bill Clinton and Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe. He has exhibited his chairs at festivals throughout Arkansas and the Smithsonian Center for Folk Life and Heritage. He has been featured on "Good Morning America" and in Southern Living, as well as many local media outlets.