The false Don S. Shoemaker biography exposed

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Furthermore to the unfortunate Don S. Shoemaker exhibition of fakes, forgeries and attributions at the Mexico City Museo de Arte Moderno, I will share with you some anecdotal occurrences that I discovered when I went through the reading of the exhibition catalogue:

Among many pages of boring, mediocre and irrelevant data combined with an obvious lack of knowledge about the designer´s life and his oeuvre, the curator & writer of the catalogue presents a bizarre fabricated biography, misrepresenting events and misleading the reader completely about our designer´s personality and his spirit. I have picked some extracts from the biography (literally translated into English from the Spanish text), with my comments to each paragraph:

“Don Stanley Shoemaker Lohr (Nebraska, U.S.A., 22.01.1919 – Morelia, Michoacan, 20.05.1990) studied Art at the prestigious Art Institute of Chicago, with the help of his uncle Edwin Perkins (creator of the famous flavored beverage KOOL AID, one of the first soluble powders in the commercial food industry ambit). Later he enrolled into the Navy, to the 15th Engineer Combat Battalion; he was part of the historic Battle of Normandy at the Beach of Utah, one of the bloodiest fronts in the war, experience that would leave a lifetime mark on him. He was made prisoner by the Germans and sent to a Concentration Camp in France; by the end of 1945 he was liberated by General´s George Patton 3rd regiment. He was awarded with the Purple Heart and the Victory Cross.”

Historical WW II events:

  • Don was captured by Nazi Germany while serving in France, but the POW camp where he was sent to was not in France, it was located in Germany. George S. Patton on the other hand, set up in March of 1945 a secret and controversial task force called “Task Force Baum”, which was given the task of penetrating 50 miles behind German lines and liberating the POWs in camp OFLAG XIII-B, near Hammelburg (close to the camp where Don was held POW). Controversy surrounds the true reasons behind the mission, which may have been simply to liberate Patton’s son-in-law, John K. Waters, taken captive in Tunisia in 1943. The result of the mission was a complete failure; of the roughly 300 men of the task force, 32 were killed in action during the raid and only 35 made it back to Allied-controlled territory, with the remainder being taken prisoner.

Verified historical data:

  • Don was not liberated by George S. Patton´s 3rd regiment. Don received the Victory Cross, which was granted to all American WW II soldiers, however, he never was awarded with the Purple Heart Medal.

The biographical research work made by the MAM´s curatorial team was less than professional, historical events were deliberately distorted. Was the idea to write an entertaining novel or is it just a literary forgery with a fabricated biography of an artist, presented as a fact?

Text: “An unavoidable first question to make is: ¿How does Don Shoemaker arrive to Mexico and why he settles down in Morelia? By the end of the war Edwin Perkins inherited the stocks of KOOL AID to him, at the time that it was sold to GENERAL FOODS. This would allow him in the future to keep re-investing stocks for the rest of his life in different stock market businesses (from General Motors to Opal Mines in Australia), but above all, at that moment Shoemaker was able at last to dispose of sufficient capital to embark upon his dream of traveling through Latin America. Although he would not get too far, because same as happened to many other travelers in our country, like Edward James or Frank Kyle, he felt in love with Mexico and very soon settles down in Morelia together with his wife Barbara. By 1947 he established a wood button factory.”

The historical evidence:

  • The Perkins Products Company & Packit Envelope and Bag Company were exchanged for nearly 250,000 shares of General Foods stock in 1953. After the General Foods sale, Edwin and Kitty Perkins (Kitty´s maiden name was Shoemaker, she was Don´s aunt) established foundations for philanthropic purposes. After Edwin E. Perkins death in 1961, the family suffered through a challenge to the probate of his estate. However, this unpleasantness was settled out of court by the family, and Mrs. Kitty Perkins took over the reins of the philanthropies.

The coming down to earth reality:

  • Don did not inherit any Kool-Aid stocks, nor did he re-invest stocks for the rest of his life in different stock market businesses. He made the SEÑAL, S.A. company from scratch through hard work and sacrifice. Aunt Kitty however helped Don in the 1960’s with the funding for the purchase of a state-of-the-art factory equipment.
  • Don and Barbara arrived to San Miguel de Allende, Gto. in 1947, not to Morelia.

Note: the writer has very little knowledge on when and where Don and his wife Barbara settled down when they arrived in Mexico. The MAM vehemently claimed that the field investigation performed by their curatorial team was extensive, profound and conclusive, and that it was mainly focused on an IMMENSE photographic archive that the family owns, and also supported by a far bigger archive, which evidently was useless, right? As I have already stated in my previous post on this issue, the immense photographic archive that allegedly the curator´s work and research was supported by, actually was based on a shoe box that contained no more than 60 photographs, a few letters and some catalogue flyers of the SEÑAL, S.A.

Text: “Towards 1950 Shoemaker founded the SEÑAL, S.A. factory and starts to experiment in furniture design and manufacturing, although, due to a workers strike in 1955 he closes the factory and temporarily moves to New York. In 1960 Shoemaker comes back to Michoacan, to settle down for the rest of his life in Santa María de Guido, by that time a far suburb of the City of Morelia. There he re-assumes the furniture production, also he will start the production of complex marquetry wood floors; he began taking control over the early chain of production of the sawmill, and he takes advantage of it to export tropical hardwoods. This is the consolidation point of his most emblematic work: he designs furniture non stop, increasing his sales catalogue at the same time that he improvises the quantity of unique pieces, he creates the Sling Chair, his most iconic piece and starts using the wood remnants to manufacture the gifts line and smaller utility objects (like office articles, kitchen utensils, jewel boxes, ashtrays, buttons, etc.).”

“For several years the sawmill (part of the factory) prepared complete trunks and planks of precious tropical hardwoods for delivery to other parts of the world, like ongoing lots of cocobolo to Japan.”

Not actually the case, quite another story:

  • Don and Barbara arrived in Santa Maria de Guido in 1951, however, the company SEÑAL, S.A. was not established until 1960. Shoemaker never used his sawmill for mass hardwoods export, the sawmill´s purpose was to provide the woods supply used for the SEÑAL, S.A. furniture production only.  Don never exported any tropical wood planks and or trunks around the world. In fact, he always had a hard time trying to get the necessary hardwoods (specially cocobolo) for his studio line furniture designs. Sometimes, there was a scarcity of almost a year for the supply of tropical hardwoods, so, why would he sell entire lots of planks and trunks to Japan???

Our lousy biography author did not understand at all the furniture production process at SEÑAL, S.A. and its daily challenges.

Text: “Until the end of the 1970’s he is consumed by his work, while every day at 16:00 hrs. sharp he paints, (his heirs keep about 70 paintings, almost all of them in a medium size), practice that until the late 1980´s he exercised as a dilettante, at the same time as the serigraphy; the copies where on sale also at the SEÑAL, S.A. store (his family keeps at least 18 different proposals or graphics between lithography and serigraphy, besides some drawings). Compared to his furniture designs and his wood sculptures, most of Shoemaker´s paintings do not show any personal style nor do they carry any distinguishable evolution, it seems that his production was more hobby oriented and was inspired from other artists or movements to the point to imitate them openly, although generating an eclectic corps of paintings, they reveal a very cultivated curiosity for the painting history. This is how he made his version of the surrealistic “Vasos Comunicantes” from Diego Rivera or reinterprets the “Three Graces Myth”, being able to transit from a maternity of impressionist execution to a lyric abstraction, going through very naive mystic scenes, abject monstrosities, geometric-sized vegetable patterns, religious scenes of strong expressionism or picturesque landscapes.”

The closer truth:

  • Among many other activities, Don had been teaching painting & drawing for years at the “University Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo”, Mexico.

Our false biography writer notes that Don´s painting production was hobby oriented. Mmmmm. We should not forget about the fact that Don studied painting at the Fine Arts Institute in Chicago. However, our writer completely overslept that part, he only discovered that Don studied “Art”.

Text: “When Don Shoemaker died of an hearth attack in 1990, (even though he suffered from Parkinson for a long time before, which explains why his signature was not always the same), his son George gave continuity to the factory (to whom, together with his grandchildren Stanley and George Jr. he had already donated since 1988 the company´s stocks). George would produce new series (although limited) from old prototypes of his father, he would re-adapt some others in format (for example armchairs that Don had conceived for 1 person, George would develop the 2 and 3-seater versions) and he would design a few new objects himself, many of them marketed under the label “Arrendadora Shoemaker”, which specifies “Produced and/or designed by Shoemaker”, besides the complete address of the factory in Santa Maria de Guido. George died young in the year 2005, and even though the company was dissolved, his two sons Stanley and George Jr. would re-assume their grandfather´s legacy. Although they have designed some new models by themselves, for the time being they have decided that they would re-edit no more any of Don Shoemaker´s models, unless maybe in a future for personal use or maybe for a very special commemorative occasion.”

The absolute truth:

  • Don did not suffer from Parkinson´s disease, nor did he die of an hearth attack. That story was invented by the writer to explain certain signature differences on some of the drawings, after I presented the evidences to the INBA Director for all Museums, as well as the Secretary of Culture in Mexico, the MAM Director and the involved curator, of course.
  • Back in 1988 Don´s two grandchildren both were under-aged. When Don passed away in 1990 the SEÑAL, S.A. company was donated to his children and business partner.
  • George R. Shoemaker, Don´s only son, took over the business after Don passed away. Some time later, the SEÑAL, S.A. company was liquidated and George R. Shoemaker continued producing many of Don S. Shoemaker furniture designs under the ARRENDADORA SHOEMAKER label. George did not re-adapt Don S. Shoemaker furniture designs into 2 and 3-seater versions, he deeply respected his father´s furniture designs.
  • Interesting confession: “even though the company was dissolved, his two sons Stanley and George Jr. would re-assume their grandfather´s legacy. Although they have designed some new models by themselves, for the time being they have decided that they would re-edit no more any of Don Shoemaker´s models, unless maybe in a future for personal use or maybe for a very special commemorative occasion. Isn´t this explanation a clear acceptance to the wrong doing of the “family”, their fakes, attributions and forgeries and lots of furniture pieces of recent manufacture?

Again, here we have some remarkable biographical inconsistencies and misinterpretations of the truth. The “field investigation” or even better, “field day” investigation performed by the MAM curatorial team shown at its best! Besides all the fakes, forgeries, attributions, etc. published in the catalogue, we also have been graced with a false Don S. Shoemaker biography.

Copyright © 2010-2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

@donshoemaker.com

Mexican Modernism – Furniture Design in Mexico – Part # 4

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William Spratling was an American-born silversmith and artist, best-known for his influence on 20th century Mexican silver design. He established a model for the artistic development and growth of the silver industry in Taxco and deserves the title “Father of Contemporary Mexican Silver”.

Spratling visited Mexico for the first time in 1926. He returned for summers over the next several years, and in 1929, he finally moved to Mexico. He quickly integrated himself into the Mexican art scene and became a friend and a strong proponent of the work of muralist Diego Rivera, for whom he organized an exhibition at the MoMA in New York. Using money received from commissions he organized for Rivera, Spratling purchased a home in Taxco, southwest of Mexico City. In 1931, the US Ambassador to Mexico, Dwight Morrow, suggested to Spratling that the city of Taxco had been the site of silver mines for centuries, but had never been considered a location where jewelry and objects of silver were designed and made. Subsequently, Spratling hired an experienced goldsmith from Iguala who moved to Taxco and created silver jewelry of Spratling’s design. Other craftsmen joined Spratling’s shop and produced tin ware, copper items, textiles and furniture – all designed by Spratling. These earliest designs were based on pre-Columbian motifs as well as simple themes utilizing rope borders, strap designs and other such basic ideas. He often adopted the stylized animal motifs found in Mexican pottery and incorporated native materials such as amethyst and rosewood into his designs. The workshop grew far beyond Spratling’s expectations… By 1940 Spratling employed 300 artisans and Taxco had become a major tourist destination for those seeking silverwork. He began to export silver items to U.S. department stores including Neiman Marcus, Macy’s and Saks. Ironically, the 1940’s boom in Taxco silver production ultimately led to the downfall of Spratling’s company “Spratling y Artesanos”, which by 1946 went out of business. In 1951 Spratling founded a new company—William Spratling, S.A. and continued to work throughout the 1950’s and ’60’s. His designs were also produced by the Conquistador Company in Mexico City for a couple of years.

When talking about Spratling´s highly appreciated furniture designs, Marilyn Monroe was among the celebrities that purchased his furniture pieces. Spratling’s silver designs have always been copied but now, perhaps because of the higher prices Spratling’s name commands I have seen an increasing number of William Spratling attributed furniture pieces.

Don S. Shoemaker is in my opinion the most remarkable representative of Mexico Modernism furniture design. Don and his wife Barbara settled down in Santa Maria Guido, Morelia in 1951. Don began producing wooden items, including jewelry pieces, hand carved bowls and decorative accessories, as well as some early rustic furniture designs made from hardwoods grown in the local mountains. The first couple of years were less than easy and in 1955 the Shoemakers were forced to leave the country; their small enterprise became a cooperative which soon after was closed. Their life project continued when the Mexican government invited them to return to Morelia and the furniture workshop SEÑAL, S.A. was founded.

Don left us an unrivaled aesthetic legacy through his furniture designs; he developed his very own identity and style which remained evolving throughout his whole career maintaining the principles of high quality hand-craftsmanship and the intensive use of native Mexican exotic woods. His organic forms were unmatchable by any other furniture designer of his time. During his more than 3 decades of dedicated work Don designed a significant number of iconic furniture masterpieces, all produced in hardwoods, which he favored for their inherent strength, durability and magnificent beauty:

•Organic designs: the most unique “Scissor” Sling chair (an armchair with folding braces), his “Sloucher” and “Swinger” Sling chairs.

•Rectilinear designs: the “Parsons Line” including suites for every room.

•Coffee table designs: the “Cuerno”, “Sling” and “Descanso” coffee tables.

•Dining room set designs: the “Sling” dining room set, cabinets and sideboards.

•Lounge and living room designs: the “Descanso” set and the “Pernos” Lounge set.

•Progressive designs: the famous stack-laminated “Diamond” desk and tables.

Below are some pictures from my personal Don S. Shoemaker collection, a look into the Shoemaker mood when you have a home completely furnished by our master:

Don´s heir, George R. Shoemaker, takes over the company in 1990, after Don passed away. However the decision was taken to liquidate the company SEÑAL, S.A. and George formed a new firm with the name “ARRENDADORA SHOEMAKER”. George continued reproducing Don´s designs under this new label; he improved some of Don´s furniture lines and he developed some own new furniture designs. One of George´s masterpieces are his iconic Bar Sets produced in cueramo, he only made a limited edition of 5 of them. However, I will not present at this time any pictures of this magnificent Bar Set to avoid future forgeries.

Unfortunately, George´s health declines extremely fast and production activity goes to almost zero. George passes away and the workshop finally closes in the early 2000’s. Many George R. Shoemaker furniture pieces are copied and sold as “Don S. Shoemaker originals” not recognizing George´s talent and contribution to his Dad´s work. He was a great designer by his own right. He had a restless mind and he also experimented in Art Nouveau, Art Deco and even English XIX Century styles.

Po Shun Leong is an artist, former architect, sculptor and furniture maker. Of Chinese origin, Leong was born in London and lived in Mexico for 15 years. He arrived in Mexico in 1964. For several years, he practiced architecture, designing a series of large furniture stores, residences and commercial exhibitions. He developed many furniture designs and was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Knoll International Furniture Competition, 2 Gold Medal Awards for fiberglass furniture in the IMCE, (Mexican Export Competition) and two 1st prizes in the low cost furniture competition.

In the early 1980’s the Leong family immigrated to Southern California. He set up a studio in his garage to produce prototypes and taught himself woodworking. He became known since the late 1980’s for his highly intricate and inspiring one-of-a-kind wood boxes that have been enthusiastically acquired and are in many museum collections. Po Shun has created at least a 1000 boxes and one-of-a-kind furniture objects. Lately he has been experimenting with bent plywood forms to produce affordable furniture.

I already published some posts on Po Shun Leong’s stay in Mexico, and his friendship with Don S. Shoemaker (see Don S. Shoemaker and Po Shun Leong Parts 1 & 2 and Mexican Design exhibition at the MAM in 1975 – Part #3).

…to be continued in part # 5

Copyright © 2010 – 2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

@donshoemaker.com

A discarded prototype from George´s workshop

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George spent a lot of time experimenting with different concepts to further enhance his father´s furniture lines and produce new designs. He was an imaginative designer by his own right and he developed several prototypes, some of them would make it to production, others were discarded.

This was back in the 1990’s and my husband and I spent many hours together with George discussing the amazingly rapid technology changes that we were facing and how these could influence furniture design trends. George had been enthusiastic for some time about the idea to design a VHS storage case. However, when his raw model was almost finished he radically changed his mind after he realized: “VHS technology is not going to last forever….the key of success to my house signature is and will continue to be based on timeless designs“. So, he quickly discarded this sample and stored it away. A few weeks later when we met again he described to us with a great sense of humor the outcome of the “VHS affair”.

Surprisingly this particular discarded prototype has recently been seen in a gallery pretending to be a Don S. Shoemaker “bookcase” from the 1960’s. The pictures below clearly show that the shelves are missing and there are some rather strange dents to accommodate the “books”…

The tropical woods surface of this furniture piece is not even finished…


The upper half of a Don S. Shoemaker label is taped to the back of the “bookcase”…

Copyright © 2010 – 2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

@donshoemaker.com

Another decade goes by…

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The 1940’s:

  • Don´s adventure in Mexico started in 1947 in San Miguel Allende.

The 1950’s:

  • In 1951 Don and Barbara settled in Santa Maria de Guido, Morelia.
  • By 1955 the Shoemakers fled to the U.S. overnight. Their business became a cooperative and soon went broke.

The 1960’s:

  • The Shoemakers are back in Santa Maria de Guido, Michoacan.
  • Production started for several SEÑAL, S.A. furniture lines.
  • Don keeps developing new furniture designs.

The 1970’s:

  • They had to face devaluation and inflation.
  • The Puerto Vallarta store was opened and survived only a few months.
  • The “Diamond” desk becomes a “must have”.

The 1980´s:

  • Don searched for new markets and opened showrooms in several cities in the U.S. and exported to different countries in the world.
  • Don had to face constant devaluation and inflation.
  • Consolidation of the “Sling” and “Descanso” lines, the “Executive” and “Diamond” lines, the “Parsons” and “Perlman” lines, “Deco” line, etc.
  • Unfortunately Don passes away at the end of the decade.

The 1990´s:

  • Don´s heir, George, takes over. The company SEÑAL, S.A. is dissolved. George formed a new company with the name ARRENDADORA SHOEMAKER.
  • In 1995 George has to stand another blow, courtesy of the Mexican economy.
  • George develops new designs and improves some of Don´s furniture lines.

The 2000’s:

  • George´s health is declining extremely fast. Production activity goes to almost zero.
  • George passes away and the company has to close.
  • The most underwhelming attributions to Don S. Shoemaker started flooding the market.
  • The most outrageous examples are the ones shown at Miami Design 2009.
  • In 2010 the website about Don S. Shoemaker was created to provide information to the public and to create awareness of the huge amount of attributions, copies, forgeries and fakes offered in flea markets, auction houses, galleries and the web, some of them featured in specialized magazines.
  • At the end of the day, of the year, the decade and the century, the work of the Shoemaker´s will endure and will be enjoyed and remembered by the owners of these remarkable furniture pieces.

P.S.:  The  2010´s:

  • Soon the book about Don S. Shoemaker, his work  and his furniture designs will be published to provide required information to the “Shoemakeristis” and keep fighting piracy, also to prevent further most underwhelming attributions.
  • Most important: to honor a person who arrived to an impoverished neighborhood and thanks to his vision, drive and endurance brought well being to the village of Santa Maria de Guido in Morelia, Michoacan.

Copyright © 2010 – 2017 Karin Goyer. All rights Reserved

@donshoemaker.com

The George R. Shoemaker heritage – Small cabinets

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During one of George´s visits to our home he saw our brand new (at that time) Bang & Olufsen BeoSound 9000 (nowadays in the MoMa) and he decided to play some CD´s of his selection. My God! He opened the cabinet in which we stored the CD´s and it was a complete mess. Of course, they were in a perfect order according to my husband but anyway instantly he decided that he was going to design something to keep them in the proper order and “in style”.

So now I am delighted to show the result of this serendipity moment. George designed for us two small CD cabinets in solid cocobolo wood with two doors and he kept for himself another model with only one door.

Copyright © 2010 – 2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved

@donshoemaker.com

Most underwhelming attribution to Don S. Shoemaker – part 9

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When attributing a piece of furniture to Don S. Shoemaker becomes grotesque:

-Who is to blame?

  • The consignor (particular? dealer?) that attributes a piece to a well-known designer, obviously with the hope of a good (profit? scamp?)
  • Furniture designs belonging to someone else, whose fine work in cueramo, cocobolo, granadilla, etc. are now being unscrupulously used with the purpose to deceive and shown in an auction catalog under Don S. Shoemaker´s name.
  • The auction house that clearly showed their ignorance or maybe it was greed? Or maybe they were acting in good faith? Finally it looks like a pretty grotesque scamp.
  • I saved this attributed dining room set including a rectangular table with 8 matching chairs (found at an auction) for a moment in which I think I am starting to solve the riddle involving attributions…
  • This set was produced using quality tropical woods, however, this model never existed during the SEÑAL, S.A. production days.
  • This dining room model was called “Silhouette”, and it belonged to George R. Shoemaker design lines! The original ARRENDADORA SHOEMAKER studio label was removed to deceive.

Silhouette Sideboard designed by George R. Shoemaker, falsely attributed to Don S. Shoemaker

The Silhoutte Dining Set by George R. Shoemaker

Always remember: if a furniture piece is produced in rosewood, granadilla or cocobolo, make yourself a favor: do not think it is attributable to Don S. Shoemaker only for this reason!!!

Copyright © 2010-2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved

@donshoemaker.com

The George R. Shoemaker heritage – identifying his designs

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George did not mastermind a large quantity of furniture pieces during the time he directed the destiny of  ARRENDADORA SHOEMAKER, but his designs were very appreciated by the Shoemakeristis. Many George R. Shoemaker furniture pieces are copied and sold as “Don S. Shoemaker originals” not recognizing George´s talent and contribution to his Dad´s work. He was a great designer by his own right. He had a restless mind and he also experimented in Art NouveauArt Deco and even English XIX Century styles.

  • Back in the early 1990´s George R. Shoemaker complemented the Sling living lounge set originally created by his father with a Sling two-seater. The Sling line now included a two-seater variant produced in rosewood. The armrests were of exactly the same size as the ones on the Sling Swinger chair, the black leather upholstery came with individual leather padded backseats (the picture below shows a Sling settee produced by ARRENDADORA SHOEMAKER in the 1990’s).

Don S. Shoemaker Sling three-seater

  • Below a George R. Shoemaker Sling round table. His characteristic improvement to the edge of the round table makes his furniture production recognizable at first glance. George made these edges of solid wood to prevent the parquetry from chipping.

Copyright © 2010-2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved

@donshoemaker.com

The George R. Shoemaker heritage – ARRENDADORA SHOEMAKER

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Special credit should be awarded to Don´s beloved son George, who, after Don passed away in 1990, took over and directed with great dedication the company under the label “ARRENDADORA SHOEMAKER“, producing many of his own designs and furniture pieces under this brand name until his early death in 2005.

Many of George´s designs were unique and of great creativity. I would like to stress on the fact that George deserves his own chapter in this website. Unfairly, most George R. Shoemaker designs are being copied and sold as “Don S. Shoemaker originals”.

I will share with you some of George´s furniture designs that I have documented, which date back to his time in the 1990´s:

This round table was part of an impressive dining room set designed by George R. Shoemaker in rosewood (cueramo). One of George´s improvements to point at  is the finish of his round table edge: he made these of solid wood to prevent the parquetry from chipping.  It is very common to get a dent on the edge of the round table parquetry design of his Dad. The parquetry on George´s table top surface was very different compared to the shiny finish on the table top from his father.

This fabulous dining room set was combined with 8 chairs made in solid cueramo with black leather upholstery, this chair style was one of the favorite Don S. Shoemaker designs for the more conservative dining  room sets and was reproduced by George in a way we can only call it perfect!

The enlarged cabinet shown below was part of that same dining room set, and is also a further development of George on his Dad´s original design, a very dramatic piece of furniture. The complete set looks absolutely incredible!


Copyright © 2010-2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved

@donshoemaker.com