Dallas Bump: Living Treasure | Rock Candy

Dallas Bump: Living Treasure

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Dallas Bump, maker of the Bump Rocker
  • Dallas Bump, maker of the Bump Rocker

The Arkansas Arts Council has named 95-year-old Dallas Bump the 2013 Arkansas Living Treasure for his lifetime of making rocking chairs in a shop at Bear (Garland County).

Bump, who lives in Royal, is the fourth generation of his family to make chairs. He'll be honored by the Arkansas Arts Council at a reception from 5-7 p.m. May 16 at Smokin' in Style BBQ in Hot Springs.

According to the Arts Council, Bump apprenticed under his father, Fred Bump, who learned the trade from his father, Philander Bump, who came to the United States from Canada and opened the chair shop in 1870. Here's more from the news release it issued on Bump:

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.

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 and they assemble the chairs one at a time using a
unique method that involves no glue or bolts.

"The side rungs are kiln dried. The posts are half dried so they won't
crack. We half dry the frame. Then we drive them together and they
shrink down to make the lock. After about two days, you can barely take
a chair apart," Bump explained. Sutton's wife, Donna, weaves the seats
with white oak strips. She learned how to weave from Bump and his late
wife, Amelia.

The most popular of his 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, including such
notables as former president Bill Clinton and 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.

"Making chairs is just something the family has always done," Bump said.
"I still enjoy working at it. There's always something different and
always something new to learn. I don't know when I'm going to quit. The
best advice I've ever received is to find something you like and stay
with it."

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