Steve Tripp mirror Chippendale school

A mirror to Chaucer

It’s an enigmatic mirror that packs a powerful message.

The mirror, in white oak, carries the words, “The lyf so short” across its top, and, “The craft so long to lerne” across the bottom.

Steve Tripp from Minnesota saw the quote above a mantlepiece in his native USA, a piece credited to Gustav Stickley (1858 – 1942).

Stickley was the American furniture designer and maker who inspired what became known as the Mission style.

It’s an apt quote for any woodworker on our professional course.

It sums up how furniture design and making is a process of lifelong learning.


But the quote is actually from a 700-line poem, The Parliament of Fowles, by the 14th century writer Geoffrey Chaucer.

And while the quotation has resonance for anybody learning a new skill, it’s actually about love and how learning how to love is a skill, or craft, in itself.

The poem describes a group of birds which gather together in the early spring – on ‘seynt valentynes day’ – to choose their mates for the year.

It’s now believed that the poem is the inspiration behind St Valentine’s Day.

Steve, a former IT consultant, has been much influenced by the arts and crafts movement and his mirror reflects that basic simplicity of design,

The words on the frame are oil gilded in 24 carat gold, and the mirror itself has iconic rose motifs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.


Alongside his wife Margaret Macdonald, he was hugely influential on European design movements such as Art Nouveau.

Steve has been particularly influenced by the Lost Trades Fair in Australia.

It seeks to promote traditional crafts made by people not machines.

His interest in traditional crafts spans several areas, from weaving to ceramics, and from woodworking to lace making.

But it’s also a passion that is fuelled by ideals of sustainability and educational outreach to encourage more people to explore their creativity.

Steve intends to follow that twin passion for tradition and education and stay on in the UK after graduation, exploring how age-old skills can be brought to a new generation.

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