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AH x MET

The Limited Collection

This spring, Abner Henry and The Met combine to create something that’s wholly different

The MET Collection

The Met Limited Collection and its impact on the art world

Our collection for The Met features seven distinct pieces that we will only recreate up to seventy times for consumers and galleries. The symbolism of these obscure numbers comes from Matthew 18:21-22 in which Peter asks Jesus, “How many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus responds by saying, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” In other words, Jesus is telling Peter to forgive those who sin against him an infinite number of times. He is essentially telling Peter to stop counting or “keeping score.”

We believe that forgiveness should be core to Christian living and our company culture at Abner Henry. Fittingly, the creative process for each one of these pieces required seemingly forgiving ourselves and one another an infinite number of times. So many times, we were told by woodworking, glass, and furniture experts that what we were attempting with any particular piece could not be done. We weren’t surprised. We sought with each piece to do something that had never been done before, and we learned that this kind of experimentation requires a lot of grace. In the layering of glass in our Coralie cocktail table, we broke three high-grade sheets of glass. Even more glass was broken while assembling Pirouette and Serena. All the research and experimentation for each piece resulted in failures, mistakes, and almost constant pivoting.

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Pirouette Console Table

Pirouette Console Table

Renowned theologian C.S. Lewis described the Trinity (the Christian doctrine of one God consisting of the Father, Son, and Spirit) as a type of “dance” when he writes that “God is not a static thing…but a dynamic, pulsating activity, almost…a kind of dance.” Wm. Paul Young’s bestselling book The Shack famously depicted the diversity and dynamism of the Godhead in his portrayal of members of the Trinity working together to help a father grieve the loss of his child.

No matter how you feel about this fundamental element of Christian doctrine, there’s no doubt that movement is core to our reality and existence. The universe is in a state of constant expansion. The earth is in constant motion. Humans and other aspects of creation have continually evolved. Most Christians believe the creative work of the Trinity is animating this movement, as God continues working in our world through us.

In his 1874 painting “The Dance Class,” artist Edgar Degas sought to depict movement in his painting of ballerinas and their parents in a dance studio at the behest of Jules Perrot, a famous ballet master. Degas took special interest in depicting movement and delicate details, and this was our goal as well with our table design.

The waving layers of wood—finished like gossamer marble and braced with hand-forged metal—are inspired by the waves and delicacy of a ballerina’s tutu. A 126-inch glass top completes this remarkable accent piece, tapered like the classic form of a ballet pointe shoe.

When I look at this piece, I’m reminded of how my days unfold unexpectedly with ebbs and flows but it is God’s invitation to me to “ride the waves”—to, in a sense, dance within whatever song God has for me that day. The diagonal brass piece wrapping around the marble waves and holding the glass top is representational, to me, of my faith. Though I enter each day unsure of the surprises and challenges ahead, I trust my faith will ground me and hold me together—that it will move me forward in an impactful way.

Echoed in the Pirouette is also a kind of architecture for reality itself. The waves reflect the chaos and paradox of human history—our evolution as a species—while the brass legs depict order. Call it intelligent design or evolution or some combination of both, but as we move forward it does seem like there is something holding everything together. The elegance of the ebbs and flows communicate that God is with us in the chaos, revealed to us in myriad ways (what Christians might call the diversity of the Trinity) for our journeys. The glass itself—mirroring a ballerina’s pointe shoe—symbolizes the spiritual invitation for each of us.

Each of us, every day, is invited into both adaptation and resilience. We, too, are invited to evolve, to move. Each of us is invited to surrender to the spiritual flow of our days. To move forward and expand just like the universe. And most importantly, to dance through it all. With God, life, others, and our true selves.

Verlang Cocktail Table

Verlang Cocktail Table

Perhaps most striking about the paintings of Vincent van Gogh are their color and vibrancy. His paintings of sunflowers are no exception.

Though these fading flowers can be quickly interpreted as melancholy or weak, Van Gogh’s repeated use of yellow alludes to hope.

Inspired by the form of the sunflower, Verlang points to hope. Metal is bent and formed together into the shape of petals, each curling over similarly to those in Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers.” The exterior, hand-painted and textured, is a melancholy blue, but revealed on the inside is a radiant brass grind, similar visually to the texture in works by Van Gogh.

Like “Sunflowers” and so many of Van Gogh’s paintings, Verlang reflects back to us the architecture of the human soul. The vibrant core of Verlang is a sunflower but can also be interpreted as a blazing fire rising up and out of the piece and into the glass tabletop. As a Christian, I believe the fiery blaze is the Holy Spirit, our union with God, at the very center of who we are as people. We are designed for the truths in our spirit to permeate our soul…our mind, intellect, and emotions…our body. So that we can live as lovingly and authentically as possible.

Christian or not, it is up to each of us to allow the truth of who we are—the loving core of our being—to rise up and influence our actions and our lives. The metal petals wrapped neatly around the golden core of Verlang model how love can inform our actions when we are aware of who we are and whose we are. The glass tabletop, with its seemingly jagged edges, embodies our imperfections. The juxtaposition of crystal-clear glass and rough edges represents the human journey: the longing to let love and hope arise and shine through our imperfect thoughts, emotions, and experiences. Despite the imperfect world around us and the brokenness we carry, it is up to us whether we let our inherent vibrancy shine through.

Severine Console Table

Severine Console Table

In “The Circus of the Sun” poet and contemplative Robert Lax used his experiences working in a traveling circus as a metaphor for the beginnings of Creation and existence. We can sense something similar in the 1887-88 painting “Circus Sideshow,” in which artist George Seurat used the technique of pointillism—small, single-color dots and brush strokes coming together to create elaborate scenes—to depict a traveling sideshow that visited eastern Paris in 1887. At first glance, the painting might appear dull or subdued. In pointillism, contrasting colors placed side-by-side lead the human eye to naturally blend them together. Upon gazing curiously upon the painting, however, its intricacy comes to life in a stunning way.

Perhaps this was one of Lax’s “points” as well. The circus for him was not just a summer job that helped him pay the bills. His daily routine at the circus became a metaphor for the very origins of the cosmos, producing within his heart a poem that echoes the cosmological literature of both Genesis 1 and John 1. Similarly, the spiritual invitation of pointillism is to dare see what the artist saw; to gaze upon what your eyes are naturally blending together until the rich complexity of the painting reveals itself to you.

Our Severine console table echoes these same themes. At first, Severine simply looks like an elegant table. However, upon closer inspection, it becomes apparent that the composition is an assembly of diverse pieces of wood, forming a harmonious tapestry. Made from a fallen oak tree in our rural Amish country, hundreds of pieces of oak were then oxidized so each piece of wood could be its own unique expression. Replicating pointillism, we then glued together the diverse pieces of oak into three-inch blocks, and then assembled those blocks into the tabletop, resulting in a mosaic in which every tiny piece of wood is an authentic assertion of itself.

Severine tells the story of our diverse world. In Christian theology, this is called the Body of Christ, a term used to describe how each person—made in God’s likeness and image—belongs to the human family and can reflect back to us the divine creativity and intricacy of the Artist. As you gaze upon Severine, its nuanced details reveal themselves gradually, much like the layers of human complexity.

In Circus Sideshow…in Circus of the Sun…in Severine…in pointillism…in life itself, we are invited to gaze until awe, wonder, and a sense of connectivity emerges. As Lax began his famous poem, “And in the beginning was love. Love made a sphere: all things grew within it; the sphere then encompassed beginnings and endings, beginning and end. Love had a compass whose whirling dance traced out a sphere of love in the void: in the center thereof rose a fountain.”

Duet Nesting Tables

Duet Nesting Tables

To me, there is no piece that embodies the notion of forgiveness quite like our Duet Nesting Tables, inspired by the 1874 painting by Edouard Manet that captures the Monet family in their garden. The painting exudes peace as Claude Monet appears to be watering flowers as his wife, Camille Monet, and their son, Jean, are nestled together, relaxing in the grass. Manet’s painting of this fleeting moment seems to capture a contentment that we all desire. In our nesting tables, we wanted to mirror this feeling of closeness. It is my belief that forgiveness and humility are the only things that can make peaceful moments in our own “gardens” possible.

The most difficult hurdle in creating our nesting tables was somehow finding a way to get 24-karat gold dust into the grain of the wood, which we were told had never been done before. In the smaller table, which was representational to us of Camille and Jean, we wanted to insert dust into the grain that was even more valuable than 24-karat gold to represent the subtle power of feminine nurturing portrayed in the painting. We went with platinum.

Getting 24-karat gold dust and platinum dust into the grain required meticulously grinding down the soft grains of wood so that minuscule valleys would be created to receive and hold the dust. This process symbolized the often grueling nature of forgiveness and the humility it requires. There is no room for ego in true forgiveness. But the result is a peaceful inner state echoing that of a loving, accepting family contently going about their day in a garden.

Coralie Cocktail Table

Coralie Cocktail Table

“Auguste Renoir’s 1883 painting “Seashore,” depicts an elegant woman sitting in a wicker chair on the coast of Normandy. Renoir’s portrait invites the viewer to contemplate the subtle power of the feminine through the stately portrayal of this woman on the shore, which calls to mind Trappist monk Thomas Merton’s famous poem, “Hagia Sophia” when he writes, “There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence that is a fount of action and joy. It rises up in wordless gentleness and flows out to me from the unseen roots of all created beings, welcoming me tenderly, and saluting me with indescribable humility. This is at once my own being, my own nature, and the Gift of my Creator’s Thought and Art within me, speaking as Hagia Sophia, speaking as my sister, Wisdom.”

Our dynamic, evocative, and bright Coralie cocktail table marries the woman’s elegance in “Seashore” with the origins of the universe itself. Sitting atop intricate custom metalwork to resemble the wicker chair in Renoir’s painting is a round inch-thick piece of layered glass to mimic the waves of the seashore. The dark blue hues around the edges—holding glowing amber and green—with radiant, explosive yellowish-green at the center make for a design that will feel undeniably cosmic. For some it will be interpreted as the Big Bang; for others, as God speaking the universe into existence as is detailed in Genesis 1. When I look at this piece, I am reminded of Mary, the mother of Jesus, through whom God saved the world; and of Renoir’s painting in which the woman’s blue eyes and dignified stature portray that she holds some kind of secret to the universe.

Ventana Standing Mirror

Ventana Standing Mirror

The 17th-century painter Diego Velázquez once painted a portrait of his enslaved apprentice, Juan de Pareja, while traveling in Rome. Commissioned to paint a portrait of Pope Innocent X, it is believed Velázquez painted Pareja in preparation for the style in which he planned to depict the Pope. But it was his portrait of Pareja, not the Pope, that would stand the test of time.

In Velázquez’s portrait, Pareja is depicted as regal, dignified, and confident. Portrayed as powerful and holy in practice for Pope Innocent X, Pareja’s reality as an enslaved man is overshadowed by his heavenly aura and thus his inherent worth and potential. What role did this creative undertaking have in Velázquez’s freeing of Pareja in 1654?

When one truly sees and experiences in another person the Imago Dei—the image of God—the most loving response is to honor and cultivate that image. We can assume that Velázquez’s painting served as something of a heavenly mirror to the painter: reflecting back to him the depth and beauty of Pareja’s soul and the fullness of his humanity, ultimately leading to Pareja’s liberation.

We sought to “mirror” Velázquez’s creative and spiritual journey in our Ventana Standing Mirror, a solid brass mirror that is a unique portrayal of truth, prompting us to reflect upon the past and ourselves. Mahogany and brass elements exude quiet confidence like that of Juan de Pareja. Made with the highest grade of brass in the world and perpetually polished to achieve its most effective reflection, it is virtually impossible to stare into this mirror and not see something divine being reflected back to you.

The elegance of the Ventana is designed to reflect back to the beholder God’s image in which every human being is made. As a team of mostly Christians at Abner Henry, we believe this deeper spiritual reality being reflected back to us at all times is our union with Christ. In this sense, God becomes the painter portraying us, His creation. As Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

With careful introspection and commitment to constant refinement, divine reflection ought to usher in humility and the desire to cultivate that image, as it did for Velázquez. As St. Clare of Assisi once wrote, “Place your mind before the mirror of eternity.” It is in this mirror of eternity that the truth of our spiritual reality is reflected back to us: that we are loved, accepted, seen by God, known by God, uniquely designed, intricately woven together in the womb of our mother, filled with potential, designed to be refined. The invitation is to live in a way that is grounded in this spiritual truth. Like Velázquez, it is our choice whether we take to heart the spiritual truths reflected to us. How will contemplating the Imago Dei lead us to freedom?

Serena Bar Cabinet

Serena Bar Cabinet

Gustav Klimt’s 1889 portrait of Serena Pulitzer Lederer is a painting of beautiful contrast. She evokes strength and confidence, but also femininity and delicacy. She’s poised perfectly. Like Auguste Renoir’s 1883 painting “Seashore,” this majestic portrait of Serena Pulitzer Lederer, the grandniece of U.S. journalist Joseph Pulitzer, invites the viewer to gaze upon Serena in perhaps the same way that God gazes upon us: with love, awe, wonder. Yes, why wouldn’t God gaze upon the uniqueness of what He has created with the love, awe, and wonder that a father or mother has for their child?

In our bar cabinet Serena we wanted to create something that stood tall and proud, but also delicate and resolved, just like Pulitzer Lederer. At eighty inches tall, we wanted the cabinet to be long and flowing, as if in motion. In order to mirror the delicate detail of Serena’s dress that seemingly begins to dissolve into the background of the painting as it flows toward her feet, we designed the shield-shaped glass door to transition from one intricate pattern to another, another task we were told would be impossible. The elegant black walnut shelves hidden beyond meticulously patterned glass symbolize what Spanish mystic and saint St. Teresa of Avila called the “interior castle,” those rooms within our soul that may seem dark or abandoned but become the very places where we discover God.

In order to capture the flare of Serena’s silhouette in the form of this cabinet, a single piece of wood was bent, curving around the top and flaring at the base. This detail is critical to creating an uninterrupted, seamless profile that echoes the nature of the original painting. The translucent, ghost-like nature of the painting is reflected in uniquely poured glass doors, creating depth. A focal point is the custom-blown glass decanter set upon the center shelf, a sharp detail among soft shapes. Overall the angelic and divine dimensions of both the portrait and Serena serve as a reminder that we are made in the image of God and are beckoned inward to further explore the inner peace and freedom this entails.

Join the Story

In 1918, a time when furniture was an investment with emphasis placed on pure function, a man named Abner championed the idea that the spirit in which furniture is made, the beauty of the design itself, and the story behind it are far more important than the simple function it performs.

Even then, he believed that furniture could be art.

So when The Met approached Abner Henry to create a one-of-a-kind collection where beauty meets function, it was an easy yes.

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To create the Limited Collection, not only did we rely on the talents of renowned artists, but also our own designer, engineer, craftsmen, and many more individuals to create the stunning final products.

As the finished pieces come together, the story is written, and more and more people are added to the timeline — but the story isn’t over.

The MET Exterior
AHxMET

Somewhere, these pieces will live, showcasing the beauty of fine art unlike anything before.

Some day, they will be passed to future generations, a reminder of the movements that came before them.

Someone will have the privilege of showcasing limited edition pieces — a part of a stunning collection, and writing the rest of the story.

Will that be you?