You can tell a lot about a man by what he brings to a picnic. You can guess his favorite wine—whether it’s local or Italian—and even gauge a sense of his ambition. All finger foods in the basket may point to a guy who appreciates ease; foods that require forks and knives, one unafraid of a challenge.
But what about the man who brings his own picnic table briefcase? Well, for starters (and just for now), you can bet he’s the object’s inventor, Jameson Ellis.
“I’ve made things my whole life,” says Ellis, an artist who lives and works in Sag Harbor. “I know how to make all sorts of crazy things. My wife [Jill Musnicki, an artist and landscape designer] and I just used to go on a lot of picnics, and I’ve always made things for whatever we do. So I made a picnic table we could carry. That was probably 20 years ago.”
Take one look at Ellis’s portable picnic table—described in Vogue as “a combination of artisanal chic and James Bond cool”—and you can just imagine the envy it’s inspired over the past two decades. Imagine being on a picnic at the beach, savoring those few fleeting moments during which the food is still good and the ants have not yet invaded, when up walks Ellis and his wife with a gorgeous briefcase-turned-picnic-table.
“What on Earth is that?” you’d ask. “And where on Earth can I buy one?”
Ellis has heard both of these questions repeatedly.
“People would always stop us at the beach. They’d say, ‘Oh, wow, where’d you get that?’ I’d just tell them I made it myself. But every now and then, enough people would ask that I’d think about trying. Just earlier this year I thought about it again and that’s when I decided to just make them myself.”
The decision has made a lot of people picnic-level happy. It’s easy to understand why. Ellis’s picnic table briefcases are beautiful. They’re light, easy to carry, and open up into a 24-square-inch table. Ellis makes them in batches of eight—each batch takes him about a week to make—with baltic birch multi-ply wood and handles made of yacht braid.
Not only a feat of masterful craftsmanship but also an objet d’art (and considerable whimsy), each picnic table briefcase retails for $300. They are available for purchase on Ellis’s Etsy shop (QualityControlled) and at Cavaniola’s in Sag Harbor.
“If I were selling these as art objects, they would be considerably more expensive,” says Ellis. “But I’m not. I like to make things for people to use and live with. Machines for living. That’s what I’m about.”
To purchase a Picnic Table Briefcase online, please visit Ellis’s Etsy shop, QualityControlled, here.