There is no real production;
My work begins with the wiggly and unhewn. The indigenous hardwoods I use in my furniture are junk to the lumber industry; burls, dog-legs, unmanageable crotches, gnarled branches and center-rotten trunks not valued by commercial mills as saw logs. Local loggers are the chief sources of supply. They bring us interesting materials culled from logging site waste; that is, those portions of felled trees not being sent to the mill or cut up for firewood because the eccentricities of their growth make them difficult to mass process. We provide loggers with another source of income and they provide us with commercially unattainable raw material.
Thirty-some years ago when I began to make furniture I used these castoff woods because they were exotic, not in the ususal “imported” sense but “strikingly or excitingly different or unusual”. They were comparatively inexpensive then, they were local and I knew their histories through the loggers and foresters involved in their harvest. The ecological ramifications were also measured in this choice of locally acquired raw materials. In harmony with George Nakashima’s sensibilities regarding the inherent beauty of trees, of solid wood and the desire to sing their natural praises, most all of my furniture is made of whole, single boards and integral tree forms. As Martin Kemp has written, “The great topic is the underlying order and structure of nature.” It is my wish to reveal this structure and to work within its order to give renewed life and respect to “useless” wood through furniture. That has been at the root of my efforts and through the years these views have deepened.
The design process of my furniture begins at a different locus than the cabinetmaker’s point of departure. Unlike a cabinetmaker who joins dimensioned lumber together to generate an additive form, I begin with a larger mass and remove or subtract material in order to create the forms I seek. I may carve whole sections of a trunk, branch or burl, or combine elements in order to generate the form I’m seeking but the qualities of the specific raw materials are inherent to the design . In this way, the organic life of the tree influences the the finished piece and has an immediate influence on the ultimate form. The raw material isn’t commercially available so I can’t go out and buy new if something unexpected and irrepairable happens in the process of making. Thus, careful design and responsive making are crucial to the entire process.
The challenge with such raw materials is to make sense of them within the parameters of a practical, functional piece of furniture. My efforts are directed toward sustaining the material’s qualities while working with it to design an individual piece of furniture; both the design and making are thus material-based and interdependent.
I had bought two drums from Karamo Saho in Joli. He had cut them from local trees, and each of them followed the shape of the original trunk, so that they leaned slightly, but in opposite directions. Wherever they were, they would remain a part of the landscape from which they had been taken.