27 February 2012

Looking for that Gnarly Wood (Part 1)

On a recent trip to San Francisco, while leisurely strolling in and out of shops on Valencia Street, I came upon the most unique studio of eyeglass frames.  My beau was on the hunt for some funky new glasses so we went in.  I proceeded through the space where I discover slabs and slabs of beautiful, beautiful wood!  
I so wish my photo did these slabs justice.  Sadly, it does not.
Then it struck me that I'd scene this style before...my mind registers Paris Renfroe and OneFortyThree.com.  I loved the tiny replicas that I discovered while doing the regular cruising of my favorite blogs.  Yet it wasn't until, I saw this wood 1:1 live and in-person that I soooo got it!  So back to this studio in San Francisco, Anthony Marschak, the founder of Original Timber was so very informative.  He identified species of wood or told me from where the slab was salvaged. In a delusional moment, I began to envision a custom piece in my home, when I was inturrupted by the reality of impossible shipping cost to the east coast and such.

I was so taken by the beauty of the furniture I saw and the use of this design style by miniature craftsmen I admire yet, I didn't even know what to call it.  After doing a bit of research, here's what I learned.  Furniture or accessories that incorporate the natural edge of wood, its burrs or knots or any other imperfections marks of character for that matter are known as Live Edge.  This style was first made famous by George Nakashima in a series he created for Knoll in 1946.  I think the use of this style as a design element has gradually gained in popularity as we as a society have attempted to become more ecologically responsible.  By using salvaged or gnarly woods from trees that have been responsible cut down due to thinning, we are preserving forests of perfectly healthy trees.  This in turn keeps we, the people and our planet perfectly health (but I digress so please forgive me).

The imperfections character can make the slabs delicate for woodworking and provide challenges to the carpenter to completing the necessary form for functional objects such as tables or benches.  But in the following photographs, I have found beautiful solutions demonstrating how craftsmen have done just that.

"Living Again" Bench designed by the late Michael Alexander
(Image Source: michaelalexanderdesigns.com)
A coffee table designed by Jeffery Greene (image source: jefferygreen.com)
A dining/conference table from Original Timber
(Image Source: www.originaltimber.com)
I realize that live edge design is not new but I do believe it has been experiencing a steady emergence in design since the turn of the century. Don't forget to check out Part 2 where I'll indulge my appreciation of this aesthetic just a bit more.


Mini Dork said...

Ah man, you were in San Francisco!?! If you are ever back again please let me know and we'll schedule a mini meet up. There are quite a few of modern mini diehards in the bay area. BTW, I am LOVING your blog!!!

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