Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Welcome to Native Twig Furniture

I began making rustic furniture in 2006 after a lifelong interest in more traditional woodworking and furniture building. My wife, Pat, and I live in a hardwood forest on the Cumberland Plateau outside Sewanee, Tennessee, and I have always loved using the wood on our property for a variety of projects. Our neighbor’s sawmill gave us ‘rough-cut’ lumber for our raised garden beds,  numerous sheds, and our deck. I built our dining room table out of a cherry tree we cut on our property and experimented with using hardwoods with various other smaller projects. The idea of taking a tree and turning it into something functional and beautiful has always been very thrilling for me.
As I contemplated turning my hobby into a business, I was definitely drawn to using the wood on our property rather than just buying it from a supplier. The skills required for turning rough lumber into fine furniture were very challenging for me to say the least, and there were already many fine woodworkers in our area. While looking for books on woodworking, I came across a book by Daniel Mack on rustic furniture and I knew I had found what I was looking for. Pictures of his peeled maple chairs struck me as creations both ancient and modern, and used wood that I had on my property. Using young trees with all their unique knots and bends to create a functional piece of furniture that has a life of its own was something I knew I wanted to do.
I spent the next couple of years experimenting with basic mortise and tenon construction, and building up a supply of wood. I also had to build a shop to have room to work and store the ‘twigs’ and lumber. My garage is once again a garage. By 2008 I was ready to start making twig furniture and taking it to local crafts shows. The majority of my pieces are built with peeled maple saplings that are beautifully smooth and white, and produce a piece of furniture that is both rustic and modern. I have always liked modern furniture and the challenge of building rustic pieces that fit into a modern home has been quite rewarding so far. My peeled maple barstools look great with our granite countertop, and the poplar and peeled maple table really stands out behind our dark leather sofa. My focus at this time to to create furniture that is both functional and artistic, and can be used in the modern home as well as a cabin or cottage.
Now as I wander through our forest, I look at trees in a different light. I see chair legs in two inch maple saplings, chair backs in forked branches, and table legs with feet in more twisted, knobby branches. I enjoy letting the wood speak to me and tell me what it would like to be. I have tried to work with nature on our land, and now I am working with the wood, not forcing it to be something it is not suited for. I still must come up with the basic design for my work, but the design may change as I start selecting the twigs I am going to use. And the finished pieces are often more beautiful than my original picture of them. This has been a fascinating process, and one I hope to continue for many years.