Respect the tree


"Every creature is better alive than dead, men  and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it."  — Henry David Thoreau

From the Ents of Middle Earth to Buddha's Bodhi Tree to the apple tree that gave Isaac Newton his famous “Aha!” moment, trees have always had a central place in the mythologies and achievements of humankind. Food, shelter, inspiration, and art; trees are all these things. It is no wonder, considering their beauty and longevity, that many cultures have believed that trees have souls. There is a nobility in the beauty of trees that rests the mind.  That there are trees alive today that were living before the beginning of recorded human history at the very least commands respect.

Yet, in an interesting duality, even while trees are alive, much of the wood is already dead or dying. And when the whole tree dies, its fate is usually to rot and disintegrate and return to the earth. But a craftsman/artist can, in a sense, resurrect a tree and let it live a new life. With great respect for the original tree, the craftsman will reveal the shapes, patterns and colors hidden in the tree and, plying his art, create objects that will enhance the lives of those who use them. The significant fact is that this beauty can only be unleashed with ability and an attitude of respect and admiration.

Which is why, we, at RWF have what could be called a personal relationship with the trees we use to make our furniture. Unlike the furniture maker who just pops down to the lumber yard and orders some stock, we know an awful lot about each tree. All of our lumber comes from trees that were growing within 60 miles of our studio. There is no clear cutting of any kind involved, nor even trees downed in an unsustainable way. Rather, we obtain our trees through personal intervention, whether they are city trees (downed by the parks department, city hall, or the utility department), tornado downed trees (RWF is giving back to the devastated communities by donating furniture made from some of the downed trees), friends' trees (a huge sassafras tree from an arborist friend, a walnut tree from a farmer friend, and a century old cherry tree beloved but becoming a danger to the house of another friend; in that case, the tree was downed with a "wake," a backyard celebration of the tree), and church trees (often historic trees that reached the end of their lives). We also salvage antique beams from old construction.

This loving and respectful harvest is just the first step in the slow process that creates the unique and beautiful pieces that constitute Robin Wade Furniture.