I’ve said before that my furniture is about the wood. Many
of my pieces have “imperfections,” such as knots, that would not be acceptable
in mass produced furniture that seeks uniformity, not to mention special
figure, burl and sapwood. These properties make the piece speak of its natural
origins. But natural or “live” edges and spalted wood move the piece even
further in this direction.
Both spalting and live edges are striking visually, as in
this wall cabinet. You don’t really need to go beyond that to justify its use.
However, both characteristics are very symbolic in my mind.
Spalting is caused by fungus. Fungus is an extremely
important part of the ecology of a forest, being essential not only for
recycling biomass but in promoting growth as well. If you look at this detail
of the natural edge of the cabinet, you’ll see tracks made by beetles hosted by
the living tree. So, natural edges and spalting are features that speak not
only of the tree itself as a living creature, but they reference the whole
community of organisms in which the tree functioned.
In this way we see that wood is more than a building material
that has no meaning until we shape something with it, and it is more than just a
beautiful natural product. Wood, and these natural features of wood, are in
fact symbolic of life and community and of our dependence on the natural world.
Mixing the refined craftsmanship of the cabinetmaker and
joiner with natural edges and spalting presents a contrast that just can’t be
ignored. The one is a very utilitarian
and anthropocentric view, the other a poetic and scientific view. That is how
it has always been. We humans have a long history of association with trees, much
of it a utilitarian history. But there is also a long poetic and symbolic
history. However, today many of the world’s forests and the communities they
support are threatened. Including these natural features into our furniture can
help remind us of the origins of the material and of their importance to a