Archive for FSC certified

Ellipse Table Made of Bamboo

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2011 by johnwiggers

In a previous post I described the creative process behind making the Ellipse II Table out of bamboo.

Bamboo has been available to custom furniture makers in veneer and plywood form for a number of years. It’s use as a “green” material, however, has not been without questions and controversy.

In simple terms bamboo is considered a sustainable alternative to wood because bamboo is actually a grass and not a wood. Ironically, as demand for bamboo has grown many forests in south-east Asia have ended up being cut down to make way for bamboo plantations. This reality can hardly be interpreted as protective of trees and forests.

In addition there have been many questions about herbicide and pesticide use on these plantations, as well as the use of urea formaldehyde glues in the making of bamboo ply. And this doesn’t negate other questions having to do with issues of fair labour practices in the growing, harvesting and processing of bamboo as a material.

In recent years these issues have been addressed with the introduction of FSC certification to the bamboo marketplace.

Given this availability of FSC certified bamboo that is also NAUF and CARB2 compliant I decided in early 2010 to prototype a custom made version of the Ellipse II Table crafted exclusively from carbonized bamboo plywood. The actual material came from a company called Nadurra in Toronto.

The sculpted elliptical cone base was made from stacked laminated bamboo ply sheeting that was milled and sanded to achieve its final shape. The top was made from a full sheet of bamboo ply, with the corner offcuts being used to make the built up aprons for the undercut bevel edge.

All surfaces were then sanded smooth and rubbed in a low-VOC natural linseed oil finish.

The table as shown here was unveiled at the Green Living Show in Toronto in April, 2010.

It measures 60″ long x 37″ wide x 29″ high.

This table is currently on display at The 2011 Design Time Cottage on Lake Rosseau in Muskoka, Ontario.

Sustainable, Environmental, Eco Lifestyles, Healthy, All Natural, Home and Garden, Interior Design, Eco Friendly, Green Furniture, Green Furnishings, Green Designs, FSC Certified, Reclaimed Materials. Organic, LEED compliant, NAUF. CARB2, Bamboo, Natural Fibers. Non-Toxic, low-VOC, Non VOC, Natural Finishes.

Whale Tail Desk – The Story Behind its Creation

Posted in Artisanal, FSC, Furniture Making, Whale, Woodworking with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 11, 2011 by johnwiggers

In the Autumn of 2001 my daughter was working on a school project that had to do with whales. Her writings contained all the standard textbook information available on these creatures, i.e. “whales are the world’s largest mammals; they live in the sea; they eat fish or plankton, and they are endangered.”

After reading her project to me, she asked what I knew about whales. I told her that in the St. Lawrence River (which lies between Canada and the United States) when a dead whale washes ashore it’s carcass is so contaminated with pollutants that it has to be handled and disposed of as toxic waste. Needless to say, her eyes went wide as saucers and her whale project evolved along a whole new tangent.

That conversation made me wonder about what it is that our schools are teaching our children. Or, rather, what it is that our schools are not teaching.

My daughter and I ended up talking a great deal about whales, and out of those discussions came a promise that the following summer we would take a trip out east to see some real whales, up close and in the wild.

Not long after this discussion I received an invitation from World Wildlife Fund to build a showcase exhibit for the inaugural “Forest Leadership Forum” to be held in Atlanta, Georgia in April, 2002. Given that the show was focussed on protecting the world’s forests, I was challenged to come up with a cool idea for a piece of furniture made of FSC certified wood.

For several months I vascillated with the idea of whether or not to even participate in the show. The events of 9/11 were still very much fresh in my mind, and the thought of flying anywhere wasn’t holding much appeal for me.

By early 2002 I was still undecided on what to do, but now I was facing a deadline. I was stuck with the furniture designer’s equivalent to writer’s block. Nothing clever was manifesting in the way of ideas, although I had concluded that my furniture piece should be a desk of some kind.

Then one night I’m watching television and there’s a program on about saving whales, and I see the actor Pierce Brosnan speaking on behalf of the whales.

I was already familiar with Brosnan because at that time he was also a spokesperson for FSC.

The connection of Brosnan to both whales and FSC suddenly melded with my idea for a desk, and everything came together in a flash: FSC + Whale + Desk.

Grabbing a pencil and a thin piece of cardboard I scribbled out a quick rendering of a desk based on what a whale’s tail would look as it breeched in preparation for a deep dive. Cutting this out with scissors I then Scotch taped the pieces together into a crude scale model. The result was an actual miniature prototype, and the whole process probably took no more 15 minutes to do.

This model was then scaled into working drawings, and the woodworking process began. The main face of the torso and tail started as an oversized T-shape slab of 1-1/4″ veneer core ply that was cross laminated with Macassar Ebony veneer. Relief kerfs were cut into the underside for bending the curve. Plywood offcuts were used to make elongated L-shaped vertical gables, with the 1″ ply floor set into dadoes.

An anthracite grommet was inset into the top, to allow wiring to pass through to the vertebrae wire management column running vertically inside the torso of the desk. For stability the desk was engineered to be secured to the floor with lag bolts.

After a thorough sanding the exposed surfaces were finished in a high gloss low-VOC polyester finish to enhance the grain and give a glossy “wet look” to emulate a whale rising from the water.

The finished Whale Tail Desk was displayed at the “Forest Leadership Forum” in late April, 2002 along with a custom made Andiroba Credenza crafted from the same wood and finish. These pieces are both now part of a private collection in Moscow.

A few months later our family travelled east to New Brunswick and took a long ferry ride to a remote island called Grand Manan, which lies just off the coast of Maine. We arrived on the island on August 6th and had advance reservations to go on a whale watching tour the following morning.

As we travelled around the island I soon learned from the locals that whale watching was not an exact science. Even in optimal summertime conditions such tours are highly dependent on the weather, the seas and the fog. I was told that in the previous 2 weeks hardly any tours had managed to make it out to sea because of heavy fog. And even when boats did make it out, there was no certainty of even seeing a whale – let alone seeing one up close.

I now felt concern that expectations for the trip might not unfold as planned. We had a wedding to attend in a couple of days, and our only opportunity to see whales would be the following morning. My daughter in particular was excited at the prospect of seeing a whale, and I did not wish to see her disappointed.

That night I took a walk to a small rise of land overlooking the sea. I prayed for good weather and silently called out into the darkness – asking for a whale to make an appearance the following day.

We arose before dawn and made our way to the harbour where a small converted lobster boat took us into the Bay of Fundy, to an area where whales traditionally feed. Luckily for us, the weather, the fog and the seas were all working in our favour, and conditions were nearly perfect.

After a bitterly cold 2 hour ride, the boat’s captain spotted a pod of 6 or 8 whales on the horizon. He slowly eased to within about 1/2 mile of where these whales were, and shut off his engine. Now we had to wait, with cameras ready, scanning the horizon in anticipation of the whales coming to the surface. We didn’t know when, or where, these creatures might appear.

For the next 20 minutes we enjoyed sporadic sightings of whales in the distance. These massive creatures would suddenly and unexpectedly emerge from the depths, then crash back into the sea with huge plumes of water and spray. Everyone was crowded to the starboard side of the boat, methodically snapping off frame after frame of film.

Given the unpredictability of the whales appearing on the horizon, I was snapping through an incredible amount of film in the vain hope that one of these shots might yield an incredible photo. At one point I stepped back from the group to change film when the most amazing and magical thing happened. Unbeknownst to any of us a huge Humpback Whale had quietly surfaced behind the boat. This whale didn’t make a noise, and not one of us even noticed he was there.

As I busied myself with changing my film an odd feeling suddenly came over me. Casting a slow sidelong glance over the stern I found myself looking – no more than 10 feet away – right into one of eyes of this massive creature. In one brief moment I felt the whale say to me, as if telepathically, “you asked for me to appear. Here I am.” Needless to say, as soon as I announced the whale’s presence behind our boat everyone stampeded to the back for a better look.

The feeling of being small and powerless was overwhelming. Humpbacks can grow to a size of 40 tons, and if he wanted to this whale could easily have flipped our boat like a cork in the water. But this was not how things unfolded.

It was as if this whale had been waiting for us to show up, and he was floating patiently in the water until he was sure he had our undivided attention.

He slowly raised the top of his bumpy head out of the water, as if to confirm with his own ancient eyes that we were all watching. He then exhaled a huge, bushy spout of misty air with a sound not unlike that of an elephant’s trumpet. And let me tell you, after a lifetime of eating seafood that fellow could definitely have used a breath mint. Children were giggling at how bad his breath smelled.

But the best was yet to come, and the only way to describe it would be to say that this whale grabbed this moment to, literally, seize the proverbial stage and ham it up for our cameras.

It was a most amazing few minutes of time, during which this wild mammal – of its own accord – decided to approach our boat in a manner that gave us both the time and the angles necessary to take some absolutely phenomenal photographs. It would not be an exaggeration to say that this whale was probably posing for some of the shots.

On our long ride back to the harbour I considered what might have motivated such an untamed creature to behave in this manner. I know that whales are highly intelligent, so on some instinctual level this individual would probably know that the greatest threats to its survival (i.e. pollution, collisions with ships, entanglement in fishing nets, and slaughter by commercial industry) all come from humans.

In spite of this, this whale took incredible risk to reach out and connect with us.

Perhaps, deep down, it was because this whale also realises that as much power as Man has to destroy, Man also has the power to change – and to protect. And maybe through connecting with us, this whale is also trying to secure his own future survival by sharing with us that feeling of oneness with him.

It would be easy to dismiss this magical moment was an isolated incident, a coincidence, or a figment of my imagination. But I do not believe this to be the case.

When we arrived on Grand Manan the day before, there was a story circulating amongst the locals about a Humpback Whale and her calf which had become entangled in fishing nets earlier in the week. Such entanglement is a guarantee of certain death for a whale, especially calves. To the amazement of the locals these two wild mammals instinctively swam right up to a research vessel and waited patiently on the surface of the water while deckhands used knives to cut away the netting. Somehow these whales intuitively knew what they needed to do in order to survive.

Life finds a way, and we should never underestimate the magic at work in Nature.

The natural world is clearly speaking to us. But the question is: Are we listening?

Kidney Shaped Desk – The Story Behind Its Creation

Posted in Artisanal, FSC, Furniture Making, Woodworking with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 5, 2011 by johnwiggers

In 2002 I was experimenting with ideas that would ultimately manifest as the Kidney Shaped Desk. My initial concept was an organic form that would incorporate a variety of green and holistic elements into the design. Given that Feng Shui principles consider a kidney shape to be most auspicious for use as a desk, I used this as my starting point.

During a visit to Miami in April of that year I floated the idea to Amelia Hyde and Monroe Sherman, who were partners in a showroom called Carriage House which was then representing my work in South Florida. Amy seemed quite receptive to the idea, which was no surprise given her interest in spiritual philosophies such as Tao and Zen Buddhism.

About a week after my return Amy called and asked me to explain more about the Ayurveda I was talking about during my visit. I didn’t have a clue what she was referring to and told her I could barely pronounce the word, let alone spell it. But for some reason Amy insisted that I had talked at length about Ayurveda and as she described what it was about she mentioned the connection of Ayurveda to yoga, and the connection of yoga to a famous supermodel and yoga practitioner by the name of Christy Turlington.

As soon as she mentioned Christy’s name I heard my fax line ring. It was an incoming fax from New York, from a furniture designer by the name of Vladimir Kagan. He was inviting me to a special party being held later that month. The invitation was for an event being hosted by Ralph Pucci in his Manhattan loft, which would be a joint unveiling of Vladimir Kagan’s furniture pieces alongside a new line of yoga inspired clothing by Christy Turlington.

Because of this unusual coincidence I decided to trust my intuition and immediately decided to accept. Since the party coincided with a major New York design show called the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) that I was planning to attend anyway, the logistics worked out perfectly.

After arriving at the designated address in lower Manhattan I stepped out of the cab thinking I was in the wrong location. I had been told that Pucci’s loft was magnificent, but the neighbourhood I was standing in was anything but. Nevertheless a discrete elevator ride to the loft soon confirmed that I was at the proper venue.

As soon as the elevator doors opened I was greeted with a palpable buzz of energy and excitment. Scattered throughout the 15,000 sq. ft. minimalist loft were countless bisque mannequins that were essentially full-scale reproductions of Christy Turlington herself. These mannequins were shown in a variety of different yoga poses and, naturally, each was also attired in various examples of Christy’s new clothing collection, called Nuala.

At the far end of the loft Vladimir Kagan was holding court amongst examples of his classic furniture collection. As soon as Vladimir saw me walk in he called me over and gave a big hug. It was wonderful to be greeted in this manner by such a design legend, because I had long admired his work.

When I was younger I used to enjoy reading various design publications to see examples of the most beautiful and exquisite furniture pieces ever made. A Rosewood desk by Vladimir Kagan had long been one of my favorites, and never could I have imagined at the time that one day I would be working with this icon to build some of his actual furniture.

As I walked around the loft and mingled with other guests I began to ponder the coincidence of being invited to this party. At one point I did get introduced to Christy, and did have a brief conversation with her. While our discussion did not provide any particular answer or overt moment of enlightenment for me, I was definitely struck by Christy’s open sincerity and genuineness. She is one of the very few people I have ever met who have an aura of presence that absolutely radiates positive energy.

By the end of the evening I left party pondering the enigma of attending an event that displayed beautiful, sculptural furniture alongside an ancient holistic principle such as yoga. When considering Ayurveda as the thread connecting the two, how would it be possible to merge them together as one?

The answer, I soon discovered, lay with someone I already knew.

Diana Beresford-Kroeger is an award winning author, independent scientist and passionate environmentalist living near Ottawa, Canada. On a secluded rural property shared with her husband Christian, Diana has spent many years and considerable effort researching and documenting the interconnected relationships that exist between trees and forests, and the wildlife that abounds within.

She is highly regarding for her illuminating and seminal work, and amongst her many admirers are colleagues such as E.O. Wilson of Harvard. In the 1960s Wilson effectively became the founding grandfather of the global environmental movement when he first coined the phrase “bio-diversity”.

I first learned about Diana in 1999 when I read a newspaper article describing her “Millenium Project”. The vision of this project was to share and distribute seeds from Diana’s collection of rare and endangered tree species. By doing this she hoped to establish new living examples of genetic strains that were at risk of becoming extinct.

In addition, by distributing these seeds widely it was also hoped that the resulting seedlings would become isolated pockets of bio-diversity, as well as a form of insurance policy in case disease, blight or other disaster happened to wipe out the sentinel trees that provided the original genetic material. Since in some cases there were only singular examples of these rare trees known to exist, this was a very valid and noble ambition.

Her “Millenium Project” sounded brilliant, and I contacted her to learn how I could participate. At the time I was in the planning stages of building a new shop, and the notion of introducing rare and unusual trees to the property seemed like a perfect one. Diana helped develop a bioplan for what I was intending to create, and over time our discussions evolved into an ever expanding exchange of ideas.

After my return from New York I continued to wrestle with the idea of how to meld holistic Ayurvedic principles with sculpture furniture design. Simultaneously I was talking with Diana about her latest book manuscript, entitled “Arboretum America”. She was having great difficulty getting this book published, and in an effort to get the word out she went to great lengths describing what the book was intending to say.

I listened with great interest as Diana explained the book, and how each of the 20 tree species described within were presented by way of their biological eco-function within the larger global garden. My interest was piqued further as Diana explained how each tree had a particular holistic attribute, or “gift”.

Apparently much of the information collected by Diana had originally come from Native American elders and healers. Her desire to document this traditional wisdom was driven by the fact that many of these elders were quite old, and once they died they would take their knowledge with them to the grave. Considering that most indigenous cultures base their information sharing and retention on oral tradition -with very little being written down – it was quite apparent that once this knowledge was lost it would be lost forever.

Eager to help Diana get her book published I invited her to an informal gathering that was to take place in Ottawa later that year, in conjunction with an FSC Canada board meeting being held there. Given that the event would be filled almost exclusively with people interested in protecting the forest, I felt certain that something beneficial for Diana would unfold.

On Saturday October 19th a number of us were gathered at the home of one of the Board members, who happened to live nearby. Diana and her husband Christian were in attendance as well, but before long it appeared that the evening would not unfold as hoped for.

After a day of intensive Board meetings most people were simply looking to unwind. Diana, on the other hand, was quietly eager to network and find means of clearing hurdles to her book. But aside from some polite discussion and general exchange of ideas no one was expressing any serious interest in her research. I felt disappointed that they may have wasted their time coming here.
At one point, however, one of the Board members was casually flipping through the manuscript when something caught her eye. In describing the medicine of a tree called Black Walnut (Juglans nigra), Diana had pointed out that this tree’s active molecules (known scientifically as ellagitannins) were currently at the leading edge of ongoing research into finding a cure for cancer. Apparently Native American medicine women had discovered through many years of trial, error and observation that this tree’s natural properties were helpful in preventing disease.

Within minutes several women were tightly huddled around the book, reading with intense fascination. I glanced over to where Diana and Christian were sitting, and exchanged a smile. Not only had a catalyst been found to suddenly pique interest in the manuscript but I too had discovered, by default, the vehicle for melding Ayurvedic principles with sculptural furniture design.

Why not create furniture that incorporated discrete inlays of holistic woods, and let these examples become a tangible and tactile means of communicating the same message that Diana was trying to say on paper?

In the months that followed my ideas surrounding this concept continued to swirl in my mind. Ultimately they became manifest in a design called the Kidney Shaped Desk. Using careful mathematics and sacred geometric proportions based on Feng Shui and Vastu Shastra principles, this desk was also designed to utilize discrete inlays of wood that were ultimately suited to their particular holistic attributes.

For example, special cuttings of Black Walnut would be used to make finger pulls on the underside of drawers. In this way the act of opening the drawers would allow the active molecules of the wood to come into contact with one’s skin, where the molecules could be naturally absorbed into the pores. Inside the pencil drawer woods such as Hawthorn and Sassafras would be incorporated for their natural holistic and aroma-therapeutic properties. The scents of these woods would accumulate naturally inside the drawer while it was closed – and released each time the drawer was opened.

For the time that her manuscript remained unpublished, Diana asked me to sit on the information. Her concern was that if the knowledge was shared too early it might scuttle publication of the book. Out of respect, I complied. In the meantime the hiatus gave me ample opportunity to tweak and fine tune the proportions of the desk until everything was perfect.

It wasn’t until the following year that Diana called to say that University of Michigan Press had committed to publishing her book. At this stage she also gave me the green light to proceed with the desk, and help communicate the medicinal knowledge of the trees.

“It’s time”, she said.

Although eager to see this design manifest into reality, I was in no financial position to undertake the building of a prototype simply because it seemed like a great idea. Unless a buyer could be found who would commit to buying the finished piece before it was made, this design would have to be shelved indefinitely.

Little did I know that within days a buyer would end up appearing, in the form of a design visionary by the name of Todd Marckese.

I first met Todd while exhibiting at the Chicago Design Show in 1998. At the time he was principal of Marckese Design Studio in Orlando, Florida. His client list was prestigious and his work was recognised in many design publications including Architectural Digest, Florida Design and Showboats International.

Todd was exploring the idea of branding his own furniture collection, and he asked if I might be interested in doing product development and prototyping with him. We exchanged business cards, but it would be almost 5 years before we spoke again.

When he called in the summer of 2003, Todd asked if I remembered our conversation in Chicago. I did, largely because of the unusual business card he left behind. Measuring just over 2 inches square this card stuck out both literally and figuratively. Todd laughed at my observation, pointing out that it was necessary to be different in order to be remembered.

Todd went on to say that he was working on an upscale residence and the project required many unique pieces of custom furniture design. One of the pieces he was looking for was a desk, but it came with the proviso that his clients had strong holistic inclinations and, therefore, a conventional desk would not work.

As he described the parameters of the project my interest level piqued because it seemed the Kidney Shaped Desk design I had been tweaking for almost a year would meet the specifications perfectly. I faxed him the drawings and explained in detail the holistic attributes of the various woods I was intending to use as inlay.

After presenting the proposal to his clients, they fell in love with the idea and ended up commissioning the desk. The resulting piece measured 75″ x 35″ x 31-3/4″ overall height.

The main structure was crafted from FSC certified ply, and laminated with Macassar Ebony veneer. The inset of black Tuscany leather was bordered with a radiating grain pattern of wood that was cut to allow it to cascade like a waterfall down the vertical sides of the apron. The plinths on the legs were satin stainless steel.

Inset into the back of the desk were 3 drawers crafted from solid cherry. These drawers were mounted to the Macassar drawer fronts my means of sliding dovetail construction.

Inside the pencil drawer was a pair of trays made of a wood called Sassafras (Sassafras albidum). Sassafras carries within it an oil based complex of compounds that are naturally saturated within the wood itself – both as a wax and as oil. Through handling and the bumping action of contents (i.e. pencils and pens) rolling against the fibers of this wood, the oils contained within the Sassafras are released as an aerosol each time the tray is opened and exposed to air.

The oil of the Sassafras is related to Myrrh, one of the legendary woods of the ancient world. Sassafras is also the wood used for spiritual cleansing by many tribes of North American indigenous peoples, in the traditional sweat lodge ceremony.

Centered between the trays is a small storage compartment crafted from a block of rare wood known as Hawthorn (Crataegus). Hawthorn is a traditional healing wood that has been used in medicinal practice for a considerable period of time. It was well known to the ancient Greek herbalists, and records indicate that it has been used in Ayurvedic medicine dating back almost 5,000 years.

Hawthorn is an aroma-therapeutic healing wood since it produces an aerosol of complex compounds – all of which are medicinal. The primary benefit of the aroma-therapeutic properties of the Hawthorn is to help alleviate stress and strengthen the heart. According to Diana Beresford-Kroeger this aerosol is considered to be a tonic to the human body, since it helps to promote an overall feeling of well-being. This state increases the ability of the deep centers of the brain to promote increased and clearer thinking.

The Hawthorn storage compartment was covered with a lid that was crafted from the same cutting of Black Walnut used to make the inlaid finger pulls on the underside of the drawers. Set into the face of the lid were inlays of the three traditional healing metals of gold, silver and copper. Working with a jeweller these precious metals custom crafted into the shapes of an Eagle, Turtle and the sacred Tree of Life, respectively.

Collectively these 3 images tell the aboriginal story of Creation, which is essentially a parable that tells of the emergence into the current world after the previous one was destroyed by a great Flood.

Flood legends are found in the mythology of most ancient civilizations; from the Sumerians, Babylonians and Egyptians of the Middle East, to India, China and in the Americas in the myths of the Mayans, Aztecs, Hopi and numerous other Native American tribes. In Western society the most recognised of these legends is the story of Noah and the Ark, as recounted in Biblical story of Genesis.

Inamorata Casegoods – The Story Behind Their Creation

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 4, 2011 by johnwiggers

A few years ago we received a special commission to make a custom Irenic Bed out of East Indian Laurel. In addition to the bed the clients were keen on having complementary casegoods made – namely a pair of dressers and a pair of night stands.

Inspired by the sweeping arc of the bed design we conceptualized a casegood profile that would emulate the door sweep of the Diego Humidor.

The resulting casegoods are shown below. To counterbalance the warmth of the wood we introduced the coolness of steel through the use of large polished steel pulls. Given the vibrant presence of the wood grain it was necessary to make the size of the custom pulls substantial, with the grips and detailing crafted out of black rubber.

The back of the main dresser was fully finished, which is a standard feature incorporated into all of our custom furniture designs.

The tall chest shown below was initially conceived of as a shorter dresser until a problem was discovered with how the builder proportioned the master bedroom. This unexpected glitch was quickly resolved with the suggestion that we transform the dresser into a vertical chest of drawers, thereby allowing it to fit a niche in the room.

Once again the back is fully finished.

Each of the night stands has a single drawer, with storage below for books.

In tandem with this we crafted another version of the Irenic Bed as shown below – this time out of natural Cherry. Because of the subtlety of the Cherry grain it was decided to cut the wood at slight angles to create a radiating pattern to symbolize a rising Sun.

For this commission the client requested large center drawers on the dresser, and smaller cubbie drawers on each side. Since the wood grain of the Cherry was not as intense as the East Indian Laurel, a more subdued satin nickel pull was selected.

This 7 drawer cabinet is called a semainaire, which is derived from a French word used to describe a lady’s lingerie chest having one drawer for each day of the week.

One key feature of this custom piece is the discrete locking compartment that was integrated into the underside of the top. The compartment was lined in black Tuscany leather. Both the lock and hinges were plated in 18K gold.

The night stands each feature 3 large drawers…

and a fully finished back.

This corner detail shows the cascading grain pattern on the pilasters.

Inlaid into the back of each of the cabinets was a small convex inlay of a wood known as Narra. This particular selection of Narra carries a special provenance in the world of sustainable forest management because it comes from the last remaining board known to exist of the very first wood to be sustainably harvested on the Solomon Islands in the early to mid-1990s. This Narra made its way into North American by way of Eco-Timber in California.

All drawers are dovetailed solid maple, running on concealed linear ball bearing self-closing glides.

For management of various electronic devices some custom charging stations were built into each of the night stands, so that cell phones, Bluetooths, Blackberrys and digital cameras could be simultaneously stored and charged.

The power bar and excess wiring were concealed under a removeable tray that was inlaid with slots and pockets for storage.

This resulting casegoods collection is called Inamorata.

Inamorata comes from the Latin words “in” and “amore”, with the loose translation being “to inspire with love”.

Sustainable, Environmental, Eco Lifestyles, Healthy, All Natural, Home and Garden, Interior Design, Eco Friendly, Green Furniture, Green Furnishings, Green Designs, FSC Certified, Reclaimed Materials. Organic, LEED compliant, NAUF. CARB2, Bamboo, Natural Fibers. Non-Toxic, low-VOC, Non VOC, Natural Finishes.

Irenic Bed – The Story Behind its Creation

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 2, 2011 by johnwiggers

Shortly after relocating our shop in 2001 I began to consider some new furniture design ideas. I was particularly intrigued with the idea of making a custom bed that could be an amalgamation all of the holistic and ecological principles I was experimenting with at the time. This ultimately manifested in the design of the Irenic Bed.

The word irenic is Greek and means: “fitted or designed to promote peace; pacific; conciliatory; peaceful.” This seemed highly appropriate considering my underlying intent to weave together many divergent elements into a holistically balanced and restful whole.

For most of us the bedroom is the most important room in the home, with the bed being the focal point of this sacred space. Our bed is the place we turn to for comfort and refuge, and it is also here that we can find the time to think and reflect.

Our bed is the place we can be vulnerable and share intimate moments with those we love. Our bed also offers protection, and is the place we go to when we need to heal.

Because we spend about 1/3 of our lives in bed (based on the assumption of 8 hours sleep per night) it can be argued that a bed is the most important piece of furniture in the home.

An initial prototype was made in 2002 out of a dark wood called Wenge, and upon completion it was sent to Chicago for display at the Lee Weitzman showroom.

Although much positive feedback resulted in the ensuing months, it languished in the showroom for a while before finally being sold. For the next few years I toyed with the idea of making a second version of the bed, but refrained from doing so largely because it was a difficult piece to display due of the large area of floor space it covers.

And, so, the idea stalled – but I never gave up on it entirely.

Then one day in 2005 I was discussing sustainable furniture ideas with an eco-designer by the name of Jill Salisbury, and she began telling me about this amazing bed she had seen in Chicago a few years earlier. It didn’t take long to figure out it was the Irenic Bed she was talking about, even though at the time she had no idea who made the piece. I was fascinated by how much the finest details of the design ended up resonating so powerfully with her. Inspired by that discussion I decided to make another version of the bed.

The second incarnation of the bed was done in natural flat cut Cherry. Slight angles were added to create a radiating sunburst effect on the head and footboards, which was meant to emulate the image of a setting and rising Sun. Beaded corner details were also set into the edges to give a gentle softening effect to the design.

The head and footboards were each constructed as heavy monolithic slabs, with the bed sides being suspended between each by way of mortised steel bed hooks that were discretely inlaid at the intersections. As an added convenience: no tools are required for assembly, and once it’s together it is absolutely rigid and thoroughly grounded in place.

All wood used in the making of the Irenic Bed is FSC certified for using wood that has been sustainably harvested from well managed sources. This is verified by independent third party audit under Smartwood certificate #SW-COC-000055. In addition to being FSC certified the plywood core material is also NAUF (no added urea formaldehyde) which, in turn, makes it CARB2 (California Air Resources Board) compliant.

The glue used in our own lamination process is a Titebond product that is non-UF (non-urea formaldehyde), while the water based finish is a low-VOC (low-volatile organic compound) water based urethane from AFM that is so ecologically sound that it is doctor recommended even for those with chemical sensitivities.

It is for these reasons that the Irenic Bed is Greenspec listed at http://www.buildinggreen.com/
The Irenic Bed is also consistent with the sustainability standards set out by the U.S. Green Building Council’s stringent LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program, namely the MR-7 Credit for certified wood use; the EQ Credit 4.1 for Low Emitting Solvents and Materials; and the EQ Credit 4.2 for Low Emitting Materials, Paints and Coatings.

The bed as shown in these photographs was displayed with Hastens boxspring, mattress and bedding. Many consider Hastens to make the finest beds on the planet, with the bonus being that their focus on green and ecologically sound principles is consistent with our own.

As a finishing touch the back of the headboard is also fully finished. Inlaid into the back of the headboard (just below the top) is a small convex detail of wood that carries a special provenance in the world of sustainable forest management. This wood is known as Narra and it comes from the last remaining board known to exist of the very first wood to be sustainably harvest on the Solomon islands in the early to mid 1990s. This wood made its way into North America by way of Eco-Timber in California.

Inlaid into the face of the headboard (and located discretely behind the pillows) is a small ovoid shaped stone known as a Narmadeshvara Shiva Lingam. This is a Hindu sacred stone that has been ceremoniously gathered once a year from the muddy banks of the Narmada River, one of the 7 sacred holy places of pilgrimage in India.

It is an Indian belief that millions of years ago a meteorite collided with the earth at what is now the source of the Narmada River in Madhya Pradesh, a mountainous province some 300 miles northeast of Bombay, India.

The tremendous heat of the collision caused a fusion of the ambient rock and the meteoric material. Over the ages a river began to flow through this area and the combination of these factors produced the unique condition in which pieces of the fused matter, revolving in the river bed over thousands of years, take on a distinct ovoid form. The oval form is markedly different from the flatter, thinner rocks normally appearing in the riverbed.

Once a year, after the long dry season and just before the monsoon, when the river is at its lowest, the villagers, working with oxen and rope, go out into the riverbed and pull the stones from the water. The stones are then hand-polished, a large one taking several months to complete. About twenty to thirty large pieces are taken from the river each year.

Down through the ages these stones have been carefully selected from this energy centre during the dry season by a few families, trained in the art of collecting, shaping and polishing the stones to bring out the natural markings called the “yoni”. The lingams are handled in accordance with ancient Vedic tradition, and are thus highly blessed.

They have been allowed to come out of India at this time because of the desperate state of the planet. The Lingams are energy generators of balance, of Soul consciousness, and healing. It is believed they are impregnated with spiritual light resonating with the fifth Chakra, or Heart Chakra; thus their particular job in healing the planet is through opening the heart, healing the pain in the heart that obscures the harmony and knowingness of the soul residing within.

It is said according to the Vedic knowledge that the Lingam represents the inner being, the energy shape of the soul, or the essence of a human being. The upright egg shape represents the divine masculine energy, the power of Shiva. The marking, called the yoni, represent the divine female energy. Here is a balance of male/female, Yin/Yang, dark/light, knowledge/wisdom, the positive/negative energies unified – the wholeness of the soul, which is neither male nor female.

It is also said that by destiny everyone has their own Lingam. It is as if the signature of one’s soul has been alchemically embedded in the stone down from the millenia of its making in the embrace of Mother Earth, and finally in the hands of an esoteric craftsperson. The Lingam draws out our soul qualities. As a result, it is a potent force for healing and meditation.

Typically the Irenic Bed is available in either King or Queen size, but it can be easily customized to accomodate various thicknesses and styles of boxsprings and/or mattresses. In addition we are always more than pleased to custom tailor our design to suit the needs of each individual client. The photo below shows a recently made custom version of this design which was made from a combination of stainless steel and a rare sampling of wood known as East Indian Laurel.

For this project the clients were also interested in having a matching dresser, chest of drawers and pair of night stands made to complement the Irenic Bed design. This invariably led to the creation of the Diego series of bedroom casegoods – which will be featured in a subsequent post.

Sustainable, Environmental, Eco Lifestyles, Healthy, All Natural, Home and Garden, Interior Design, Eco Friendly, Green Furniture, Green Furnishings, Green Designs, FSC Certified, Reclaimed Materials. Organic, LEED compliant, NAUF. CARB2, Bamboo, Natural Fibers. Non-Toxic, low-VOC, Non VOC, Natural Finishes.

Landis Coffee Table

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 30, 2011 by johnwiggers

Measuring 44″ long x 21″ wide x 16-3/4″ high the Landis Coffee Table features an elliptical oval top with a deep undercut bevel running completely around the perimeter of the edge.

The stainless steel legs are able to be removed for shipping, and this design can easily be customized into different sizes and shapes.

Crafted from FSC certified wood, non-UF glue and low-VOC waterbased finish this design has been described by one gallery owner as “an excellent representation of modern 50’s design with a 21st Century twist.”