Vancouver furniture designer Brent Comber, whose elegantly simple pieces exploring the materials of the Pacific Northwest have won him international renown, has a new furniture collection that takes him back to a new art form.
The collection, called Ikebana, is, as the name suggests, based on the Japanese art of flower arranging.
"Before I decided to get into woodworking full time, I thought maybe I would open a flower shop, actually.
"I've always liked flowers and the discipline of how they're arranged," says the man who has been dubbed the "wood whisperer."
"When I learned more about the Japanese point of view, and the discipline of ikebana, I really appreciated the negative space that they liked and also I liked the idea of honouring the leaf and the stem and the flower all with equal importance," Comber adds.
The exploration of negative space is highlighted in the ends of occasional tables, and Comber's interest in materials runs throughout the entire collection, composed of one console table, called Seika, and three solid wood pieces, called Shin, Soe and Hikae, that can be configured – arranged like flowers, in fact – in multiple ways.
The simplicity of the pieces reflects the experience of the art form that inspired them.
"That's really the art of ikebana, the meditative process. It's a contemplative way of really relaxing and reconnecting with natural material. And that's really a sub-story of everything I do," Comber says.
Comber's celebration of materials and his exploration of the Pacific Northwest's vernacular has helped him become a world-renowned furniture designer and artist. One of his sculptures, Serene, was purchased by the Tokyo Design Association and presented to the Prime Minister of Japan in 2011.
As always, Comber wants you to notice the interesting grain patterns in the wood, and to touch the furniture in the hopes of reconnecting to the material.
"It's an opportunity to think about wood as a beautiful material, not so much as a functional piece," Comber says.