Artisans who work with a favoured material for any real length of time tend to develop a special, almost anthropomorphised, relationship with it. Michelangelo said he didn’t carve a figure into a block of marble; rather, he released what the marble told him was locked inside. These three artists have reimagined wooden furnishings by working with and celebrating the living thing in its natural form.
Intricate and haunting
Darryl Cox begins his process with a handsome old picture frame, then he heads out into the Central Oregon forest in search of a length of branch or exposed tree root that speaks to him. Working with woods native to the area, Cox uses the techniques and tools of woodworking, sculpting and painting to create his intricate and hauntingly beautiful pieces. Each one can take up to two months to complete. When finished, Cox attaches a small, engraved brass nameplate, choosing a name as the “personality” of the piece emerges. Each one is unique and signed. Price range: $700-$5,000 (U.S.) from fusionframesnw.com
Time, nature and patience
When he was young, Gavin Munro’s unruly spine was cajoled into shape through a series of surgeries and braces. The artist applies the same sort of manipulation to living, growing willow saplings. Munro trains the pliable willow “whips” around recycled plastic moulds of chairs, chandeliers and mirrors, and then it’s a matter of time. Producing only 50 pieces each year, Munro works with 3,000 willows on his 2.5-acre site. As he explains on his website, “For every 100 trees there are 1,000 branches to care for, and 10,000 shoots to prune at the right time.” It takes two to three years to grow a light fixture like the one pictured. $1,100 (U.S.) from fullgrown.co.uk
Ethereal and whimsical
If fairies decorated their tiny homes in the forest, we think they’d be Laura Spector fans. The artist scours the woods beyond her Fairfield, Conn., home for particularly fetching specimens of Oriental bittersweet vine, a sturdy, twisting and highly invasive species. She then casts the sections in bronze and butts the serpentine forms against a few hard lines and sharp edges, giving solidity to her ethereal and whimsical pieces, such as the Echo side table (pictured in jade lacquer). Inquire for pricing from lauraspectorrusticdesign.com