custom reclaimed wood furniture

reclaimed wood

Our design and our art is quiet, or wants to be, in the way a gull finds current above discord and lets the air lift and direct its path - movement without motion. It’s true, too, that often Adrienne and I are louder than we are quiet, like astronauts, barking through our respirators and headphones - fierce, cacophonous arguments about tiny tectonic moments in the life of an emerging tabletop.

We love the old salvaged, reclaimed wood. We hunt it by the small truckload a few times a year, which weirdly, even after as many years as it’s been, remains as difficult and mysterious and new as the demo men who have the wood are laconic, merry and quickly gone.

The steel, too, is integral to our design. I’ve done my best to read up on it, source the best with the highest recycled content, and to better understand how the twenty-foot sections we begin with - how they emerge from a three-thousand-degree electric arc furnace, formed from the shredded bits of cars, cans and the rest, white hot, so incredibly close to perfectly straight, regular and true. To create flat, let alone create two independent parallel, plumb lines in the physical world is far more difficult than anyone will tell you.

Our third ingredient that we like to talk about is the air - our materials are wood, steel and air. Possibly we should call it space. Or spatial choreography. If we were still working in architecture we might be able to get away with that kind of beauty and obfuscation. But these days we are often covered in sawdust by midmorning, and if we escape the workshop to have lunch among others, it is a more unassuming type of place we go to, that allows for flecks of dust and steel, a place where we can come up for air. In the same way, we want our pieces to breathe, to hold some amount of compositional air, to give a room sanctuary. Uplifting, and also grounding.

Last, we have a shop cat, a lithe, silk-haired tuxedo named Ida. She regulates our lives as cats will do, letting us know when it is time to get to work, and once we are working, nesting in a pile of shavings under the planer while saws bite and whine. She reminds us that there is redemption and peace in this work, that in the end, this leap of faith that is the beginning of each furniture piece, will end well. We will make it, get it right, dial it in.

We work with reclaimed wood from a wild Pacific Northwest forest that no longer exists. With fresh steel sections from industrial cauldrons. On laptops, in three-dimensional, gravity-free space. We are bridging parallel worlds, if that’s not reaching at too much. We know the furniture we make is enduring, functional and modern. That it is schooled, from an academic tradition of design and craft. But it is also folk, also found, allowed in by us, only partially, incompletely known. Piece by piece, we are working at articulating a new vernacular.

Wood is the Thing with Feathers

Let it be said, birdloft is a very serious place. And J Libby and A Wicks frown a lot to keep apace, peering out from below personal, hand-carved Tacoma rain clouds. Like all self-respecting workers of wood, we understand that words are extraneous and to be looked upon with suspicion. Words are devilish. Words are cloud-like. Cat-like. They drift off course, ignore, confound. Nevertheless, without them wood won’t talk. So J Libby is using his words - his words in this case, carefully and respectfully - in an attempt to speak on behalf of wood and birdloft.

Wood is more beautiful than anything else. There is no other material that can touch wood. That is the nut. Of all beautiful things, wood is the most-est. Everyone knows this. How it grounds us and lifts us. Like Emily Dickinson said, how hope is the thing with feathers. Wood is like that, too, with its whorls and gnarls and roots. It can reconnect us if we let it.

That said, I'll end here, and plan to develop this theory in more depth as time and words allow. For now, suffice it to say, there is nothing quite like salvaging gorgeous dirty old wood and bringing it back. Not letting it be lost to the landfill. Reclaiming its depth and tone and shine for everything that is now and here.

Calibrating Surface

With restraint and blades, racing bits of sand and glass, the maker calibrates the depths the wood plumbs. From roughcut almost slate-chipped hide to water smooth, infinite mirror. The grain and pull of the surface defines what is observed and touched easily enough, but still remains out of reach. Sometimes the wood divulges what it wants to be. Some perfect flaw. Some twist of knots to polish until every detail is made clear. Sometimes the function of the piece, and the context - whether a bright kitchen or a more moody living room - drives the level of finish of the surface.

Always with wood, the surface is initially unknown, or only partly shown. The maker finds it. The bole is opened. The salvaged board is scraped, maybe planed. With each pass under the blades the expression of the grain shifts. The edge is live. The grain is polished into figure. Or it is matte, worn, about patina and element. It is soft, sharp. The wood flashes along its edge when you walk through the room.

What does the hand say when it touches the wood? Where does the wood take us? I like wood with the air still in it. The forest. Open fields. Wood that is still of the earth, of loam. The sun still in it, has shaped it, hardened the relief that the sawmill blade first spun free. I like this wood, too, that has already done a round or two. Is reclaimed from another place and purpose. When there is evidence of another relationship, another imagined and imaginable life. Heat, then dust. Air and rain. Forming a house. A stair. A barn door. Texture, tone and heft. Footsteps. Fasteners. Grind and wear. More rain. Still strong. Still there. Grounded and grounding. Deepening, glimmering. Flashing again with full light, once more, brief intermission of sun.

woodier still, recent press by and about birdloft

The Nice Niche | A New Vernacular | Let the Hunt Begin

City Arts magazine | Wild Wood, Deep City

around back, at birdloft | How Spotted Owls Gave Us Free Range Chicken