Monday, February 28, 2011

Mosaic Inlay Keepsake Box

After building his custom Mosaic Desk last year Kevin felt inspired to continue the theme with this Mosaic Inlay Keepsake box.

Overall dimensions are 10-1/4" long x 7-3/4" deep x 3" high. The exterior is a combination of Walnut, Walnut Burl, Birds Eye Maple, Cherry and Carpathian Elm Burl veneers.

The interior is natural cherry. The stop hinges are solid brass.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Kimiko von Boetticher (1968-2010)

Earlier today a friend posted this photo of a Haida Gwaii sunrise into her online travel journal. Seeing this image reminded me of my own visit to those islands a little over 10 years ago.

Haida Gwaii, formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, is Canada’s most remote archipelago and the traditional territory of the Haida First Nation. The islands' isolated location and unique conditions have made them a special destination for visitors from British Columbia, Canada and around the world interested in exploring the unique nature and Haida traditions to be found there.

My own inspiration to visit Haida Gwaii was triggered in 1997 when I first heard news reports of a sacred tree being felled as a deranged act of protest against the clear cutting of forests in British Columbia.

The story behind this tree (sometimes called the Golden Spruce, but known to the Haida as K'iid K'iyaas) is described in greater detail in an earlier post .

Although that post does provide the background of the tree itself, it doesn't explain the story of how and why I got to those islands in the first place. That part of the story starts in 1997, when I heard of K'iid K'iyaas for the first time.

When I first heard the news of this tree being felled I felt rocked to the very core of my being. I don't know why this story resonated with me as powerfully as it did, but it did. In that moment I made a vow that if I ever got out to the west coast of Canada I would make a special effort to go visit the site of this fallen tree to, effectively, pay my respects. Little did I realize at the time what kind of synchronicities would be unleashed with this simple promise.

Weeks after learning of the demise of the Golden Spruce I heard about an organization called Smartwood that was looking to certify forests and woodworkers to the sustainability standards of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) . Without hesitation I signed up, and on Earth Day 1998 I became one of the first custom furniture makers in the world to become certified to FSC standards.

In tandem with this I also began to volunteer time to help out the fledgling initiative of FSC Canada, which at that point consisted of a fellow named Marcelo Levy working on a shoestring budget out of a small office in Toronto.

In early 2000 I was asked if I'd be willing to be nominated for election to the FSC Canada board. In all honesty I had zero expectation of ever getting elected, because I highly doubted that anyone connected to forestry would have any idea who I was. But I agreed nonetheless, figuring that my name was just going to be a token addition to the ballot to create a semblance of competition for the position.

As fluke would have it I ended up getting elected. The news came right out of left field, and given how busy I was with work at the time I remember asking myself how I was ever going to find time for this new commitment. That question was answered a few days later when a freak accident in a touch football game resulted in multiple fractures to my left hand - effectively retiring me from that hobby.

My first meeting with the FSC Canada board was held in Toronto, and at this meeting it was determined that our next meeting would be held in Vancouver. Upon learning this I suddenly realized that the opportunity to visit the Golden Spruce had now presented itself.

Only now did I actually start looking at maps to figure out where, exactly, I would be going - and it was only then that I figured out that a side trip to Haida Gwaii was going to be a little more involved than driving a rental car north from Vancouver.

Now realizing my need for logistical help to make things happen I began to ask my fellow board members for advice and suggestions. Two of them provided names and email addresses of various people living on the islands, but for one reason or another none of these leads panned out. I resigned myself to the conclusion that a side trip to Haida Gwaii simply wasn't meant to be.

Then, a few weeks before the Vancouver meetings a friend of mine from Ottawa came by to visit. He asked how my Haida Gwaii plans were coming, and I told him that it wasn't looking like this part of the trip was going to happen.

"You're not going to believe this" he said, "But last night I was together with friends in a restaurant and we were talking about your plans to see the Golden Spruce. Someone at the next table overheard the conversation, and she handed me this business card - saying that if you were having trouble getting out there that you should give her a call."

The card belonged to a person named Kimiko von Boetticher, and at the time she was the HCSP Marine Stewardship Coordinator for Haida Gwaii. By some twist of fate she was in town to visit her parents, and just happened to overhear the conversation of my planned trip.

Of course it's one thing to overhear a conversation, and quite another to intuitively pass along a business card to a complete stranger. Nevertheless, this is what she did.

After a few photo calls I was finally able to arrange local transportation as well as a place to stay with Kimiko and her partner Andrew Merilees. But having done this a new problem now emerged.

Given how small the islands were there was only a single "puddle jumper" of a plane flying in and out of the village of Sandspit every day, and being so close to Christmas every flight was booked solid for weeks. Not willing to give up at this point I gave my itinerary to my travel agent, and hoped for the best to see what she could do.

Within hours she called me back - totally astonished. Two cancellations for single seats had suddenly appeared on her computer - one for the flight going in on the day I wanted, and the other for the flight going out. She asked if I still wanted them, and without hesitation I said to book the seats.

At the conclusion of the board meetings in Vancouver I made my way north to Haida Gwaii, where I was welcomed into the home of Kimiko and Andrew in the village of Masset. In addition to their wonderful hospitality of providing me with me with a place to stay, they also arranged for transportation to get me out to where the Golden Spruce was located.

On the next day I ended up making a solo venture into the rainforest, and my resulting experience can best be described as an epiphany. That experience not only resulted in the creation of a painting that was donated to the Haida as a gesture of Hope over the loss of their sacred tree, but several years later it also resulted in the story of K'iid K'iyaas being incorporated into an award winning film entitled "The Green Chain".

To make a long story short, had it not been for Kimiko following her intuitive hunch to pass along a business card to a complete stranger, my trip to Haida Gwaii would never have happened and, by extension, the story of K'iid K'iyaas would never have been part of "The Green Chain".

From my brief time spent with them I do know that both Kimiko and Andrew both felt deep love Haida Gwaii and everything associated with it, including K'iid K'iyaas. Probably without realizing it at the time, Kimiko had indirectly helped keep the spirit of the tree alive by keeping the memory of its story alive.

This morning, after seeing the photo of the Haida Gwaii sunrise, I decided to Google Kimiko's name to see what she was doing now. I was stunned to discover that she passed away on January 4th, 2010.

In honour of Kimiko I wanted to post this story of her to my blog - both to honour her spirit and help keep the memory of her alive. Thanks to Google I have found others have also posted stories of Kimiko as well, including Kimiko Tree by Sheri Bakes, and The Green Traveller by Robert Doane.

My deepest condolences to Andrew and the rest of Kimiko's family over her passing.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Architectural Digest Home Design Show

Kevin has just received word that his Chevron Console has been accepted into this year's Architectural Digest Home Design Show.

His console will be part of a group exhibit at The Furniture Society's display.

This Chevron Console measures 30" long x 6" deep x 6" high. It has been crafted from quarter cut Wenge panels that have been compound mitred to create a seamless monolithic structure. It is wall hung by means of a French cleat that is recessed into the back face.

It is a great honour for Kevin to be participating in this event, because his piece will be displayed alongside the works of distinguished furniture makers such as Garry Knox Bennett, Wendell Castle , Michael Fortune , Vladimir Kagan , Silas Kopf, John Makepeace, Judy McKie, Po Shun Leong and others.

More details can be found in the attached link.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Women's Health Research Awards - Goddess Keepsake Boxes

Several years ago the Ontario Women's Health Council approached The Guild Shop in Toronto to design special gifts that could be presented to recipients of the Women's Health Research Award.

For this occasion I was commissioned to make special keepsake boxes with bottoms and lids crafted from a single block of solid wood.

The wood used to make these boxes came from a special sampling of Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) that was specifically chosen for its traditional use in holistic healing. Native American medicine women discovered through many generations of trial, error and observation that this wood has medicinal properties that are believed to be conducive to the prevention and treatment of disease.

In recent years a scientific basis for this traditional wisdom has been discovered, and these active molecules (known scientifically as ellagitannins) are now at the leading edge of research into finding a cure for cancer.

Inlaid into the lid of each box was a specially design avatar, symbolizing woman as Goddess. The interior bottoms were lined in leather.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Gentleman's Valet Stand

In 2003 I was invited by The Guild Shop in Toronto to participate in their "Turning Traditions" exhibition. Wanting to build something new for this event I designed a custom valet stand specifically to meet the needs of today's man.

This Gentleman's Valet Stand measures 25" wide x 25" deep x 52-3/4" high in the closed position. When the split shell opens the dimensions increase to 39" wide x 26-3/4" deep.

The exterior is crafted from a rare sampling of Curly Birds Eye Maple, which has been an integral part of my core stash of for many years. A purfling of Mahogany and Ebony is interwoven as inlay on all 4 sides, plus top.

The cabinet interior is crafted from quarter cut Makore, with 7 drawers stacked over a pair of lower doors. The upper drawer is fitted with compartments for wrist watches, cuff links, billfolds and fountain pens.

The image inlaid into the top of the chest is that of a turtle, and its form was inspired by an ancient aboriginal rock glyph. Not only is this image symbolic of protection, but given that turtles do not move very fast it also suggests the need for patience.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Mouse Teaches a Lesson of Love

As a full time studio furniture maker my workshop is located on a beautiful parcel of land that is surrounded by trees and wetland. Because of this close proximity to nature it's not uncommon to have wild creatures moving in and around my shop on a regular basis.

As Autumn deepens in preparation for Winter I have discovered that there is a span of several days before the first big blast of snow that wild mice seem to intuitively sense the onslaught of cold that is about to come. To shield themselves from the coming weather these mice then begin to migrate into the shelter of warmth, which is invariably found somewhere in my building.

The annual arrival of the first mouse is typically announced by a piercing shriek from one of the women in my office, who is startled by an unexpected blur of fur scurrying past her feet. Invariably these shrieks are a call to arms for me to deal with the mouse situation, and as I do every year I break out the "catch and release" traps to snare the unwelcome guests.

Before long the traps do their duty, and I am then called upon to take the traps to the edge of the property line where the evicted tenants are turned loose. Usually upon release the mice simply bolt for the nearest cover, but every so often there`s one who will brazenly make a mad dash back to the building. More often than not this mouse is back inside before I am, and the game of "catch and release" moves along to round 2.

One Autumn a few years back unfolded much the same as it does every year, and as the outside air progressively cooled I wasn't surprised to hear the familiar "EEEK, a mouse!!!!" again one day. And as is my duty I set out to track down the furry culprit yet again.

On this particular day I was standing in the middle of the lobby with two of the women, asking them "which way did he go"? Before they could answer all of us fell silent with total amazement, because in that moment the mouse in question walked right out into the centre of the lobby. Walking straight to within 2 feet of where I was standing the mouse stopped and casually sat on his hind haunches and began rubbing his forepaws over his head, as if to clean his ears and whiskers.

We could not believe what we were seeing with this mouse being so calm and fearless. What amazed me the most, though, was the transformation in the reactions from both of the women. Moments earlier they were terrified of this tiny creature. But now seeing this same bundle of fur sitting innocently on the floor in front of them they were gushing about how cute he was - all while chiding me not to harm him in any way.

But as cute as this mouse was by his actions, it was clear that this was not a normal mouse. My guess is that in one of his mad dashes to flee the kitchen counter he slammed his head on the ceramic floor and, thereby, scrambled a few circuits. Nevertheless, said wild mouse earned the nickname Mr. Jingles because of how much he behaved like the mouse from the movie "The Green Mile".

Over the next few days it became clear that whatever was afflicting this mouse was going from bad to worse. Instead of walking the mouse was now limping, and I was faced with a decision of what to do with him.

By now everyone in the shop knew of the mouse, and most were offering their own opinions on what to do with him. The consensus seemed to be to put him outside and let nature run its course. By now a deep blanket of snow was covering the ground, and I could tell from the way this mouse was limping that he wouldn't stand a chance out there.

And, so, as ridiculous as it sounds I decided to buy a hamster cage and line it with wood shavings to let the mouse live out his last days in the warmth of my shop. Several times I questioned the rationale on why I was going through all this trouble for a wild creature, but at the end of the day this seemed like the only proper thing to do.

The health of the mouse continued to decline, and things finally reached the point where I was feeding him sugar water through a straw as he lay motionless on his side. One night after feeding him I said my good-byes because I was certain he wouldn't see his way through the night. Sure enough when I opened the next morning Mr. Jingles was dead.

A few days later I was reading an article that talked about Love, and it said that in distinguishing the difference between love and compassion that love brings with it a desire to relieve pain and bring happiness to another.

In that moment I realized that what I had just experienced with Mr. Jingles over the previous few weeks was, on some level, a tangible lesson in Love. Within that context Mr. Jingles had actually been a teacher.

We should never underestimate the magic at work in the world.
Happy Valentine's Day.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Executive Office - (Part 16) - Final Photography

After the installation was complete JLT was generous enough to allow access to his office for a day of professional photography. The resulting high resolution images are versatile enough to use not only in blogs, emails and websites but also printed media such as magazines and books.

As you can see from the full room images, the completed office looks magnificent.

The walnut on the Herman Miller sofa in the foreground nicely complements the East Indian Rosewood used on the other furniture pieces.

The desk is the focal point of the room, although the mass of the 108" long top is visually lighted through the use of a deep undercut bevel and the inlay of over 250 pieces of mother-of-pearl around the perimeter.

The drawer pedestal on the desk has 2 box drawers over file drawer.

My favorite detail is the one which is barely seen - namely the point on the back side of the desk where the undercut bevel transitions into a vertical plane.

A total of 3 grommets were inlaid into the tops of the desk and credenza, with great care being taken to align the grains of the wood to make the grommets looks as unobtrusive as possible.

I love the sweep of this curve...

The credenza was custom fitted into the corner, with the curved edge of the top ending exactly at the edge of the window.

A single key enables all drawers to be locked at one time.

At first glance this looks like an architectural wood panel set into the wall.

The panels are actually doors, which conceal audio/video components above...

....and a safe down below.

The A/V components are mounted into a custom pull-out rack system, to allow for ease of installation and maintenance.

The Scotch Bar.

Showing the detail of the faux ivory inlays as they frame the satin nickel pull.

The split shells on the Scotch Bar pivot open to reveal a function interior, which provides a granite mixing surface as well as ample storage for beverages, glasses, ice bucket and accessories.

The corner detail of the Scotch Bar.

The motorized television cabinet, as viewed from the back.

The wedge shaped cabinet has 2 doors for access to storage. These doors also provide access to the lift mechanism for service and maintenance.

The motorized television cabinet, as viewed from the front.

The television raised; shown facing the sofa.

The television rotated 90 degrees so that JLT has the option to watch while sitting at his desk.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of this office is how all of the electronics and lighting that has been integrated into this space can be easily controlled using little more than the touch screen of an IPad.

Hopefully these features will be properly demonstrated in an upcoming video.

The Executive Office - (Part 15) - Accessories

On the custom office project for JLT I ended up becoming involved in many aspects of the interior design, from the creation of the furniture itself to the layout of the ceiling and lighting grid and, to a lesser degree, the selection of wall coverings, carpet and upholstered furniture from Herman Miller.

Admittedly, this participation on my part was motivated in part by my desire to create a thoroughly complete office environment that would help show off the actual furniture when it came time for photography.

My intense focus on the design of the furniture inadvertently spilled over into the creation of some accessories as well, specifically a wine stopper and an ice bucket for the scotch bar.

Given that JLT is an aficionado of fine wines I wanted to create a high quality stopper that would surpass the quality level of any other wine stopper currently on the market.

The stopper itself was milled from a solid billet of FDA food grade 304 stainless steel. Triple seals of FDA food grade nitrile were then inlaid into precision milled grooves. The handle portion was turned from a rare block of solid Macassar Ebony, which is one of the hardest woods in the world.

Sharp tools and considerable patience is required when working with woods such as Ebony. Because of its extreme density this wood must be slowly air dried, lest hairline cracks develop over time.

On this particular stopper the biggest challenge came from placing the inlay of a decorative cabachon into the end. A thin walled pocket was carefully turned with a parting tool to create the recess necessary to receive the inlay of fossilized coral.

The ice bucket ended up being the bigger undertaking, and I have to admit that I spent a great deal of time agonizing over the design.

In an earlier post I described the process of evaluating JLT's office from a Feng Shui perspective. At the time it worked out that the proposed layout and design was conducive with 13 of the 14 recommended "DO's" and "DON'T's" for a balanced office from a Feng Shui perspective. The only element missing was a small aquarium containing a single Arrowana fish.

As much as I aspired to achieve perfection with this project I wasn't about to suggest something as contrived as plunking an aquarium in the middle of the office decor. But given that the Scotch Bar was already located in a most auspicious part of the office, and knowing that JLT also has a taste for single malt scotch and Grey Goose vodka, I came up with the idea of creating a functional ice bucket that could do double duty as a proverbial water feature. Instead of using a live fish I would substitute an image of an Arrowana etched into the face of the glass.

Working with Eva Milinkovic of Tsunami Glassworks we selected a colour of blue that would not only become a symbolic representation of water but do so in a way that would also complement the colours found on a Grey Goose bottle.

The most difficult part was coming up with an image of an Arrowana fish that was subtle enough not to be overpowering. I didn't want this thing to look like it had Charlie the Tuna tattooed onto the side.

Once the concept was finalized I left it to Eva to work her magic with the glass.

It's no surprise that I was quite pleased with the result.

Next: The Executive Office - (Part 16) - Photography?