Seeking more sustainable practices? Follow furnituremaker John Wiggers
John Wiggers is a pioneer of eco-conscious furniture. In 2005 John was commissioned by The Furniture Society to write a chapter on sustainability for their studio furniture journal: “Focus on Materials” (ISBN: 0967 100437). The materials used in his “Kidney Shaped Desk” can inform your own sustainable building practices…
How it started
It was a series of connections that led to the Kidney Shaped Desk‘s creation. From a gallery rep in Miami to a NY party featuring holistic-minded supermodel Christy Turlington (click hear to read more) and world famous designer Vladimir Kagan – never could I have imagined that one day I would be working with this icon to build some of his actual furniture.
My connection to Turlington and Kagan came through a common interest in holistic and sustainable living. After my unforgettable encounter in NY, I actively sought a means of incorporating an underlying mode of sustainability into my woodworking practices and into my surrounding environment. Diana Beresford-Kroeger’s extensive knowledge of holistic healing and botany seemed to be the necessary key: the notion of introducing rare and unusual trees to the property surrounding my new woodshop seemed perfect. 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.
The sustainable materials I used:
The Kidney Shaped desk emerged as I continued to wrestle with the idea of how to meld holistic Ayurvedic principles with sculptural furniture design. 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. These include special cuttings of Black Walnut for the drawer pulls, and woods such as Hawthorn and Sassafras inside the pencil drawer, all chosen for their natural holistic and aroma-therapeutic properties.
To finance a protype of the Kidney Shaped Desk desk, I needed a buyer. Fate smiled upon me when Todd Marckese needed a desk for clients with strong holistic beliefs. The design I had been tweaking for almost a year wound up meeting the clients’ specifications perfectly. I faxed Todd the drawings and explained in detail the holistic attributes of the various woods I was intending to use as inlay.
Less-common sustainable woods:
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 by 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. The oils contained within the Sassafras are released as an aerosol each time the tray is opened and exposed to air.
Hawthorn, a traditional healing wood, makes up a small storage compartment between the trays. 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.The benefits of the aroma-therapeutic properties of Hawthorn include stress alleviation and heart strengthening. According to Diana Beresford-Kroeger, Hawthorne promotes an overall feeling of well-being and clear thinking.
When you incorporate these kinds of woods into your projects, you give clients access to traditional holistic health benefits that derive from specially-chosen natural materials and a deeper connection to the environmental source that their furniture comes from.
Contributor John Wiggers is a CustomMade.com affiliate and a seminal voice in the field of green woodworking. Feel free to pose any questions relating to sustainability and eco-friendly woodworking practices below and John will address them.