Living in Vancouver sometimes feels like I am at ground zero for the hippy renaissance. All the cities out west here are fairly similar, especially when it comes to design language. This is especially so with Vancouver and Portland.
As a designer I have worked a lot with wood. I am actually a pretty decent carpenter when I need to be, it just so happened that I have always preferred steel over wood when it comes to my design. Of course wood still has its place, but my personality has always been do the opposite of what others are doing. It can be a poor business philosophy but its a far more interesting way to live. Right now in this part of the world, if its wood and upcycled, its cool. The idea behind this is sound, and 12 years ago I helped demolish an old fir warehouse on the Fraser River in order to get a hold of the massive Douglas Fir timber. I was just a very young laborer but I was curious to know about the industry as I could picture the endless prairie provinces and all the barn wood, grain elevator wood and other abandoned structures just sitting and waiting for a few guys with some tools to come and take the wood away. In the end I knew I would not have the passion I would need to make a business in the industry, even if I was “in before it was cool”.
It turns out that upcycling wood is far more complicated than just pulling things apart and re purposing the wood. There is all sorts of nasty treatments on the wood, and old nails and screws can cause expensive blade damage on tools if its missed. The labor must be that of not just a love of the craft, but also of a mindset that recycling wood is saving new trees from being cut down. But if I was honest with myself, the environmental part of the process is going to be just below the beauty of the wood. This is what it is all about. If it is not beautiful, I don’t want to make it.
So my design ventures into upcycling have been more of happenstance. In this case, I was out in Squamish looking for some things on Squamish Nation land when I came across one of the old mills. There was a pile of wood sitting there and I managed to find these pieces after only a minute or so of digging. I brought them home, found an old mirror and put this together. And of course being in Vancouver, this is the one piece in my home that gets the most compliments.