Much of our furniture is made from timber. The wood to make that furniture has to be harvested from a felled tree which is then milled, sawed, planed, sanded, put back together with glue and screws, and finished. Wouldn’t it be easier to avoid most of these steps and simply coax a tree to grow into a piece of furniture? That way, it would be one-piece, inherently strong, and could potentially last many years longer than assembled furniture. Gavin Munro thought this too, and about a decade ago set about achieving this goal. He now creates furniture by cajoling trees to grow into one-piece items that are not only inherently practical, they are also eminently beautiful.
Munro is a man with a great deal of patience. Over a period of between four to eight years, he trains trees to grow over plastic formers to become chairs; carefully interlacing their branches to form a solid, intricate unit. Each tendril is slowly and deliberately coerced into creating entwined legs, stiles, rails, and stretchers that create a fully-formed piece of furniture.
Of course, to support his business (and probably help retain his sanity) in the intervening years between tree chairs, he is also creating quicker-growing mirror surrounds and lamp shades for sale before the chairs reach maturity. Though, when we say “quicker” these, too, take more time than the average person would call fast; the standard tree in Munro’s repertoire – the willow – still takes several years to grow big enough for a mirror surround.
To create this fascinating, one-off furniture, Munro has been slowly bending and shaping trees over plastic formers for nearly nine years now. Another year or so away from a large harvest of fully-formed furniture, Munro has still managed to produce the aforementioned mirror surrounds, some lamp shades and one or two prototype larger pieces to prove the concept.