Trees are one of nature’s most spectacular creations. They provide an organic, renewable palette of wood species in amazing colors. Craftspeople who work with exotic species are often inspired to seek more ways to interact with wood. The unique grain structure, color variations and performance characteristics of woods from around the globe are a powerful medium. Sometimes the simplicity of the material allows the creator to focus on design. In other cases the exotic wood expresses different relationships, from spatial geometry to the ways people interact with the environment. Each project in the Inspired by Nature series below tells a story. The designs reach beyond the application to engage, inform and inspire.
Dolan Cellaratte | Moose Antler Chair
Wood: Baltic Birch (Betula spp.)
Creator: Trevor O'Neil | Trevor O'Neil Design
In his Chicago workshop Trevor O’Neil transforms the mundane into creative, functional pieces of art. One of O’Neil’s favorite mediums is Baltic birch plywood, a material often considered a commodity. “It is so versatile. Plywood is the workhorse of the design industry,” says O’Neil. “If I have a design in my mind I automatically think, what part of this is plywood? What can I send through the CNC router? And how can I manufacture it efficiently?”
Several of the pieces O’Neil has exhibited in 2011, like the Dolan Cellarette, utilize plywood as a framing substructure. This free-standing liquor or wine cabinet is a modern take on a classic 19th century concept. Cellarettes are traditionally made from mahogany, yet the Dolan Cellarette is unavoidably hip, built from a Baltic birch plywood frame and clad in aluminum with a sculptural tree carved from aspen and dyed dark. “You can do anything with plywood,” says O’Neil. “There are no worries that it will warp or swell, and it is free of knots.”
Many of O’Neil’s designs, such as the Folding Starfish Chair and the Moose Antler Chair, feature plywood as an aesthetic component. “Baltic birch is unpretentious. It carries the shape of the design without competing with it,” says O’Neil who often takes the material to the CNC as a means of expressing his creativity. “It is sturdy and strong. The surface of the plywood is nice and smooth. Plus it sands and polishes nicely. Great material.”
Copyright© 2011 by the International Wood Products Association. Published by Bedford Falls Communications, Inc. and circulated to an audience of 20,000 architects, designers, distributors, manufacturers, and users of imported wood products in North America.