Society has a tendency to worship and mythologize trees. Throughout history, many religions have sprung from the trunks of trees. Consider the Banyan trees of Hinduism, the Bodhi tree of Buddhism, and the Tree of Knowledge of Christianity. Others just enjoy the sentiment of a tree planted with a long-lost loved one. So when a tree dies, the loss can be acute.
But the New York Times reports that two artisan entrepreneurs are resurrecting lost trees — and not in the way that involves pruning. Seth Meyer and John Wells, both of Seattle, harvest doomed local trees and refashion them into heirloom pieces of furniture. As Wells told the NY Times, “We’re starting a slow-wood movement.” At their company called Meyer Wells, what was once waste from disease, storm, or new construction becomes tables, chairs and more.
The two entrepreneurs focus on the “emotion” of the wood to incorporate it into the new piece. Both longtime furniture makers, Meyer and Wells decided to form their business after meeting at a dinner party. Meyer, who is said to be able to see the soul of a tree, works to bring the existing fluidity of the raw wood into the piece he creates. As he told the NY Times, “I’m looking to see how the grain of one board flows into the next so that the composition feels harmonious. In every piece, I’m looking for some kind of rhythm and balance. It’s an intuitive process, not something with a set of rules I could ever write down.”
In keeping with their green theme, Meyer and Wells also use nontoxic, water-based wood finishes. But their designs don’t come cheap. As the NY Times reports, a coffee or dining table can run from $3,000 to $10,000.
The ingenuity of Meyer and Wells is paying off — literally. This year, their company will top $1 million in sales and will commission pieces for Starbucks and the University of Washington. Experts point out that this success is indicative of a shift in the public consciousness. It seems that people are more eager to buy green and will invest their money into something that preserves nature. This is particularly true in the Pacific Northwest.
The company recently started Green Tree Mills, which will mill trees rejected by larger companies in the Puget Sound. This will be turned into lumber, not furniture. Ultimately, Meyer and Wells hope to maintain the balance of a creative, eco-friendly company that also enjoys success in the business world. In the meantime, their customers will simply enjoy their old trees.
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