There’s often an odd eyebrow raised when I mention that the point of inspiration of certain pieces of my furniture is a human being, whether it's someone in the public eye who fascinates me, or a character that I may have read about who captures my imagination. I understand that it might not always be considered terribly flattering to be likened to some hand-jointed sections of solid timber - but if you think about it, being immortalized in hardwood, one of the most beautiful and sustainable natural resources on the planet, in the very fibres of a magnificent tree, should be something to be celebrated, assuming the intention is good and the craftsmanship is of the finest quality!
The first piece of furniture I made that was directly inspired by a specific person was with my first company New Leaf Furniture Makers. Together with my wonderful all-girl team, we made a tall, rather magnificent drinks cabinet of oiled English pippy oak, in homage to fabulous British actor Ray Winstone. We named it ‘Sexy Beast’ in reference to his role in the eponymous movie and it was almost uncanny how well it captured the sun-tanned and oiled character he played in the film, particularly as he stood, in the opening sequence, sun-kissed in his tangerine trunks, which we depicted by lining the cabinet in orange leather!
And our Tree Couture ‘Glamorous Butler’ console table was very much inspired by a real butler I read about from a distinguished household in Chile who was always immaculately turned out, elegant verging on flamboyant, yet discreet as all good butlers should be, who served both his master and mistress dutifully – seemingly in more ways than one!
The latest male muse of our wood ‘personification’ is Scott Schuman, aka ‘The Sartorialist’ – the world-renowned photographer and purveyor of all things stylish. Probably one of the most celebrated street photographers of our time, he captures passers-by all over the world with his lens selecting them for their idiosyncratic and highly distinctive sense of style. It’s not about designer labels and high fashion, but a celebration of individuality and often unconventional beauty - and that’s something that really resonates with me in relation to what we do at Tree Couture.
So I created a very large wall-hanging mirror entitled The Sartorialist in honour of the great man. It is handcrafted from dozens of individually prepared strips of solid sustainable hardwoods that were originally off-cuts from our London atelier, and has a reversible mirror glass section - bronze mirror on one side and silver mirror on the other. The mirror equivalent of having two lenses!
It’s eclectic in the sense that it uses a lovely assortment of solid hardwoods, including American walnut, European walnut, American white oak, European steamed beech, American cherry and steamed English pear but also stands apart by featuring strips of black ancient (5,300 year old) English bog oak with inlaid detailing in mirrored copper plate. The overall effect is one of a most dapper individual wearing its own perfectly tailored and stylish little pin-striped wooden suit, reflecting the style right back at you!
And to celebrate our involvement in London’s great forthcoming design festival Clerkenwell Design Week (20-22 May), we’re giving away one of our limited edition Sartorialist Mirrors to the person who manages to best encapsulate Clerkenwell during the festival in a photograph. For more details check out the competition page at The Clerkenwell Collection retail store, gallery and events space where the mirror will be on display. So grab your cameras and get out there On The Street - we can't wait to see your take!