By: Ron Kushner
In 2006, Gavin Munro had an amazing vision. Rather than cut down trees for their wood to create furniture, why not guide the trees to grow directly into
chairs and tables that could be harvested right in a field? His “forest” could yield furniture the way an orchard yields apples. He started a company called Full Grown to bring his vision to reality.
In his “garden” in Wirksworth, England, there are rows of ash, oak, sycamore, hazel, beech and willow. Each individual tree is being formed into a piece of furniture. The chairs grow upside-down with their legs growing upward.
By 2016, over 500 pieces were in the field, ready for harvesting. Guiding the tree’s growth, Munro selects branches that seem inclined to reach in a given direction. As they bud and grow, the branches are tied to frames that keep them growing in the right direction. Later, they are bent to form the proper angles for the furniture’s seat and legs.
The idea of training trees into unique shapes is really not a new concept. In 1929, Axel Erlandson, a farmer in California, planted a row of trees as a windbreak and noticed that some branches lost their bark and began to graft together. He developed a hobby of experimentation with tree shapes. He created many incredible shapes and designs. Unfortunately, he died in 1962 without teaching anyone the specifics of what he grew and how he actually did it.
Over the past 11 years, Munro has “harvested” a variety of furniture grown in this manner – lamps, tables and chairs. One of the chairs is actually used as his office chair. He is continually learning how to work with a tree’s natural inclinations and growing differences.
Photo credits by permission of Full Grown.
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