Sometimes looking back is the best way to move forward. Bend based Cambrian Company applies that logic to its original art and furniture. “We make pieces that highlight the unique stories of the materials they come from,” says Ian Herdell, co-founder of Cambrian Co. “They make you want to slow down and ask about the tree they were made from, to chew on the details.”
The intimate connection between material, maker and consumer has been strong up until this age of disposable art and furniture. Now it takes special effort to reconnect with the materials that fill our life on a daily basis. Ian and his wife, Laura, started Cambrian Co. to make beautiful art and furniture that is functional, filled with meaning and reflects their values – transparent, sustainable, green design – from start to finish.
“We strive to incorporate the unique life story of each tree we use into every piece we make,” says Ian. They find, harvest and mill much of the wood used in their work from neighborhood trees and serendipitous finds throughout the West. Each tree reflects the place and time it grew: the soil and water, storms, wind and lightning, animals, fungus and disease.
“We came across a dead tree on my friend’s citrus ranch years ago. We were pulling dead Navel and Valencia orange trees for later use – that’s a story for another time – and saw this tree laying in some bushes. It was really a trunk partly buried in the mud beside a pond, and we had no clue what it was. We set it aside to dry and cut it open a couple years later. It was like opening a geode; the drab exterior bespoke nothing of the beauty awaiting us inside. It turned out to be Osage orange, probably planted by his great grandfather when he founded the ranch,” recalls Ian.
That tree and others like it become art and furniture with an innate narrative. “There is always an idea when we begin a piece, but the wood and its stories guide us along,” explains Ian. Hand cut veneers are used to make original marquetry designs. Oregon coast mussel shell embellishes the natural voids found in their wood. Mortise and tenons, dovetails, finger joints and other solid wood joinery create beautiful work that stands the test of time.
Cambrian Co. is one of the featured artists at the Red Chair Gallery during March. Their work can be seen at Red Chair year round.