Following Steven Henderson's successful showing at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair held in New York this May he was interviewed by Vera Dordick of Homedit Interior Design and Architecture. In her article "Beautifully Blemished: The Appeal of Live Edge Furnishings" Steven discusses his work, his inspirations and his take on the growing appeal of live edge furnishings.
An excerpt of the article is below:
Steven Henderson Projects
Applewood is generally not used for woodworking except for the smallest pieces. Steven Henderson has found a way to take the characteristics that make this wood difficult work with and turn them into assets with the creation of his Applewood Sconce.
What led you to go into/sparked your interest in woodworking?
As a young child I watched my father build our cottage. It’s one of my strongest memories of being young. At the cottage there was wood everywhere…As I grew up, I was always comfortable and interested in wood and amazed/absorbed by furniture…I remember seeing Nakashima’s book “The Soul of a Tree.” I think that moment changed my life. Following my studies, I worked as an industrial cabinetmaker/furniture maker, then in Interior Design and then back to Woodworking. Working with my hands and seeing things take shape in the process of ‘the real’ is very important to me…You don’t understand that when you work only on paper or a computer. Mistakes have been both the greatest teachers and places where creative opportunities present themselves.
Why did you decide to create live-edge sconces?
I am really lucky to work in this amazing building in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is full of creative people. My neighbor, colleague and friend Mike Sharpe, who runs a company called Storyboard Furniture, was doing a Crowd Funding Campaign to give his business a kick start. He invited me and some other artists, designers and craftspeople to make works out of apple wood to be gifted to patrons who made donations to support the cause. The ‘Apple Wood Salvage Initiative’ repurposed the wood (destined for the land fill) from an old historic apple orchard into kitchenware and furniture objects…
While helping cut down some of the trees in the orchard, I was amazed by these apple trees. I noticed they were not very big, their form was twisty, shifty, wild and the bark very gnarly. I could only imagine what was going on inside with the grain. To a woodworker, apple wood is useful typically for only small things. It has a lot of personality, warps easily and checks (splits/cracks) frequently. Perfect! I thought. Let it be…How can I encourage this wood to be more like itself? Slice it thin….let it warp…encourage it to warp. Celebrate this by adding light that will profile the edge and show off its cracks/ imperfections. And situate the wood as close to eye level as possible so that one may investigate the grain of the wood in the same way one might stand in front of a painting and study it….Thus became the apple wood sconce.
How do you source and choose your wood?
At this point I have access to enough apple wood to continue for a good while. In the future should I need more, I will locate an apple orchard somewhere in Canada that intends to discard its non-fruit-bearing trees. Once I have the wood, I study the profile of the wood as well as imagine/anticipate what kind of visual activity the grain will have…There is no clear logic, yet there is ‘wholeness’ or ‘energy’ that has to feel right for the right piece to become an Apple Wood Sconce.
What do you think contributes to the appeal of live edge furnishings and accessories?
Typical construction typologies situate us within environments that have flat surfaces and straight lines. Live edge work is such a strong contrast to this. Its presence within these spaces is dramatic. Something about the live edge form – its unpredictable shape and pattern. It’s the opposite of a straight line/square/box and so upon catching one small glimpse of it, we are easily drawn toward it to investigate. This experience almost creates a curiosity much like that a child would have.
It also creates an experience as though nature or a living tree is among us; closer to us than we could imagine, because we are within our dwelling where most of us don’t have a generous-sized living tree! I think on a subtle/subconscious level this both stimulates the mind in a way that we admire and soothes the mind. Nature has a strong calming effect. If you have ever been very stressed and followed this with an immersion in nature, you know well that without effort calmness comes over you. I personally feel strongly that “live edge” work has a similar effect.
Henderson takes full advantage of the splits and gnarly nature of the edges to make pieces that warmly reflect warm light in different ways.
These one-of-a-kind sconces are equally at home on white wall in a minimalist interior as they are in a more traditional setting. Besides being a statement lighting piece, they are also the ultimate in salvaging wood that would have been destined for the fire pit.