I would like to share these images of a black walnut bedroom, including a king-sized bed, side tables and a dresser, designed and built with my best friend Cody Rolph. We started this project in 2017 and finished it in 2020.
The design and joinery of the pieces in this group hopefully don’t arbitrarily feature pretty slabs of wood, but intend to capture or rather release the light and cadence of the old trees we collaborated with to build humble furniture. We try to see our human efforts humbly in the light of the wrought out witness which the trees spent their lives fashioning.
One of the trees we used for this came from the Walnut River valley near Augusta, Kansas, where it was uprooted and set for a number of years suspended by its roots and crowns. My personal experience suggests this process of drying “in the log”lends a quality to the color- different to other air drying methods. Another walnut tree we used came from Cody’s land in a draw on the county line between Greenwood and Elk counties. A third came from a farm near Winfield, KS- on the banks of the Arkansas River- where we scavenged the rejected leavings of a logging operation. All of these trees have peculiar and noble stories and voices, as expressions of a land and of its mineral and even spiritual atmosphere.
There are over 500 ebony and walnut butterfly joints throughout the pieces. Many of these serve a structural function, in knitting together knots and fractures throughout the slabs. We made the decision to use them aesthetically and rhythmically as well, in an attempt to interact with the movement and tension present in the slabs and their juxtapositions. Every butterfly was individually made and cut in by hand. This isn’t necessarily a testament to skill, but to the frail beauty of hand made lines versus machined perfection. The long labor isn’t to impress, but hopes to be a contemplative act of prayer in process, and to invite and serve that same response in the viewer.
In the same contemplative spirit, all of the structural joints are “through” mortise and tenons, with hand cut dovetails on all of the casework and drawers. The hardware are re-purposed spikes from a derelict centenarian railroad bridge located on Cody’s land.
Thank you for taking the time to look at these images of my friend Cody’s and my celebration and wonder at the crystalized voice of our God in the ligneous song of our brother-trees. Thank you especially to Steve Hebert for having the gifts and knowledge to be able to photograph these pieces for us.