Just imagine you can grow your own tables and chairs naturally shaping the branches and trunks of living trees into beautiful and functional structures.
This is like a 3D printing that uses air, soil and sunshine as it source materials. It sounds like a wildest sci-fi but it’s real.
And what makes it even more fascinating is the idea of growing a furniture pieces has a milennium history. Ancient Egyptians and Greeks grew a stools and tables. As well as Chinese did. Khasi tribe in India form massive bridges from living aerial roots of ficus trees which is a main source of inspiration for baubotanic architecture.
All this global knowledge of horticultural and agricultural practices, such as pleaching, bonsai, espalier, and topiary, and employing some similar methods was developing though the ages and was influencing early XX century and contemporary researchers and practitioners who worked on tree shaping concepts and methods.
John Krubsack was not only a banker but a prominent naturalist from Wisconsin who grew up a famous “living chair”. He planted it in 1903 and harvested it in 1914 dubbed the chair that grew.
Arthur Wiechula (1867 – 1941) a German landscape engineer who received the German Royal State Inventor’s Honor Cross for publishing “Developing Houses from Living Trees” in 1926, describing simple live tree shaping techniques.
Axel Erlandson was a Swedish American farmer who opened a horticultural attraction in 1947 advertised as “See the World’s Strangest Trees Here” and named “The Tree Circus.” Erlandson developed his methods to shape trees in a bizarre way and kept it as a trade secrets.
In late 70s professor of furniture design, artist and teacher Dr.Chris Cattle from England developed a process of growing furniture by shaping living trees. Cattle lectured at High Wycombe in Furniture Design. He well known by developing the concept into a 3-legged stool and tables.
Peter Cook and Becky Northey are Australian artists who developed their methods involve guiding a tree’s growth along predetermined wired design pathways over a period of time.
Aharon Naveh experimented with tree shaping in Kibbutz Revivim (Israel. Desert Negev). His trees were transplanted into Growing Village Pavillion in Achi, Japan (World Expo 2005)
And one of the most remarkable recent contribution for this art form is a British Full Grown Project. Gavin Munro is an artist and designer who spent last ten years studing and developing the tree shaping and botanical craftsmanship.
As a child Gavin went trough several operations to straighten his spine. This tough experience learned him to be patient and feel himself what does it mean to be shaped and grafted. He also clearly remember as a young boy playing in the garden, noticed an overgrown bonsai tree had the appearance of a chair. Twenty years later he studied furniture design at San Francisco Art College. His first projects were a driftwood furniture design. A bit later Gavin embraced an idea of growing plants directly into elegant and practical shapes. He reinvented a furniture design method with more personal and durable approach using antien techniques combined with modern technology.