Furniture company SCP has commissioned a group of British designers, including Faye Toogood and Sebastian Cox, to make objects from the wood of a tree infected with ash dieback disease for this year’s London Design Festival.
The resulting pieces, ranging from furniture and lighting to decorative objects, are currently on display as part of the One Tree exhibition that the brand is organizing in its showroom in Shoreditch.
The project saw ten designers use a tree on the property of SCP founder Sheridan Coakley, which had to be cut down after being infected with a highly destructive fungal disease called ash dieback. Eventually this should kill around 80% of the ash trees in the UK.
“Most fallen ash trees are simply felled and used for firewood,” Coakley told Dezeen. “But rather than burning the tree or letting it rot, we wanted to capture the carbon that’s in the wood by doing something with it.”
A group of ten designers and makers, including Cox and Toogood alongside industrial designer Matthew Hilton, carpenter Poppy Booth and design duo Wilkinson & Rivera, were invited to observe the felling of the tree in April 2022 and to select the pieces of wood they wanted to use.
Toogood created a stool from the fork of the tree, which forms a natural loveseat. This effect was brought out by removing the bark from the wood but leaving its shape largely intact.
Designer and maker Sarah Kay also used the thick, strong parts of the tree, choosing to cut a log in half to create a series of geometric side tables.
The logs were given flat facets to showcase the knotty grain of the wood. This swirling, almost psychedelic graining is also found in the three-seater bench seat from Wilkinson & Rivera.
Husband and wife duo Grant Wilkinson and Teresa River used rudimentary forms to construct the bench, allowing the grain of the wood to serve as decoration.
Another piece of furniture on display is a corner cabinet designed by Poppy Booth from Black Square – an abstract painting by Russian-Ukrainian artist Kazimir Malevich from 1915.
Mirroring the paint, the cabinet front features a square of ebonized ash surrounded by an unburnt frame. The piece is intended to sit high in the corner of a room to act as a kind of memorial for all the ash trees killed by dieback.
East London designer Moe Redish has created a series of glass vases and containers, which have been mouth blown into the natural voids in wood created by birds, insects, weather and fungus which causes the withering of the ashes.
Taking a similar approach, artist and craftsman Max Bainbridge chose to work with pieces of tree that had exposed cracks, splits and rough edges, and transformed them into a series of organically shaped containers, a bench and a wall piece called Portrait of Ash.
A number of designers have taken a more sculptural approach, with Oscar Coakley creating a giant acid smiley-face wall fixture while Hilton designed a Jenga-like helical sculpture made of repeating elements of carved wood.
Cox, who cut down the ash using his portable sawmill and dried all the wood for display at his south London studio, created two light fixtures using the branches left over after all the other designers have made their selections.
The branches were cut into thin strips with raw edges and shaped into triangular prisms to act as shades for a pendant lamp and a floor lamp.
The pieces are featured as part of SCP’s Almost Instinct showcase at LDF and are all for sale, with the aim of putting a selection of items into production in the future.
“I think it’s a project that could go on,” Sheridan Coakley said. “There are other trees that need to fall, why not do something about it?”
This year’s DFL saw a slew of brands open their showrooms and hold events, many of which are returning for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Other projects featured at the festival include an installation by architecture studio Stanton Williams inspired by the Stonehenge and Shakespearean theaters, and a furniture exhibit by James Shaw that pokes fun at the tensions that arise between cohabiting couples.
The photography is by Robbie Wallace.
One Tree is presented from September 17 to 25 as part of the London Design Festival. See Dezeen Events Guide for an up-to-date list of architecture and design events happening around the world.