The Enchanted Forest & Other Stories
People often comment on how much they enjoy the stories surrounding Tree Couture and our furniture. Every piece without exception has a tale or two to tell – whether it’s the point of inspiration that originally set the creative cogs into motion, the history of the wood or the particular tree that it’s made from, or maybe the story of how the piece itself led us down an unexpected path during the making. I’ve talked in a previous blog of some fabulous individuals who have been the inspiration behind some of our designs, as well as of stories of prehistoric timber that has embedded thousands of years of history into our work. But this particular charming little story I want to share with you here is more like an additional chapter to an already finished piece…
The piece in question is our limited edition American black walnut credenza – the Gaiola; and the new chapter in its life story came about from a chance encounter (if you believe in such things) during our recent participation in the LuxuryMade exhibition at London’s Olympia.
It was on the second day of the exhibition that my eyes were drawn to a stylish lady with delicate features whose gaze was seemingly fixed on the back of our stand where our Gaiola was positioned. She strode straight past me and stood stock-still in front of the piece. Now admittedly, it is a striking piece and it’s not unusual for people to stop in their tracks to admire its 2.4m long, sleek solid walnut body, its steamed pear accents, its four horizontal tambour doors made of over 400 individually crafted slats, its soft back-lighting and its leather lined custom-fitted drawers.
These are details I usually point out to any interested party. But this time for reasons unknown, with this dark-eyed lady, I launched rather clumsily headlong into its story. He’s called Gaiola, I blurted. I spent many years in Brazil, I told her, including a wondrous period living and working in the Amazon rainforest, and I regularly travelled on these long, elegant, double-decker riverboats, with their rounded ends and clapperboard cladding. They were trading boats and they served great swathes of the vast tributary river-system across the whole of the Amazon region and I truly loved them. They were called gaiolas and they were the inspiration for this big wooden fellow. I reached into the top drawer and pulled out a photo I’d taken of some gaiolas many years before.
I suddenly became aware that my ‘interested party’ was stepping away from me, eyes widening and looking distinctly pale. I stopped my effusive musings and asked her if she was alright. She hesitated and said slowly in a quiet voice: I am Brazilian. From Amazonia. My mother was an ‘índio’ [native of the region] and, – she paused – I was born in a gaiola. It seems her heavily pregnant mother couldn’t make it in time to her destination, and baby Rita made her début aboard one of these magnificent riverboats.
We stood there for a while looking at one another, then laughed and then cried. I felt an enormous warmth towards this lady with her rather exotic, indeed dramatic start in life, as well as a special bond with her as we stood there together stroking the warm wood of the Gaiola that had touched us both in very different ways but had intriguingly connected us. Little baby Rita grew up and crossed the continents to be an interior designer now based in Surrey, and maybe just as unexpectedly, I left the forest and ended up back in London as a designer and maker of solid wood furniture! I hope Rita’s and my paths will cross again (maybe in some other strange and wonderful way) to add a further chapter to this curious little tale somewhere down the line.