Artist finds beauty in fallen trees
The Tennessean - Nashville, Tenn.
Date: Feb 9, 2010
By Jessica Bliss
Two years ago, tornadoes ravaged Middle Tennessee in what CNN called the deadliest tornado outbreak in the United States in more than 20 years. Amid the demolished houses that fell in the storm's wake were a vast number of trees. Where some saw unsalvageable debris, Alabama artist Robin Wade saw beauty.
He purchased the wood from downed walnut trees in Williamson County and now returns to the state bringing his hand-crafted furniture -- products of the trees he collected -- to show and sell at the Antiques and Garden Show at the Nashville Convention Center Thursday through Saturday. "We have these cracks and imperfections in nature in this massive way with this tornado," Wade said. "And to be able to find beauty in it is a deeper step."
Recently retired from a computer business, Wade has only been making furniture for the past four years. His affinity for woodworking began when he remodeled a house his dad built in 1963. Wade created some tables during the process, and afterward he continued the craft."It opened a creative venue I didn't realize I had," he said.
This is the second year Wade will sell his work at the Antiques and Garden Show. An admirer of Japanese-American woodworker George Nakashima's creations, Wade feels like he has taken up where the now deceased furniture innovator left off.
A blend of modern, rustic
Wade describes his work as a combination of modern and rustic. He uses clean lines, but gravitates toward locally-sourced reclaimed trees where he can draw attention to the imperfections of nature -- highlighting the wood's cracks and knots instead of cutting them out and throwing them away. It is Wade's sensitivity to the green effort that led him to the tornado trees. He typicallyfocuses on gathering wood from old trees that have to be taken down anyway at local churches, city parks or a city hall. The tornados were another chance to find wood not harvested by clear-cutting forests.
"I agree with leaving the planet in better shape than it was when we got here," he said. "So if we can make furniture that lasts, and if we can reuse exciting products instead of cutting down existing trees, then I want to try to do that." Wade will bring three of the pieces created from the tornado wood to the show, which will feature more than 150 antiques and horticulture dealers. More wood remains at home, which he'll use to custom-build furniture if requested by show attendees. He will also have on display wood from a 220-year-old shade tree reclaimed from the St. Luke Missionary Church in Athens, Ala., which he has not made into anything yet.
Wanda Smithson, the local farm owner who sold Wade the walnut from the tornado, understands what kind of connection someone can find in a tree with a personal tale. She had a table created by another artist from a log found on her family's farm. Wade's work, she said, will have similar impact for those with stories from the tornado. "It's amazing what he does with the wood," she said. "His furniture is very pretty."
-- JESSICA BLISS, THE TENNESSEAN
(the above article was taken from the Tennessean. For complete article go to Tennessean.com)