Every tree is a history book. Its rings are like pages inscribed with the details of each season. A tree remembers lean years and plentiful ones, fires and droughts, even the death of its neighbors.
What a story an ancient tree could tell! And every time Robin Wade works with a fallen old tree, he unveils its sagacious pages to reveal the tree’s ancient wisdom.
One spectacular story is behind this particular custom desk. It was built from a tree that had, for nearly 100 years, shaded the Barton Hall Plantation, in Cherokee, AL. The house is a plantation home and a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service’s standard. Built around 1848 in Greek Revival style, Barton Hall’s front entrance is framed by elegant pillars, instantly recalling the antebellum era and the Civil War.
When this tree was felled by a storm, the late photojournalist Charles Moore (known for his photography of America’s Civil Rights Movement) documented RWF taking it away to the studio. Moore’s photographs of Martin Luther King Jr. at rallies, Birmingham’s protesters fending off police attacks, Montgomery’s Freedom Marches, and his photos on Life magazine covers made him one of the most compelling documentarians of all time, so it made sense for him to pay tribute to a tree that had been rooted in the heart of both slave times and the Civil Rights turmoil. It is only fitting that when it fell, Moore was the one to document its open pages. His last project became a photographic record of a day in the life of a woodworker.
This slab desk was not an ordinary custom task commissioned by a patron. Rather, Robin customized it to the shape and grains of the tree. The best cut slab exposes a tree’s rings by cutting longwise along the trunk, so that each layer’s records are well defined. Flitch sawing maintains the slabs’ natural, uneven edges. Memories of the Civil Rights Movement juxtaposed with Barton Hall and Charles Moore’s legacy are now immortalized in this desk.