Max Lamb’s timber furniture

My Grandfather’s Tree

November 2015
Effectively, a win-win-win situation. Designer Max Lamb embraced the memories of his childhood days spent helping out on his grandfather’s farm by taking ownership of the old ash tree that now stood there dying, and making it into furniture pieces that are at once evocative and quintessential. Thus: a special tree was saved from becoming fireplace fodder, grandfather and grandson have been appeased, and numerous furnishings chock full of integrity have been produced. 
Max Lamb is not somebody who would let something die out on him without doing his best to salvage it. Upon learning that the old ash tree towering over his grandfather’s cottage on his farm in Yorkshire was beginning to rot, the British designer was determined to give it an afterlife. He objected to the magnificent, 187-year-old tree facing a typical fate: being cut into logs and stacked into a pile, eventually to be burnt to ashes. His grandfather had built the cottage himself, and many of Lamb’s childhood memories came from helping him out on the farm. The tree had sentimental value.
Rather than having it felled, Lamb’s 89-year-old grandfather entrusted its future to him. Lamb wanted the essence of the tree to remain intact within the wood. Together with a tree-surgeon friend of his, they dissected the fine ash tree from the top downward, cutting-into it at intervals as they descended. Instead of measuring, they followed the grooves and respected the natural divisions within the tree’s structure, such as its knots and branches.
As Lamb cut the sections into logs, they manifested in different shapes that he describes as being of average furniture height. The surface of every log assumed a ‘general-purpose use’, as his grandfather put it. Indeed, the 130 pieces, each unique in shape, could easily be used as stools, tables, and chairs. During the London Design Festival, these elements were arranged according to diameter in a gallery space in Somerset House, the annual growth rings visible. The sections of the tree were displayed horizontally, a metamorphosis from the vertical singularity of the original structure. A once statuesque part of nature had resulted in functional objects rather than ending up in a bonfire. It is a heart-warming story, and a lucrative one too: Gallery Fumi, which represents Lamb, is selling the pieces for £120 to £14,400 each.
Screenshot 2015-11-05 12.08.25