This is a painting called The Red Cedar by Emily Carr, (1871-1945). A print of it hangs on the wall of our home/studio/workshop in Victoria B.C. I love this painting for its immense energy. You can feel the life force not just flowing but rushing through the forest. Carr was a painter who lived in Victoria most of her life and was very influenced by the landscape and indigenous people of Vancouver Island.
My wife Dita was born in Amsterdam but moved to Vancouver when she was six. When we travel to the Netherlands I really see the Dutch side of her aesthetic. At home, when she is working on her creations, I realize how influenced she is by the West Coast. The heart of her work is Red Cedar and that is no accident. As an artist/woodworker she could choose to work with any wood but she loves cedar. This is fortunate as Vancouver Island is home to the most beautiful cedar in the world.
I love our business for many reasons but one of the main ones is I love the smell of cedar. When she is working on a project it permeates my whole house. She buys rough clear cedar from the mill and her first step is to run it through the planer so that it can be transformed into one of her elegant creations. Sometimes it is hard to imagine that the furniture she creates actually comes from a tree. It is anything but rustic!
Our environmental philosophy is simple. Material such as cedar should be ideally used in quality projects. It should never be wasted on cheap furniture or products that will find their way to the landfill in a short period of time. The mill we buy from is FSC certified meaning the wood is harvested in a very ecologically sensitive way. We create products that are meant to last, built with joinery and stained for the out of doors. Yet wood is an organic product and will naturally age.
Dita went for a motorcycle ride to Port Alberni last week and came blown away by a trip to The Whaling Sculpture on display in a building at Victoria Quay. We had seen it before passing through on our way to Tofino but that this trip she really took the time to appreciate it.
It is made with both red and yellow cedar and is actually a replica of a historical structure showing whalers pursuing a grey whale which is considered a gift from the creator by the Nootka People. This sculpture is a historical replica of another one which was likely made to honor or give thanks for the creators gifts.
There is an aliveness in this that I also see in Emily Carr’s work, an acknowledgement of the energy in everything from trees to whales to human beings. And a desire to use these materials for some greater good. Next time you are driving to Tofino, spend some time at the Whale Sculpture in Port Alberni.