If a tree falls in the forest, does anyone hear it? Woodworker Jessica Wickham does. With a passion for solid hardwood, Wickham rescues downed trees throughout the Hudson Valley and transforms the salvaged material to create one-of-a-kind handcrafted modern furniture masterpieces.
“We live in this amazing former forest,” says Wickham, a professed locavore who hails from Manhattan. As a gifted craftsperson, Wickham possesses a rare combination of skills. She can look at a downed tree in a forest or on a city street and see its inherent potential. From an ecological perspective, a responsibly sourced tree becomes the perfect green building material. Wickham reclaims trees and reinvents their beauty in furnishings with an earthy and sophisticated modern aesthetic. With respect for the rich grain and natural shape of trees, Wickham uses minimal processing, traditional joinery, and nontoxic natural finishing techniques reminiscent of both Japanese traditions and Shaker sensibilities. This commitment to create timeless, quality handcrafted pieces with the least impact on the environment makes Wickham’s furniture the exact opposite of the glut of mass-produced furniture.
The very best things take time. Wickham’s path led her from Wall Street to Japan, where she became deeply inspired by the traditions of the “process, poetry, and patience” involved in the crafting of solid wood furniture. Wickham founded Wickham Solid Wood Studio seven years ago on the premise that we have extraordinary resources “in our own backyard.”
While our backyard may seem like a tree mecca, a quick understanding of how the old growth forests of the Hudson Valley have suffered sheds a light on the importance of creating conscious furniture. Deforestation and habitat fragmentation have been leading contributors toward the loss of biodiversity. Deforestation caused by logging, construction, acid rain, and other environmental hazards have eroded our forests. Intact ecosystems provide an intricate web that controls floods, conserves oxygen, soil, insects, and creates diverse habitats. While forests do regrow when older forests decline, they eventually lose more carbon to the atmosphere than they absorb, thus fueling climate change.
All this confirms why the work of an artisan/environmentalist such as Wickham deserves to be valued. Stepping into the Wickham Solid Wood Studio in Beacon one only has to look to the past to see the future of furniture design. The carefully stacked inventory of over 10,000 board feet of natural -edge slabs of locally sourced black walnut, oak, cherry, black locust, ash, and other species that have air dried for over two years line the walls of the studio. Large, clear bins house saw dust that Wickham donates to Clearwater for use in their compostable toilets. Represented in this celebration of wood is a cycle of production that promotes less waste, a lessening of dependence on our precious natural resources, low-impact finishing techniques (no stains, dyes), and a reverence for promoting a way of life that is local.
If there is one thing that will get us beyond the planet’s sustainability woes, it will be the eco-enlightenment that includes a lifecycle analysis of…everything. As environmental awareness becomes more and more mainstream, and the coexistence of style and sustainability takes center stage, artisans like Jessica Wickham will be the beacons lighting the way.
Wickham Solid Wood Studio
578 Main Street, Beacon