Full Grown

Growing The Future Of Design

5.0 rating
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Coldwell Street, Wirksworth, England, DE4 4FB 447388514134

Here at Full Grown, we have been growing furniture since 2012. Using ancient techniques we gently shape growing trees into chairs, tables, lamps, and pretty much anything you can think of, resulting in a piece of furniture with no joints. Our process removes the biggest weakness found in normal furniture, resulting in a product that will last many years longer. Each piece is unique and individual.

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Story and ethos

Taking a radical stance on the way we produce our objects, Alice & Gavin Munro are at the cutting edge of an emerging art form, an art form that highlights an interesting way to be closer to art and nature and to create symbiotic abundance for both. Challenging the way we create products as well as how we see the items with which we surround ourselves, the Grown Furniture has an immediate tactile, visceral and organic appeal. The first seed was sown when as a young boy playing in the garden, Gavin noticed an overgrown bonsai tree had the distinct appearance of a chair. The third and final seed of the project sprouted twenty years later on a beach in San Francisco – after Art College, a Degree in Furniture Design, an apprenticeship to a cabinet-maker and a long stint building with natural materials in Scotland and California – Gavin had a period of making driftwood furniture. It was a sheer delight to see what new materials each tide would bring, then a matter of stitching the wood back together – each ‘stitch’ fitting into carefully cut-out mortices. This was the moment Gavin realised that we could grow trees directly into beautiful and useful shapes. It was an image that stayed in his mind for 25 years. The second seed had time to germinate when he had lots of time to think about that chair a few years later. Gavin went through several operations to straighten his spine.

How are these Grown Furniture pieces made? In essence it’s an incredibly simple art. You start by training and pruning young tree branches as they grow over specially made formers. At certain points we then graft them together so that the object grows in to one solid piece – I’m interested in the way that this is like an organic 3D printing that uses air, soil and sunshine as its source materials. After it’s grown into the shape we want, we continue to care for and nurture the tree, while it thickens and matures, before harvesting it in the Winter and then letting it season and dry. It’s then a matter of planing and finishing to show off the wood and grain inside. The whole process takes place over seasons and years – between 4 and 8 years to grow a chair – but when you look at how long and how much effort it takes us now to go from having no tree to the final wooden object, then you realise that the craft we’re a part of developing is not just more cooperative with the natural world; it has an elegant efficiency all of it own. Has this been done before? Yes, It’s been going on for millennia. Apparently, the ancient Greeks & Egyptians grew stools and the Chinese dug holes and filled them with chair-shaped rocks and grew tree roots through the gaps.

The first challenge is the practical fact that what we’re doing is neatly organising a small forest. I’m only making 50 or so pieces per year but for every 100 trees you grow there are a 1,000 branches you need to care for, and 10,000 shoots you have to prune at the right time. It’s an art-form in itself keeping track of everything. The second challenge is the emotional fact that, while there is the regular joy of seeing birds and beasties living our production rows, most of the tasks I do on an average day won’t come to fruition until several years later. That’s quite hard to live with – especially as it’s taken 9 years already and we’re still a year or two away from the first substantial harvest. Thankfully prototypes and early pieces are starting to come online but still, it’s a hefty act of faith. It’s certainly not instant gratification!

We nourish and nurture the trees, employing as many natural, permaculture and organic methods as we can, as optimum nutrition means optimum growth. We think this method is kinder and less wasteful than planting a (frequently monocultural with all those implications for biodiversity) plantation of trees, growing for a specified lifetime, then chopping down, leaving an uncared-for, cleared area, with all the additional problems like desertification. If this is so ‘Green’, why have you got plastic moulds? Isn’t that a waste of valuable oil? The (recycled) plastic moulds (same amount of corrugated light plastic used in about two ‘For Sale’ signs for a chair mould) were a prototype design. We’ve been reusing them as far as possible, and now we’re moving on to different formers, moulds and ways of constructing the grown chairs and furniture. Please be assured we aren’t pouring oil down the drain to produce this furniture! We’re constantly looking for ways to reduce our energy use, and we currently estimate we use about the same energy as 8 x 60w lights, burning for 8 hours a day for a year (in an office, for example) to run the whole Furniture Field for a year. We recycle everything we can, and constantly reuse even the tiniest bits of wire, string and plastic. The tea bags go on our compost heap – (more nourishment for the trees), we’ve got a composting loo, and have just got solar power (no electricity before that!). It’s estimated, from early calculations, that we use about 25% of the energy needed to produce a wooden chair with conventional means. As the items take some time to grow, we are currently looking at designs & methods we have developed further, and things are constantly changing in this fledgling production method.

Reviews

And you can sit in them too!

5.0 rating
4 February 2021

Not just works of art, but art you can sit on! They are comfortable and strong. Each peice is a true individual made by passionate artist-growers.

James

What a collection!

5.0 rating
25 January 2021

It’s great to see such a wide variety of talented local UK makers in one place!

Tom Ownsworth

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