We lived near the ocean back in the day. My family went to the beach often and I remember exploring the shoreline as a child, enjoying the crash of the waves, the briny smell of the water, the little joy of discovering shells.
I remember being fascinated by the wet, weathered textures and mysterious origins of the driftwood washed up on shore. Where did it come from? It was easy to imagine all sorts of stories: a wharf damaged by storms, or a pirate ship sunk with its treasure at the bottom of the sea…
Of course, there were never pirates off the coast of Los Angeles, were there? But one can dream.
And one can have the romance of that dream in one’s living room, kitchen, bedroom… anywhere in the residence, really, with these cool creations by Shipwreck Furniture.
South African builder Nic Kruger thinks so. One fine day he stumbled across the wreck of the ex-fishing boat Kunene and fell in love with her timbers, of which he says:
“Most people will regard a sight like this as a heap of old rotten timber, but to me this is like treasure.”
Treasure indeed. Nic carted bits of his find off to his workshop, from the timber started cleaning out the many rusted nails – source of many of the intriguing dark patches that complement the wood’s natural grain – and in time set to work on his first project, the inconspicuously-named Table 1.
There are several furniture makers out there using scavenged or reclaimed wood. Water towers, old homes, barns… the list is as diverse as the people finding inspiration in the “unwanted” materials they work with, but Nic’s team finds special challenge in their nautical resource.
“We use exclusively timber from wrecks,” he says, “which in many ways limits us in conventional thinking and forces us to let the timber dictate the size, shape and finish of the final product. These boats are chopped up with chainsaws and little regard for future use. The parameters were the size of the dump-trucks that were used to transport it… Boats are also not square or box shaped. It is their beautiful streamlined hulls which makes it possible for them to sail the oceans. For exactly this reason there are very few straight planks that come off these wrecks.”
Playfulness and adaptive creativity abound in Nic’s work – as it must, for the nature of the wood demands such an approach.
A member of the Shipwreck team works full time cleaning and dismantling the metal-rich wrecks, a process that rips through a lot of saw and planer blades. Some of that metal is incorporated in the studio’s furniture.
Although the pieces may look rough, even a casual glance reveals the skill and careful attention to detail that goes into their making. Wonderful, the patina from years of usefulness at sea! One wonders if the ghosts of wind and brine still cling to the wood.
There’s a delicious tactile appeal that prompts the urge to reach out and explore the textures.
“Our aim is to capture and preserve as much of the character and history of our wrecks in our furniture,” says Nic. Well, he succeeded.
And his work is fun to look at too.
Images courtesy of Shipwreck Furniture