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With the pieces that Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch conceive for the Roman and Williams Guild Original Design Collection, the selection of the materials used is an artform in itself. Advocates for the use of natural materials with longevity that get better with use, their designs center around hardwoods, metal alloys, handblown glass, leathers and textiles.Filled with passion for the pre-industrial, they’ve personally sought fabricators that are masters of their craft who value these incredible resources and shed light on the fading tradition of making objects by hand with hand tools, not machines.
When it comes to wood, psychologists say that of all occupations carpentry is the most perfectly balanced between the aesthetic, mental and physical faculties. Making a well-crafted piece of furniture requires the mindset of a machinist and an artist. Telling the story of the wood begins with the milling process. Squaring needs to be exact, observing the nature of the wood and determining what keep and work with. During sawing and drying more is revealed. Then begins the mating ritual, selecting pieces that when together, please the eye, while ensuring they have the same eased edges to please the hand.
“Wood has been par excellence the material of innovation.” The technology of wood is astounding. Under a microscope, hardwoods take the appearance of a sponge. Trees are plants that are largely made of water and air, wood is the functional tissue of the tree and its fibers give it strength. Hardwoods are more irregular than softwoods and have a multitude of cell types with more variation in their arrangement. The complexity of the wood structure, is a structure within itself, unlike stone which is a mass. Roman and Williams Guild Original Designs use natural, living finishes that are not just practical, they harmonize the timber, bringing out varying degrees of depth in the innate, yet hidden beauty of the wood.
This primal material, wood, flourishes when recreated into new forms. “In the hands and eyes of a woodworker, wood becomes a sensuous mix of texture, color, figure, and grain…woodworkers learn fast that few successes come from overpowering the wood. Rather, they must apply their skill to bring out the best in the material.” This collaboration with the wood is a reawakening to a primordial anthropological state.