The use of wood in products and design goes back millennia, and the material continues to be a favorite today, especially among those turning their backs on harmful plastics. But while wood is inherently sustainable in the sense of being biodegradable and recyclable, great care must be taken in sourcing this material. Anything that uses wood, from the thinnest paper to the largest furniture, almost always involves cutting down trees, and even the discarded bits and pieces that can be recycled and used elsewhere still trace their origins from large trees. This can eventually be a problem if we don’t plant trees fast enough to replenish our sources of wood. Trees, however, might not be the only source of the materials we can use for making furniture, and this rather novel material tries to use the unlikeliest objects for that purpose.
Designer: Yuma Kano (Studio Yumakano)
Wood has always been special among the different materials we use for making things. It has particular properties and textures, and the grains and striations that raw lumber has are unique and appealing. Wood is also easily available, presuming we have enough trees, of course. As such, it comes with its own set of problems, including the amount of waste material that is left unused and discarded. There are designers and manufacturers that try to utilize these wooden chips and crafts, but a bolder solution might be not to cut down trees in the first place.
ForestBank is an attempt to produce a different kind of wood without resorting to synthetic processes and materials that end up harming the environment anyway. Instead, it sets its eyes on the other materials that can be found in forests, materials that are normally deemed worthless and useless for construction. These include foliage, bark, seeds, and even small trees, things that just decompose on the forest floor anyway. These pieces are gathered and mixed with a reactive mineral base and water-based acrylic resin that uses no organic solvents or volatile organic compounds.
The result is something that is like wood but is clearly not wood. The material can definitely be shaped using ordinary woodworking methods and be used as different parts of furniture, practically anywhere wood can be used. Its unique makeup, however, gives it a terrazzo-like appearance that is both unique and also a bit chaotic. The different bits and pieces of source material have their own earthy tones, adding to this rather unique soup of shapes and colors.
What makes this innovative material even more sustainable is that it doesn’t need to be limited to being sourced from forests. Those same waste materials can be taken from tree pruning on streets and in gardens or scraps from woodworking studios. The different qualities and appearances of each source material add to the unique character of each ForestBank production, turning furniture, walls, and any other wood-based product into true one-of-a-kind masterpieces.