Indeed, it is a small world. A woman came into the Out on a Limb gallery while I was working and she was looking for a box that was "about this wide by this wide" (imagine something that would fit a couple grapefruits). Though, there is an eclectic array of wooden crafts at the gallery we did not have any such object; but I offered make one that if there was something in particular she had in mind. She hesitated, said she needed something for the weekend (it was already Thursday) and that she would keep looking because she didn't think there was time for something custom. I had plenty to do at the time, and would have normally just referred her to other stores nearby; but after just a couple minutes of conversation there was a familiarity between us and I pressed her a little, said that a quick turn-around on something fairly simple was possible and we worked out the details pretty quickly.
She had grown up in Eugene but now lives in Alaska, and had returned to memorialize the recent passing of her father. Her sister still lives in the area, and they were going to spread his ashes at a couple of his favorite local spots; and she was looking for a box they could use to transport his ashes, and that she could keep in his memory. He had loved to spend time in the woods, and it was important to her that it be made from a locally occurring tree, because it would have been familiar to her father. In life he traveled among the trees in the forest, and in death travels in the trees of the forest.
The box is black oak with an English walnut top, both harvested locally by Curly Burly. Projects like this are often particularly satisfying because there is very little forethought involved, and the design falls naturally from the characteristics of the objects dimensions, function, and materials. I worked out the design on my bikeride home from the gallery, and had it assembled later in the afternoon.
When we had spoken at the gallery and I told her where my shop (and house) was, and she said she had spent her childhood somewhere in that area of Eugene. Understand, in the early 1950's when she would had lived in the neighborhood, there was very little about southeast Eugene that was "residential". The Corps of Engineers had only recently lowered Amazon Creek, and what was a broad floodplain created by the Amazon and its many small tributaries and had been largely impassable during the winter months was transformed into a seasonally soggy, but developable, neighborhood. A client from project a few years back had spent part of her childhood in a house a couple blocks away, and had told me about the early days of the neighborhood when there were only a handful of homes on the street and there was more mud and trees than sidewalks and houses.
When she came to pick up the box, I was running late to meet her and she occupied herself with a walk around the neighborhood. Turns out, the house she and her sister grew up in was just a couple doors down. The journey for her and her sister to say goodbye to their father had again intersected with the place their father had first brought them home.
Parts of two new faculty offices that were conveniently just a couple doors down from one another, both in Oregon white oak. The offices were recently renovated; and the two new faculty occupants were in need of space efficient cabinetry and furniture that provided good function without taking up valuable floor space. Offices on campus are typically small (the larger of the two measures about 14' x 14'), especially in the aged Condon Hall, where offices were chopped up and made into even more offices.
In the first office, bookcases with built-in space for a fridge, small counter with room for a tea kettle and accoutrements, and a microwave (not pictured); and a small Prairie-inspired meeting table and set of three chairs of white oak with a Polyx Oil finish. Osmo Polyx Oil is a low-VOC, hand applied finish made from plant-based oils and waxes, and has become my favorite to use on most furniture and some cabinetry. It soaks into the grain and dries hard, creating a durable finish that brings out woods natural beauty. Plus, it is apparently approved for use on children's toys in Germany, so if German kinder can chew on it, then what more reason do I need?
With chairs, so much of the effort is spent setting up each operation during the building process. Even with a fairly simple chair design, as these were, each chair part needs to be touched eight or ten or twelve or more times just to get it ready for assembly. And with so much time spent on the set up, rather than making three, I made ten. (Plus, I needed new chairs for the kitchen, because the several times reglued and reupholstered hand-me-down dining room chairs were just about spent).
In the second office, the client wanted space for books, a locking drawer, and places to set photos and plants. In order to keep the cabinet from being too dominant in the office, I staggered the heights of the sections and left plenty of space around the window. (The office has nearly 12' ceilings, which is two feet taller than the office is wide, so if the cabinet were too tall it would quickly diminish the light scattered by the upper walls and cause it to feel more closed in).