Seattle Culture

Exploring the Woodworking Talents of the Pacific Northwest

Furniture designer Seth Rolland and artist Laura Yeats take inspiration from Washington's trees

By Brigitte Long August 10, 2016

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This article originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of Seattle magazine.

Formfitting

Wood furniture designer Seth Rolland is originally from New York, but feels most at home in the old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest.

“There are traces of life and history in wood, which is why we humans relate so well to it,” says Rolland, who moved to Port Townsend 14 years ago from Taos, New Mexico. He uses only sustainably harvested and salvaged woods, such as mahogany, elm and ash, for his sculptural tables and chairs. His mastery of the kerfing technique, the act of making a series of strategic cuts in the wood allowing it to bend, creates his signature accordion-like silhouettes, which fan out into interesting shapes.The design process for one piece can take months, but the execution only takes from two to six weeks.

“I’m not into embellishment,” Rolland says. “I’m connected to the idea that form follows function, and structure can be the ornamentation.” Rolland’s work can be seen at the Woodworkers Show in Port Townsend November 5-6 at the American Legion Hall. Also available at sethrolland.com.


Artist Laura Yeats creates her bud vessels out of the gnarled knots of the madrona trees from Orcas Island. Photo courtesy of Laura Yeats.

 

Budding Talent

Orcas Island artist Laura Yeats has developed a unique relationship with a particular species of the island’s ubiquitous flora: the madrona tree. She uses the madrona’s gnarled, spout-like knots—which form as the tree self-prunes and heals itself—to create her imaginative bud vessels.

“They started out as solid, sculptural pieces,” Yeats says, “but Nisha Klein [owner of Capitol Hill shop Niche Outside] asked me to transform them into functional vases.” Over a period of about six weeks, Yeats creates the vases, using tools that include chain saws and band saws to preserve the shape of the knot and bore out the center, inserting a concealed, custom glass tube to hold water and stems. Yeats’ pieces give new life to the madrona tree, as she uses only knots from limbs that have already died.

“To me, turning these fallen trees into art or something useful like a vessel is giving this tree a second life as another object of beauty to enjoy.” Capitol Hill, Niche Outside, 1424 11th Ave.; 206.939.7913; nicheoutside.com. Also available at laurayeats.com.

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