Object stories: Macadamia wood design by Quench

By Penny Craswell

Quench is a group of Queensland-based designers who have been coming together each year for five years to exhibit their work both in Australia and overseas. In 2015, for the first time, the designers of Quench decided to take a more unified approach, deciding on one material – macadamia wood – and one theme – objects relating to food. The result is a series of objects that are handcrafted and beautiful, creating a truly Australian collection that tells a story. The name of the exhibition, which was shown at Tokyo Designers Week in 2015, is “Table Stories”.

Dr Crunch by Marc Harrison for Table Stories. Image: Supplied
Dr Crunch by Marc Harrison for Table Stories. Image: Supplied

For Table Stories, each designer has created a different story to tell. Marc Harrison, known for his Husque tablewares made of processed macadamia shell, has designed a macadamia nut cracker called Dr Crunch. Alexander Lotersztain, an Argentinian-born multi-disciplinary designer working under his brand Derlot, handcrafted Sclpt, a series of four spoons; Jason Bird, who sells furniture and objects under his brand Luxxbox, designed three objects called Vessel; Surya Graf, whose work spans architecture and industrial design, created Hex, a mortal and pestle grinder for fresh spices; and David Shaw, who designs furniture and is founder / director of the Street and Garden Furniture Co, created Prop, a sculptural object for holding hot food as well as a tea candle.

Hex by Surya Graf for Table Stories. Image: Supplied
Hex by Surya Graf for Table Stories. Image: Supplied

When asked why macadamia wood, Marc Harrison answers: “It’s uniquely Australian, and at some stage in my design career I decided that I wanted to tell unique Australian stories. I do this with the nut shell as Husque, but the Macadamia wood is new, also misunderstood, and besides being more beautiful than I ever imagined, it has its own Australian story to tell.”

The macadamia tree is used in commercial farming to grow macadamia nuts, but the timber from the decommissioned trees has not previously been used – it often ends as mulch, or is piled up and burnt. As one example, a farm in Bundaberg is taking out 10,000 macadamia trees in the current financial year to decrease stock and allow remaining trees to have a higher yield of nuts.

Sclpt by Alexander Lotersztain for Table Stories. Image: Supplied
Sclpt by Alexander Lotersztain for Table Stories. Image: Supplied

 

The challenge for the designers was to work out a way to use this timber, which has never been treated as a commercial product. They started at the beginning of the supply chain with raw logs from the field, sending them to the mill for sawing and storing them for seasoning. Then the wood had to be dressed ready for manufacture. What they found was a beautiful and unique hardwood, a truly interesting and Australian resource.

“What’s challenging about the material is that it is not considered a viable lumber, so research on how to harvest it and treat it is almost non existent,” explains Marc. “So before we can even start to design we had to learn how to prepare it, and that was what you can’t see behind the Quench objects, and what makes this set of objects so special.”

Vessel by Jason Bird for Table Stories. Image: Supplied
Vessel by Jason Bird for Table Stories. Image: Supplied

Each designer took a different approach to the material, with Alex and Jason using CNC routers, David hand-carving, and Surya and Marc’s turned on a lathe. Each also used different materials to finish the timber, with Alex and Marc using raw macadamia nut kernel and natural coconut fibre, Jason using wax and Surya and David using lacquer.

According to Marc, macadamia wood will never be a viable material for use in housing or furniture because of its size and availability, but this project proves that it can be used successfully as a small, boutique material for objects and has the added advantage of being uniquely Australian.

More on Quench

Prop by David Shaw for Table Stories. Image: Supplied
Prop by David Shaw for Table Stories. Image: Supplied

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