Some customers come to our showrooms looking to ‘stump’ us (pardon my pun) with this question. You expect us to give a general answer that tells you nothing and that’s when you can really start to nail us to the wall. It’s a completely reasonable suspicion. I probably would have the same thought process if Hardwood Artisans wasn’t such a big part of my life. I’ve used our furniture since I was a baby, quite literally. My father is John Hillgren and he met my mom, Jennifer, through the company itself. My mom worked in the office as an accountant. One day, my dad walked up to her (with his bobbing afro, mind you) and said ‘I’m sorry, but I need you to come to my office, you’re distracting all of the craftsmen’. Just as my parents met through the company, so did my aunt and uncle. Not to mention both my Aunt Denny and my Uncle Steven work with the company as well. I’m definitely not far from the truth when I say that my entire family has been a part of Hardwood Artisans.
About every employee here has known me since I was in diapers. I’ve been proud of Hardwood Artisans since the get-go, often bragging to my elementary school friends that my father owned a furniture business. My siblings and I used to run around the floor of the shop gathering up scrap wood and gluing the scrap together into miniature furniture so our Barbie dolls could enjoy hardwood furniture as well. I knew that the company made wood furniture, but I never knew where it came from or how we acquire it. I’m well versed on the company, but I never knew the whole story of our wood until I sat down with Mark Gatterdam, Greg Gloor, Kevin Carlson, and John Buss.
So once again, where does our wood come from? To begin, let’s first answer the question that you’re really thinking. “Do you clear-cut forests for your own pleasure and benefit?” The answer is incredibly simple; No. All four of these men had a different way of informing me of this, but it just comes down to the fact that we do not clear cut or burn down forests for our furniture, nor do we work with companies who do. Our goal in this business is not to get involved in a dishonest market; it’s to provide people with long-lasting furniture in a sustainable way. The companies we work with don’t just cut down trees for lumber – they also have regeneration programs put in place. They replant trees, so their resources aren’t consistently being depleted. I didn’t know about regeneration programs before this, and that really caught my attention. It’s good to know that our furniture is not only sustainable in its longevity but the wood we procure is constantly being replanted.
It’s funny to me that this question consistently comes up. Not because it’s surprising – heck, clear cutting forests is part of the United States’ history and heritage. Trees were in the way of railroads, farms, roads, houses. Everything, it seemed, was more important than trees, so they were burned and clear-cut until a civilization was created. I understand that forestry is a big part of our world, and that the worries over our trees are significant. However, both Mark and Greg assured me that there is several times the volume of trees in the United States than there was hundreds of years ago. What makes me laugh is the fact that we’ve advertised that we’re a local business and that our furniture lasts a lifetime, but most people don’t know anything about where our wood comes from or just how sustainable the company is. When I’m asked to describe Hardwood Artisans, the first things that come to mind is long lasting furniture and the craftsmen’s passion, not where we get our wood from.
For starters, most of our wood comes from the East Coast. As many of you may know (and probably have experienced), the climate throughout the United States differs from coast to coast. For example, if you were to come to the Washington, DC area in the middle of July, you can expect 100% humidity… yet it won’t be raining (this we experienced at last year’s Lemonade Social). The woods we get are primarily northeastern run, which means they are already acclimated to the East coast climate. If you were to bring wood over from Hawaii to here, let’s say Choya wood, there’s a possibility it could respond oddly to the climate adjustment. If you’re worried about your Mahogany or exotic wood piece, don’t be. We get our Mahogany from Belize currently, but it’s a stable wood, and therefore not wholly affected by switching climates. The advantage of getting our wood from this area is the fact that we know the climate, we know how the wood reacts, and the wood is used to the moisture content and temperature.
We’re always up for working with exotic wood, but we’re always careful to make sure the piece can expand and contract safely.
More details on the location of our lumber – our Cherry wood comes from Pennsylvania and New York. Our Birch, Maple, and Oak timber comes from New York. Walnut is from Kentucky and Indiana, and Ash comes from just about everywhere. Mahogany is the only wood that we import from South America. It’s certified under the FSC and is also listed under the CITES, which means it can’t be imported unless the proper forms and pedigree are filled out first.
Another question you may be wondering is why don’t we certify all of our wood? We used to – Larry Spinks (one of the founders of Hardwood Artisans) was actually on the FSC board. The FSC is the forest Stewardship Council. It’s a nonprofit organization that supports the proper management of the world’s forests. They’re generally involved in certification of forests and lumber. Certified wood, however, costs about 15% more. This may seem like an unjustified excuse, but that 15% counter into the price of our furniture. While all of the owners would like to be FSC certified, at the moment we can’t rationalize it, especially when our lumber companies are already doing their best. The price hike is mostly due to the fact that the lumber companies are required to go through the certification process – which is basically lots of paperwork and additional work. Especially when most of the places we get our wood from are already working as though they were FSC certified and a lot of our wood already comes from FSC certified state forests.
So, now that you know that our wood practically comes from your backyard. You know the clean truths about our hardwood furniture; do you still want to nail us to the stump? If you have any more questions, feel free to comment on this blog or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by – Lorelei Hillgren, Hardwood Artisans Marketing Coordinator.