interview :: wake the tree

Katie | November 1, 2016

Wake the Tree Furniture Co. is a small studio in Central Pennsylvania. Devoted to making ‘simple modern furniture’, the studio’s products are all made by hand by second generation wood worker Anthony Becker, whose father taught him everything he knows. Editor, Katie Treggiden, caught up with Anthony to find out more…

What's the most important thing to know about you?

I’m a perfectionist – content with simplicity.

interview :: wake the tree

Where do good ideas come from?

From an alert, positive mind in daily life interactions and experience, from being observant, impressionable and present in circumstance and environment.

interview :: wake the tree

Tell me about you Sunny Side Up Dining Table - what inspired that design?

My wife and I were using a vintage table with similar lines, and I wanted to improve upon and simplify the design using solid, beautiful wood.

interview :: wake the tree

Talk me through its design and making process from initial idea to final product.

I was working out of my father’s shop at the time, and was browsing through a bin of metal, left over from my brother’s go-cart project when we were kids. I was struck by the shape and simplicity of a remnant of steel tubing and couldn’t get it out of my head. At this point I had already tried a leg design using only wood and it had failed. I made a few angled cuts, found a bit more steel and ran it down the street to a farmer/welder friend. After a few quick welds, I had something I could work with. The rest was only a matter of fine tuning angles, shapes and methods — all worked out in the first few tables.

interview :: wake the tree

Why did you choose to work with walnut and powder-coated, mild, low-carbon steel?

Walnut is a natural choice because of its beautiful and interesting grain. More importantly, it’s also a tree that grows well in our region and that I can source from local and sustainably harvested sources such as the tree service industry. Powder coating is perfect because of its practicality, durability, and colour choices, and I love the glossy smooth, rich feel — it’s so nice to touch! I chose the mild, low-carbon steel for some of the same reasons — it’s readily available, practical and strong.

interview :: wake the tree

Why hand-make your own products rather than working with manufacturers?

I’ve always worked with my hands and enjoy it. I want to continue doing as much as I can with my own hands, but I do depend on manufacturers for a few raw components and simple processes. I’m not opposed to manufacturers, but I am opposed to the quality sacrifices that can come with the disconnect of a piece not being entirely envisioned, controlled and completed by one person.

interview :: wake the tree

Tell me about a really good day and a really bad day in the life of Anthony Becker.

A good day is one where everything falls into place, my mind is present and alert, I’m super efficient and am able to cross everything off my usual overly ambitious to-do list. I start off with a run, alone with my dog in a misty forest before sunrise, on a trail through dewy ferns and mature trees. I have a few solid uninterrupted hours in the shop, then perhaps an early afternoon nap in my hammock strung up over boxes and packaging paper in our dark and quiet shipping room. I might wake up with an answer to a question about a new design I’ve been working on for months, and then rush to my desk and spent a few hours finishing up the design, planning and printing shop plans and adding the piece to my shop schedule.

A bad day is pretty much the opposite. I oversleep and get frustrated with myself for being too tired to get out of bed earlier, for not being more ambitious and productive — my mind is foggy and unable to concentrate on a single task and I walk back and forth between shop studio and office desk to jot down a note, glue-up a panel, sometimes forgetting why. I make some progress, but it feels like a depressingly small amount and at the end of the day my to-do list has not shrunk, but instead nearly doubled. I call these days ‘write-off’ days.

Both kinds of days do happen, but most are somewhere in the middle.

interview :: wake the tree

What defines good design?

Good design stimulates an instinctive, positive reaction and feeling. It’s a smooth (natural-feeling) interaction between human and object.

interview :: wake the tree

What are you most proud of?

Always of new designs – work to come.

interview :: wake the tree

What advice would you give to a new designer?

Be yourself, approach ideas and problems with your own unique perspective. Listen more, be patient, and don’t rush it!

interview :: wake the tree

Finally, what's your favourite colour?

I’m not really a favourite colour person, but I’ve had a RAL 6021 colour swatch on my desk for the past few months that I thoroughly enjoy looking at and touching.

interview :: wake the tree

Further Reading for the Especially Geeky ::

Founding Editor – Katie Treggiden

Having established confessions of a design geek in 2010, Katie Treggiden has gone on to a career in design journalism, writing for titles such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, Elle Decoration, Stylist, Design Milk and Ideal Home. In 2014, she launched Fiera, an independent magazine dedicated to discovering new talent at the world’s design fairs. Her second book, Makers of East London, was published in 2015.

Follow Katie on Twitter or Instagram.

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