Most often when we think of art, painting, drawing, sculpture and possibly photography comes to mind. But art travels far beyond these mediums and can be applied to just about any activity where ingenuity and creativity combine with a specific skill set to produce an original outcome. Think the perfect golf swing, surfing down the face of a pitching wave, writing compelling fiction or crocheting a beanie. Craftsmen Douglas Gordon and Thorben Wuttke create quality furniture, an art form requiring imagination, precise measurements, power tools and an intimate knowledge with the medium of choice, wood.
As co-owners of the Honolulu Furniture Company in Kaka'ako, Douglas and Thorben are crafting beautiful, modern pieces of furniture sourced from local lumber. "Koa is the king of Hawai'i, but monkeypod is the tree of Hawai'i," says Thorben, fondly eyeing the massive slabs of monkeypod that adorn the entrance to their workshop. "It's everywhere you look. It has a nice canopy and they come down all the time. Monkeypod has a beautiful color, it's very hard and very bug resistant. And the cost is like a fraction of koa."
Sourcing monkeypod (Samanea saman) from local O'ahu mills, as well as other finds like sugi pine and silky oak, the duo has found a way to create interesting production pieces using Hawai'i lumber, foregoing the need to import any of their organic materials, the medium for their art. The salvaged monkeypod wood is from area trees, at least 40 years old, that have either reached the end of their life cycle or have to come down to make way for development. Instead of the felled tree going to the landfill, Thorben and Doug are using the wood with its interesting features and eccentric grain to hand fashion furniture to last generations.
"I've never thought about specific styles, I just build what I think looks nice," says Thorben. "With the monkeypod, we're creating a furniture style for Hawai'i, Honolulu Style."
Beyond providing stock for the smart investment of quality furniture made with quality lumber, Thorben has spearheaded the use of reclaimed lumber for his custom pieces on a retail scale in a line he calls Forward Thinking Furniture.
"I have made furniture out of just about everything you can image," explains Douglas, "and recycled wood has its own charm. It has a lot of character because it is used. It's got nails and dirt and paint, which is a problem for the machines, but it does have a lot of character when you're done and it's a material that's getting reused."
As Honolulu Furniture Company celebrates their one-year anniversary this April, Douglas and Thorben are awestruck at the pace their business has grown. When they first moved into the industrial space, their 5,500-square foot, two-story workshop seemed spacious and open. Now, with stockpiles of lumber (including a healthy stash of koa) drying in the back, a professional team of craftsmen and designated work areas for other area woodworkers who share their vision and passion, Honolulu Furniture Company is the definition of Honolulu style.