I recently had the honour and pleasure of speaking with woodworker, environmentalist and inspiration Aaron Grant of Arisan Woods. I first met Aaron at the Buy Good Feel Good Expo, where I was drawn in by the gorgeous pieces and interesting concept, reflecting an approach to design, home decor and woodworking that we could all benefit from; beautiful altruism. Never using clear-cut wood, their pieces and inspiration come from fallen trees, or trees that have had to come down for one reason or another. It was incredible hearing Aaron’s story and I’m excited to share it with you.
"Well honestly, the Buy Good Feel Good Expo was the soft launch for our new concept, Arisan Woods. I have been woodworking for 12 years, but only recently got into the business of selling it. My wife Corne, and I live in Grimsby Ontario, but I was working a corporate job in Toronto that had me commuting in a car for four hours a day. I hated it, and I started getting sciatic pain from all the time spent sitting and driving. I also couldn’t stand to spend so much time away from my family. So, two years ago I decided to quit and my wife Corne and I started working on Arisan Woods full time."
They make and sell luxury home décor items, including benches, coffee tables, cutting and curing boards, world maps and other inspring pieces, out of ethically sourced wood. Their wood comes mostly from fallen trees, or trees that have had to come down due for one reason or another, such as pruning. It is mostly local or Canadian wood, with a few exceptions.They try to make sure that each piece of wood has a story, or at least a story of how they found it. This is at the heart of the work they do, and allows for the production of
"For example, I found the maple wood for the bench crawling through a barn in the dark at 7pm in November two years ago. It just called out to me and I had to do something with it.However, we really started doing this to teach our kids to give back as much as they take, if not more. We wanted them to see the ways in which they can start to reduce their carbon footprint, and to be involved in the process and learn how they can give back. It was also important to us to try and create a better world for them."
While all their work is undoubtedly unique, I think their most standout pieces would have to be their coffee tables; they really are one of a kind. Each possessing a unique story, translated through the grains of the wood. "One of my favourites is the Big Leaf Maple wood coffee table; the piece came from a tree in BC that’s 100 years old!" The couple also makes and sells smaller home décor items, such as curing and cutting boards, carved world maps, wine holders as well as customized items. Each embracing their altruistic concept and posessing a beautiful story; making for functional items that double as intriguing conversation pieces. Each of their items is carefully handcrafted with the credo “if we wouldn’t want it in our home, we won’t allow it in yours.”
As an aspiring woodworker myself I was curious about the process, and the time it would take to produce their astounding pieces. "It is really difficult to say honestly, woodworking is funny like that. You need to wait to get inspired by the wood, wait for it speak to you. For instance I sat on a piece for 3 years, before completing it. It would also depend on the piece itself, and the condition its in; each one is unique. You’d also have to wait for the wood to dry before doing anything with it. Then wait for it to cure when you’re done, it really is a long game. Woodworking takes a lot of patience you can’t rush it. It is essentially a process of subtraction with the goal of bringing out the personality of the wood. It’s a dangerous game , because you don’t want to go too far and ruin the piece, it almost happened with one of the coffee tables, but I caught myself just in time!"
Their approach to design, and understanding of the wood, starting with sourcing and carried out throughout the production process, makes for an unparalleled portfolio of work that breathes life back into the wood. Inspired by the natural beauty of the woods they work with, Aaron & Corné often aren’t entirely sure what the finished item will look like as it comes alive under their hands. They even offer to create customized pieces, like these custom river tables, which beautifully complement and enliven any space, with the hopes doing the same to our forests.
The Buy Good Feel Good's mandate is to help support and promote ethical businesses like Arisan Woods. Their goal is to replenish our forests, and support reforestation by planting trees for every product sold. They've partnered with Matt Hill from the initiative One Tree Planted, a global initiative that makes planting trees easier. Trees help clean the air we breathe, filter the water we drink, and provide habitat to over 80% of the world's biodiversity. Forests provide jobs to over 1.6 billion people, absorb harmful carbon from the atmosphere, and are key ingredients in one quarter of all medicines. With their help, Arisan Woods has managed to plant 500 trees in BC from the products sold at the Buy Good Feel Good Expo, and hope to plant many more.
With all this under their belt, I bet we'd all like to know more about what the future is looking like for Arisan Woods.
"Our vision for the near future is to give people who purchase some of our high-end products, the choice of where to plant their own trees. In the hopes of getting people more involved in the process of giving back, since we all share the simple joy of being in and a part of nature." I believe there is infinite wisdom in this approach, and understanding, and their work truly does reflect this connection we have with nature, by attempting to bring life back into our "living" spaces and forests.
To see more of their work check out Arisan Woods.
For more information on how you can join the global movement and take part in a wonderful cause, check out One Tree Planted.
Interested in learning about more ethical businesses, or perhaps making an ethical investment, check out other vendors at Buy Good Feel Good.
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Researched and Written by Nathalie Ghawi, Double Major in Architecture and Urban Studies, University of Toronto.