I have a scar over my left eye and a chip in my front tooth that I’ve never bothered to fix, partly because I’m lazy, and partly because I believe our imperfections are as integral to who we are as the most perfect parts of ourselves. I know they’re not for everyone, so scars are also a way of filtering out people who care too much about perfection.
So what draws me to Artemano’s pieces is what they are not. They are not overly manufactured. The wood is not overly tamed, smoothed, polished. It emanates Somewhere Else, and seems to retain some of its wildness. That’s why Leonard Cohen’s beautiful lyrics are written across the walls of their St. Laurent store: “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in…”
The more I learn about how Artemano furniture is made here in Thailand, the more I realize what it takes to get and protect its imperfections. It would be less expensive and simpler not to keep the cracks, to make each piece almost identical. It takes more effort to protect originality than it does to create conformity. So how do they do it?
Finding a good supplier is almost as tricky as finding a good relationship. You know that list of must-haves you wrote about your ideal mate, once upon a time? Artemano has one too. The supplier must: treat his employees with respect, offer fair prices, and have a supply of high quality wood that is sustainably farmed, as well as the facilities to dry it. And he must care more about craftsmanship than profit.
Choosing wood. Think long days under hot, hot sun, inspecting every log within fields of logs to choose the most beautiful, healthy wood.
Here the tape measure decides which logs will become dining room tables, coffee tables, consoles, because the goal is to use as much of the log as possible, to minimize waste.
Cutting the wood. Sometimes the tree gets to decide what it will become simply because of its shape – they look for ways to bring out the beauty of the unusual growths, so that they become unusually beautiful pieces.
(Some logs contain unexpected surprises.)
Drying the wood. Suar wood comes from plantations, and grows very quickly, and it retains a lot of moisture. Drying it properly is an art, and the drying process ensures that the wood will keep its colour and shape.
So it gets baked either in what look like oversized baker’s oven, or in huge rooms heated to specific temperatures that must be adjusted depending on the type of wood and its thickness.
Designing the final piece. Nine years of experience have taught Artemano how to design so that the wood has space to expand and contract as the seasons change.
As Artemano’s co-founder Eyal told me, “I take the beauty that comes from nature and turn it into something that is practical for the home”. Inspiration comes also from the efforts of local artisans, from their suppliers, and from you, their clients.
Fabrication. Some cracks must be fixed in order to ensure that the piece is strong, others are left as they are, simply because they’re beautiful. The decision as to what to keep and what to fix reflects years of fine-tuning Artemano’s own style.
Delivery! It takes almost 5 months from the day the Artemano team chooses the wood in a faraway field, to the day it arrives in their showroom.
It’s not for everyone – some of us prefer sleek lines and consistently perfect surfaces - but for those of us who don’t, every shipment contains new surprises. Eyal loves to tell the story of the client who wanted to buy a dining room table from them. She asked to visit the warehouse so that she could choose from the tabletops available. Why? “I want to choose my cracks”, she said. Because for some of us, the imperfections are the key to perfection.
All images copyright Conteska Photography