By Mikaela STONE
The Fine Arts Club of Pasadena is honoring woodworker Christopher Grant Ward with an honorarium for his selection of “biophilic furniture,” or furniture inspired by the patterns found in nature, carved from sustainable mahogany. As a Sparr Heights resident, Ward not only carves whimsical furniture, he also restores to their original beauty classic furniture and homes in Glendale, La Crescenta and Pasadena. Ward’s business, Rosemary Home Design, provides on-site restoration, refurbishing or replacing of doors, window frames, fireplaces and beams and he even offers interior design. He supports other local businesses by purchasing his glass inlays from R.D. Gibbs in Glendale and his wood materials from Swaner Hardwood in Burbank. Swaner Hardwood ethically sources mahogany from Samartex in Ghana. Samartex Wood Processing prides itself on social responsibility, running a school for 1,315 students up to the junior high level and providing scholarships for high achieving students to attend high school. He also supports a 93-bed hospital facility and maintains road infrastructure.
Ward fell in love with carving furniture during his 10 years flipping houses. Since then, he has spent a year and a half devoted to creating sustainable projects that will last generations. With his fine arts background, Ward uses his pen and ink sketches of patterns in plants and animals that interest him to inspire the designs he carves, translating them into more abstract styles.
“The idea isn’t to be super realistic with it, just inspired by,” he said.
His dragonfly inspired table keeps the six legs of an insect but merely hints at the curve of the dragonfly’s wings and body with its concave sides. Similarly, hooves and horns can be spotted in his etagere and his moon jelly table balances on a squiggly base reminiscent of jellyfish tendrils with Bubinga wood inlays that match the crescents seen on the bells of moon jellies. It is his goal to create timeless pieces and avoid the fast paced production, short-lived pieces, and excessive waste that have become common.
The most elaborate of the pieces shown at an upcoming meeting of the Fine Arts Club of Pasadena will be the Idyllia Door, which tells the narrative of the passage of time. The outside of the door shows a daytime scene with the patterns of sunbeams and insect wings woven together to represent the transition of spring into summer. On the inside, a pair of birds “settle in” for the night, representing the beauty of winter. For the door’s hardware, Ward reclaimed metal pieces from the 1910s.
“Whenever we pass through the door we’re adding to the narrative of our life going by,” he said.
Another unique aspect of Christopher Grant Ward’s art is the inclusion of “imperfect” wood pieces. When wind blows through forests it creates tiny cracks, or “shakes,” in the trees as they withstand and adjust to the gusts, which Ward compared to stretch marks on humans. While wind shakes do not undermine the strength of the wood, many carvers find them unsightly. Ward, however, goes out of his way to find pieces of lumber with wind shakes as a reminder that the tree had been alive – the asymmetrical nature of the shakes goes along with his works’ theme of natural patterns.
So what’s next for Ward? While he has plans to attend art festivals in La Jolla, Carlsbad and Redlands, Ward loves the community and loves working locally. He acknowledged that many local homeowners are not aware of the options available to them for restoration, and he looks forward to working with future clients to create custom options from a variety of eras, bringing function and beauty together – and pieces that tell a story.