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Reso­nance with Nature

Andrea Brugi Olive Wood
Rustic Olive Wood Boards, by Andrea Brugi 

Sliced through, wood reveals the passing of time. Seasons of growth, moments of change and reform­ing are recalled by the inte­rior rings and shift­ing tones. From the forest to the table. 

For a long time after kitchens became more central to our homes, no longer tucked into the corner and restricted to unseen work, time and ageing processes were banished from modern kitchens. In their place, the sterile, easy-wipe, unchang­ing envi­ron­ments offered by plas­tics, sili­cones and stain­less steel prevailed. Today, we witness a slow cultural shift towards re-appre­ci­at­ing tradi­tional, natural and hand­made kitchen goods, from earth wares and bone-handled knives to wooden plat­ters, bowls and boards. 

Recon­nec­tion with the prac­tice and notion of hand­made goods is what drives Joshua Vogel of Black Creek Mercan­tile & Trading Co., makers of a wide range of wood prod­ucts includ­ing beautiful boards.

Far from a sterile product, hand­made wooden boards are rich with the impre­ci­sion and person­al­ity of the wood and crafts­man­ship of their making. For Joshua Vogel, hand­made goods are quite simply all about the hands. He sees an innate value and inti­macy in an object passing directly from the hands of the maker to those of the user. But he sees beyond that too, creat­ing pieces to last not just for years, but to be handed down for gener­a­tions to come. These endur­ing pieces are shaped from sustain­ably harvested domes­tic hard­woods, each with their own unique patina and grain. The boards achieve a kind of posture and poise, a silence that recalls the time spent in deep study of the natural beauty of these native trees, from black walnut and sycamore to white oak and maple. Beyond func­tion and connec­tion, these boards bring warmth and life into the kitchen. 

Jonty Hampson, UK
Jonty Hampson, in his workshop

Hampson Woods was also formed from the idea of bring­ing afford­able craft pieces into people’s homes and every­day lives. Hand-carved in their Cumbria work­shop from a single plane of ash, sycamore or elm, the boards have no joints to come apart at, no inher­ent weak points or reliance on addi­tives such as glues. With their soft­ened edges, the rounded necks of the handles crane away slightly to balance the weight when they are carried. In the palm of the ash carving board, a traced leaf detail collects the juices that flow from a freshly carved Sunday roast or a ripe stone fruit. 

Main­tain­ing a wooden board is simple but inti­mate phys­i­cal work: the soft pres­sure of oiling, the scents released, the circu­lar motion of buffing. Perhaps the phys­i­cal­ity of these main­te­nance rituals inten­si­fies the deep satis­fac­tion that comes from oiling a board, seeing it nour­ished and its deep colour rein­vig­o­rated. In use, a wooden board gathers char­ac­ter through its scratches. The marks of a knife rocking over the surface write another tale of time over the older knots and rings of the wood. 

The value of natural pieces isn’t only in the aesthetic and quality of the product. Each piece fore­grounds the connec­tion between our every­day lives and commu­ni­ties and natural envi­ron­ments around us. Each wooden board begins as a tree, nurtured and grown to full strength, before being selected, felled, and even­tu­ally carved into a specific piece. Record­ing this lineage, each Hampson Woods board is adorned with a label describ­ing the prove­nance of the wood. Sourced from small inde­pen­dent merchants connected to wood­land manage­ment systems, each board can be pinpointed the whole way back to a specific tree. With the entire life­cy­cle trace­able and shared, home­own­ers are connected not only to the crafts­men who formed their pieces, but deeper, back to the growing forests. 

Olive Wood Cutting Board

For Andrea Brugi, this connec­tion of what he makes with how and where he makes it is funda­men­tal. Growing up surrounded by olive groves in Tuscany, Brugi fell in love with the construc­tion and recon­struc­tion of the old houses in the hilltop villages he visited with his father. Today, the inter­wo­ven smells and stories of these places, mate­ri­als and memo­ries fold into the objects he and his wife, Samina Lang­holz, make together. Their collab­o­ra­tion is natural and easy, stem­ming from a mutual respect for the wood and a pulling together of his rustic roots with her more minimal Scandinavian aesthetic. 


Passion for the simple life and reso­nance with nature is at the fore­front of their work. One of their iconic pieces, an olive cutting board, is made from local 400 to 1000 year old Tuscan olive trees. Protected for as long as they continue to fruit, the trees can only be felled when their fruit-bearing days are over. At that point they are ready to take on another life, to be shaped into boards for cutting and serving. The specifics of each now ancient piece of wood, wrought over centuries, inspires and deter­mines the design. From other woods they create highly specific tools: polenta boards and egg plates, pizza boards and sculp­tural bowls hand-carved from the roots of the olive tree. Where a piece cannot be finished from a single piece of wood, or a natural crack is too large, they use refined versions of tradi­tional joint­ing tech­niques, cele­brat­ing the special aesthetic of a butter­fly or biscuit joint. Their prac­tice is a window into the conti­nu­ity of life. 

Over time, a wooden board takes on the patterns of its use, bearing the marks of the meals made and shared. Central to the prac­tice of prepar­ing and cooking, a wooden board hovers between the mundane and the unique, the precious and the every­day. With each board being traced back to a differ­ent tree and a differ­ent hand, notions of time, nature and craft are recalled with every use, bring­ing us closer to the places we live and the commu­ni­ties we connect with. When we use wooden boards, we find ourselves dream­ing of whole forests from the sanc­tu­ar­ies of our kitchens.

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