Having a treehouse in your backyard (or even a backyard, for that matter) is a treat that most of us who grew up here in New York City never got to experience, but Benjamin Jones wants to change that. The artist and set designer recently brought his TreeHouse made of recycled materials back to the FIGMENT festival on Governors Island for the third year in a row, and it's bigger and brighter than ever! Click through our gallery to take a mini tour of the TreeHouse's new features, which include a gazebo made of old desks and three specially-commissioned artwork installations.
Passing Analog Modern’s stall at BKLYN Designs, it was hard not to notice the many wooden butterflies that covered one of the walls and made their way into the company’s furniture. Wedged between each of three layers of air-dried walnut flitch, bleached maple butterfly sliding dovetails provided support for the slightly spiraling structure. When asked why so many butterflies, Buley explained, “It’s a shape that’s used in traditional woodworking, but [I’m] using it a little bit differently. Normally it’s used to suture together a big crack in a slab so it keeps pieces apart. This is kind of a reverse of the grain direction. It’s still functional but it’s a different function. I like taking old school techniques and doing something with them.”
Beyond the many hints of Buley’s appreciation for traditional craftsmanship, the designer is also concerned with how he sources his materials. He tries to use locally reclaimed woods and domestic hardwoods as much as possible. For instance, the air-dried walnut comes from just 90 miles away from a stone mason in Pennsylvania who dabbles in other things, such as harvesting wood. Buley prefers to use naturally air-dried wood as opposed to commercially, kiln-dried timber because of the natural contrast that is maintained in the process, making for a funkier material that yields more unique results.
As an alternative to new woods, Analog Modern is also always on the lookout for salvaged material that add a deeper layer of history to the designs. For instance, the Keyaki Screen was created from reclaimed Japanese Elm bought from a warehouse in DUMBO. Come to find out, the wood formerly served as posts in an old house. The pieces are joined and prominently displayed by a dovetailed oak frame which stands on top of butterfly supports, allowing the sculptural work to also stand on its own as a room divider.
Another example of Analog’s resourcefulness and appreciation for the old showed through in the a cabinet featuring an old water-main shut-off. The design was inspired by a visit Buley took to his sister in Vermont where he came across an old pulley that he incorporated into a shelf the year before. The design received a warm welcome for its interactive nature and Buley immediately began to search for used wheel structures, this time encountering the right fit on eBay. “It was such a beautiful old shape and such a utilitarian object but 120 years ago or whenever it was made, people put time into making simple things,” explains Buley.
To finish their clean designs, Analog Modern uses both water and oil-based stains and top coats drawn from traditional recipes, such as tung and citrus oil. The pieces are not only sustainable as defined by the manufacturing process, but durable as well. “The main thing I think is using joinery that lasts,” states Buley. “You can have something that’s green, green, green but then if it lasts three years then it totally doesn’t make sense. The techniques have been around long enough that they’ve proven themselves to be archival joints so taking that history and those techniques and combining them into new objects that hopefully will be heirloom pieces.”