A Time for Reflection

Woodcraft

As we wrap up the year and reflect upon all we’ve accomplished; we feel abundantly fortunate. A year that has challenged every part of our being, has also offered us moments of satisfaction and gratitude. We have had the honor of working with various patrons of the arts community to produce uniquely gorgeous functional art pieces. We have further collaborated to produce some all-time favorite projects; some of which we’ve shared through our newsletters.

One such pleasure has been working with Chris Cecil to design a conference table for Biltmore Family Office, a collaborative family office and wealth advisory firm headquartered in Charlotte, N.C. A couple of years ago we received a call from Biltmore Estate’s arborist, Bill Hascher. Bill had been asked to remove a huge walnut tree that was encroaching on an estate home, and being ever resourceful, called us to see if we could make good use of the lumber it might yield. Now, yard trees almost always have issues inside the wood, but this tree boasted a 30” diameter and appeared relatively solid. So, we purchased the log with the hope that it could certainly have some use between any defects.

Stable woodcraft requires dry lumber, and walnut lumber of this type takes years to dry. It was not until this year that the wood was ready to use; just in time for Chris’ plan to commission a significant conference table for his new Charlotte office. While some antique walnut in a barn on Biltmore Farms grounds was originally targeted for this commission, this newer material seemed more perfectly suited to the size of the table needed. Conversations with Chris lead to more refinement in the design details. From the beginning, the project benefited from a perfect combination of clear direction and creative freedom.

The goal was to display the full power of this magnificent tree while celebrating Biltmore’s contribution to Asheville’s history but reconciling the size of the table and length of the lumber would require some creative structuring. Initially, we played with a simple geometric layout but with some nudging decided to explore something a bit bolder. A sunburst pattern became our vision. Walnut would hold prominence with a compatible contrasting wood as the centerpiece. Because of the linear direction of the walnut grain radiating from the center, we sought a non-linear, lighter-colored, material for the center.

As it turned out, we happened to have some extraordinary, quilted maple that illuminated with a flashy chatoyance. A combination of hand carving and CNC milling was used to pierce through the maple, a wheat sheaf image taken from a section of the Cecil family crest and used as the logo for Biltmore Family Office. The wheat sheaf is often found as part of heraldic family crests throughout the world and is symbolic of a good harvest, abundance, and closeness to the earth and her resources. The contrasting walnut veneer behind the pierced maple was then leveled with water-clear resin, revealing the walnut’s depth and luster through the curvy wheat windows.

When we talked about technology support for this piece, the office only required a couple of conference line access holes. With a nod to whimsy, Chris suggested they run through natural knotholes. In execution, that meant that for our initial veneer sawing we needed a board with a knothole positioned just right so the phones could be halfway between the centerpiece and the ends of the table. However, for visual balance-that was a lot of walnut surface for just two small knot holes, so we carefully added four companion knot holes to the composition. The overall impact was exactly what we had in mind and symbolizes moments of synergy converging to manifest a shared vision.

For more than 100 years, the Vanderbilt and Cecil families have supported craftsmen from near and far. We feel deeply honored to be a part of this long line of masters contributing to this legacy, and for reuniting wood originally purchased from Biltmore Estate with the Cecil family and Chris’ Biltmore Family Office.

Thank you for your patience and continued patronage.
We wish you all a very Happy, Healthy Holiday Season!

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