By Andrew Walters and Didier Guenard
The art of revealing a straight line within a curve
Didier Guenard is a known artist, furniture maker, and restorer from France that specialized in wooden art and décor. His signature creations are works of fine furniture made from vintage and antique oak barrels. Didier uniquely repurposed, perfected, and mastered the wood of these vessels, teaching the world – the art of revealing a straight line within a curve.
For centuries oak barrels have been used to store and transport wine and spirits, but they also have a second life as a material for making artistic furniture. The sturdy and durable oak wood can be transformed into unique and beautiful pieces that add a rustic and vintage charm to any space. The process of making artistic furniture from these barrels is a creative and innovative endeavor that requires a skilled craftsman. Here’s what Didier Guenard says about this process:
An oak barrel is made up of a certain number of wooden staves. The sum of their angles comes to 360°, which means they form a circle. If the angle is increased inside the barrel, less staves are needed to reach 360°; the diameter decreases, and the shape becomes like an elongated rugby ball. If the angle is inverted the shape is like a tam-tam, and the inside of the barrel becomes the outside.
After roughing out the wood with a mechanical saw comes the truing up, which creates perfectly flat surfaces. They are then adjusted into a coherent whole in order to clamp them during gluing and forced bending. The staves are often re-machined and glued in a series of steps as they take on other shapes. Next comes the moment of assembling the different elements. This is the most difficult and tricky stage, when two ‘beings’ are invisibly linked together.
Chairs and benches are fairly popular pieces of furniture to be made from oak barrels, yet few take the effort to make a throne like this! Didier’s Stingray design shows his ability to use the curved shapes of the barrel staves in the most complex and exotic ways.
And what colors! The wood fibers, aged by the passing years, acquired their colors through contact with red wine, giving this throne a rich, luxurious look. All parts are merged together to create a comfortable and sturdy seat that is ideal for any occasion. Again, I’ll let its maker speak of himself:
A combination of wood and metal makes this design possible: hidden inside the hollow body of solid oak, a skeleton of square steel tubing strengthens the pieces and limits the sideways shrinkage of the wood. The framework also enabled me to attach the legs and the tail and to reinforce the fins. It includes a system of springs that creates constant traction, adapting to the wood’s reactions to humidity changes and strengthening the delicate structure. The legs are solid: they are filled with a glued assemblage of several kinds of wood. A single unscrewable split peg holds each leg in place in its metal housing.
In addition to its aesthetic appeal, furniture made from old barrels is eco-friendly and has a strong sustainability aspect to it. By repurposing oak barrels, artists like Didier aren’t just functionally and artistically enriching our dwellings, they are helping to reduce waste and preserve the environment on the only planet that we call Home!
So save the world with style and comfort. These vintage barrels have that unforgettable cozy feel and result in surprising ergonomics. Let yourself be carried away by this sensuous creature of the deep whose tactile and visual contrasts create a unique sensory impression.
Didier Guenard on Stingray Throne’s fine finishes:
The contrasting finishes were obtained through alternative masking, which resulted in two different surfaces. The matte, non-fibrous elements are like the skate’s skin, and the other elements were glazed, polished, and bleached with hydrogen peroxide. The grain was highlighted with Blanc de Meudon, and an ultra-brilliant varnish containing mother of pearl was applied. Between the gills, under the seat, a discreet split peg activates a latch that opens a hatch leading to an empty area that allows one to access part of the inner mechanism, and a bolt that enables the seat and tail to be removed. Simultaneously sliding two lock bolts hidden under the bottom of the point makes the white polished chair back recline. It masks the metal structure of the seat back, the screw that enables the wooden back to be removed from its metal spinal column, the year the piece was built, and my lo go, which was hot-stamped into the wood: the words “Metamorphose Didier Guenard” placed on an infinity symbol.
To conclude the story of this stunning stingray, it is worth saying that acquiring artistic furniture from oak barrels is a creative and sustainable way of adding valuable works of fine wooden art to your home or office. The process of making such unique pieces requires skill, talent, creativity, and patience, but the end result is a one-of-a-kind artifact that is full of character and history!
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