A UK-based designer is training trees to grow into fully-formed pieces of furniture by guiding the branches around special moulds over a number of years. Matthew Stock reports.
Gavin Munro tends to his crop in this field in Derbyshire. But he isn't your typical farmer... and this isn't your typical crop. This is furniture. Munro has spent nearly 10 years perfecting the technique for training a tree into fully-formed, one of a kind, items of furniture. Making chairs, lamps and tables this way, he says, is a more efficient use of resources and eco-friendly. (SOUNDBITE) (English) GAVIN MUNRO, FOUNDER OF FULL GROWN, SAYING: "The process that we go through to make a chair nowadays, the way we've been doing, is almost ludicrous. We grow these trees for sixty years before they're worth cutting down, and then we make them into smaller and smaller bits, only to stick them back together again in ways that can only ever come loose over time." Successfully coaxing a tree into the correct shape didn't come easy. His first chair prototypes were trained to grow the normal way up, but Munro soon realised that growing a chair more effectively meant turning it on its head. (SOUNDBITE) (English) GAVIN MUNRO, FOUNDER OF FULL GROWN, SAYING: "We grow the chairs upside down and we start with one branch that spreads out into the chair-back. So, you've gone from one to two, and then the seat, and then you've got the four legs; and it's much more of a tree shape." Munro's 'Furniture Field' is currently home to several tree species all slowly taking shape around special moulds. Despite planning just 50 pieces of furniture in the initial crop - this amounts to thousands of branches and shoots that need constant love and attention. And it hasn't gone unnoticed by locals, according to wife Alice. SOUNDBITE) (English) ALICE MUNRO, WHO CO-RUNS FULL GROWN WITH HUSBAND GAVIN MUNRO, SAYING: "A lot of people have been saying for quite a long time, yes - 'that's a bit bonkers, he's a crazy bloke in a field, what is he doing?' But actually there's been a lot of really positive reaction, especially recently. I think there's something very visceral, everybody wants to know about trees and seeing them in a slightly different way, everybody has an immediate response to it. There's been very, very few people who have just gone... [shrugs shoulders]." Munro's company Full Grown says to grow a chair takes between five and eight years -- with a dining table taking up to 15. This hasn't put off buyers, who've already snapped up most of the first batch, at a cost of about £4,000 per chair. Once the business has put down roots, Full Grown says the Furniture Field could be expanded... so for Gavin Munro money really could grow on trees.