Friday, November 16, 2007

Being Environmental Without Being "Green" - The Design World of Wells Mason

The tag line on the "about us" page of Wells Mason's company Ironwood Industries reads "mean what you build" and we believe he does.

The Austin based company woodworking and metalworking studio produces furniture with designs from "resuscitated materials" that might otherwise land in landfills or scrap yards. Mason's Umasi Collection, composed of chairs and tables, is whimsical, elegant, and metaphoric.

Polished design elements of each Umasi piece seem to leaning on the raw material of bulky wood slabs - becoming entirely dependent on them for support. A chair becomes a poetic statement of man's inability to escape his reliance on nature, as much as the immediate need for us to solve what to do with the vestiges of that which we use and abandon. The result is effective, elegant and modern.

Mason uses materials that he describes as having a virtual absences of "embedded energy costs" - the kind of costs associate with typical recycled materials. He uncovers his materials from local shops, suppliers, and scrap yards. The artist steers clear of what he calls glamourous recycled materials like sunflower seed plywood or bamboo or milk-jug plastic. In his approach the energy savings are in the costs associated with reprocessing, repackaging and redistributing the typical recycled materials.

Mason also distinguishes himself from other sustainable furniture designers, by not associating with "being green." Instead he aligns himself with the likes of landscapers who control erosion with used tires, or architects who re imagine old buildings into new spaces.

His approach might not be typically "green," but it is boldly telling of what it takes for all of us to to change the direction of the excess and misuse of our existent resources; going local, thinking out of the box of how to use what we already have, and to re imagine use of resources available to create new purpose.

The work of Wells Mason is as much about innovative design, as it is a statement on how we must redefine our own approach to living sustainably.

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