W O O D S C A P E S
F i n e F u r n i t u r e b y B r i a n P e t e r s
"Woodscapes" describes my relationship with the forest and the way I feel about wood. The figure, colour and quality of local and exotic timbers join with the utilitarian needs and aesthetic desires of my clients to challenge and direct me through the design and production of fine furniture.
I strive to maximize the value of the wood I use. I seek to develop sustainability, and I aspire to self-sufficiency. In assembling, joining, shaping, and finishing, I try to celebrate the qualities of wood and reveal its potential beauty.
The creation of fine furniture, from concept to completion, is my medium for expression, my humble effort at harnessing the splendor of wood and producing beautiful tools for living.
I gain great satisfaction from doing things for myself, meeting my needs directly by using the resources at hand. Self-sufficiency has been our goal as, together with my family, we develop our homestead in the Margaree Valley of Cape Breton Island.
Thirty years ago, after moving into the Acadian forest of Cape Breton, we cleared the land for our homesite, set up a small sawmill and cut the timber for our house, workshop and outbuildings. We built an energy-efficient home with our own wood, designed and built an attached solar greenhouse, a composting toilet, a micro hydro-electric system, organic gardens, and animal houses.
We established our homestead in the middle of the forest. We are surrounded by wood. The Acadian forest has sustained us with Sugar Maple, Yellow Birch, American Beech, Red Maple, White Birch, Red Oak, Black and White Ash, White Pine, White and Black Spruce, Tamarack for construction, furniture and firewood, maple syrup, a myriad of fungi, and precious recreation.
Since my lifeís work is based on using the products of the forest, I harvest little and make products as valuable as possible. We heat our home and workshop with wood, which we cut on a sustainable basis from our 300 acre woodlot. We make every effort to protect the larger forest landscape from activities that we believe constitute mismanagement. We have actively opposed the spraying of insecticides and herbicides on Nova Scotia Forests, and have taken opportunities to influence forest policy and practices of government and industry.
In the South Pacific, where our family spent almost six years living and working in Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands, I learned about lowland tropical rainforests. Large scale export logging threatens the magnificent Melanesian forests. As an alternative, I provided management training to village groups on small portable sawmills and basic furniture construction. This included writing and publishing manuals on sustainable resources, laws governing the forest, logging and sawmilling, marketing and accounting, as well as facilitating workshops and training on issues of community development.
I believe that sustainability is the most important concept to emerge out of the environmental movement and that developing sustainability is the responsibility of every user of the planetís resources. To genuinely manage our forests sustainably -- so that we are not depleting the resource, so that we successfully maintain biodiversity, and so that we adequately rehabilitate areas in need -- may be well beyond our current knowledge and sensibilities. We need to focus more on managing human activity in the forest, thereby making a lighter footprint on the world, and concede that the forest ecosystem is far too complicated and integrated to be "managed" by us.
Our years in the southern hemisphere taught our family many things, perhaps the most important of which is that we are part of a community no matter where we live, and we have the responsibility to contribute to the community. We have learned that our attitudes and activities in the North affect people in the South. And that we must be more honest about our needs and more careful about our consumption, so that our brothers and sisters in the South will have better access to resources and greater environmental security.
Exposure to cultures radically different from ours has shown us that there are many structures and traditions that we can learn from, and has given us important perspective on our own culture.
When working with small sawmills in the South, often I accepted timber as payment for management and training services. I brought these timbers home with me and use them in conjunction with local hardwoods. I feel that using wood from both hemispheres, with its contrasts and compliments, is an expression of North-South solidarity.
When I first drove into Margaree in 1970, on a vacation from Manitoba, I felt like I had come home. Perhaps it was the same lush green hillsides and enchanted river valley that I had seen in a movie as a child that kindled the feeling of familiarity and peace.
The Margaree is a world-class Atlantic Salmon river, now designated as a Canadian Heritage River. Its watershed comprises 12% of Cape Breton Island; and it encompases a vast array of ecosystems from the highland headwaters of the North-East, to Lake Ainslie and the South West, to the estuary and Margaree Harbour.
Margaree is comprised of a number of small communities which were established by French, Irish and Scottish settlers in the 18th and 19th centuries. Other small settlements emerged along the main brooks of the watershed until the population peaked in the 1890s. By the middle of the 20th century the employment opportunities of industry had attracted a significant number of Margaree people away from the land and many of the remote settlements were abandoned. Eleven villages remain nestled in the valleys of this beautiful river system and make up the Margaree community.
Today people make their living through fishing, farming, forestry and tourism. Most of these activities are seasonal, and many households engage in subsistence activities and small enterprises. There is a strong tradition of woodworking in Margaree. In days gone by there were hundreds of sawmills in the watershed. A few remain, but now a pulp mill at the Strait of Canso consumes the majority of the harvest. In the mid-1900s a chairmaker, Ernest Hart, who used water power to run his workshop, supplied the island with chairs. Today there are many carpenters and cabinetmakers in Margaree, inspired by the beauty of the valley and the quality of its forest products.
Box 49 Margaree Center, Nova Scotia, Canada B0E 1Z0 / firstname.lastname@example.org / 902.248.2211