Image for Far more beautiful left standing

THERE comes a time when one has to stop looking at one’s own desires and consider what is best for the larger community.

At the outset, let me declare that as a Tasmanian sculptor and designer/maker of furniture I have used our rainforest species of timber.

From today forward, all timber workers, myself included, have to re-examine their use of speciality timbers.

That said, what I will never do is use any timber cut within the boundaries of a World Heritage Area. Nor should anyone. Let me explain.

For years, I and other furniture makers fought the good fight to preserve speciality timbers from being wantonly destroyed by Forestry Tasmania’s belief that clearfelling rainforest for pulp plantations was “world’s best” practice.

During this time I salvaged good millable myrtle from areas that were soon torched. The waste of speciality timbers is beyond fathoming.

Should there ever be a Crimes against Speciality Timbers Royal Commission set up, the former heads of Forestry Tasmania should be in the dock as it is they — and not conservationists — who systematically ruined any future chance of there being a thriving, sustainable speciality timber industry in Tasmania.

Those days of relatively easy access to rainforest timbers are long gone.

We didn’t manage our forests properly in the past, and to now scramble to find new sources of speciality timbers within the World Heritage Area is to tarnish Tasmania’s clean and green branding — a branding so vital to maintaining a thriving tourism and arts industry.

There is, however, huge potential that Tasmania can be world class in its designer/maker abilities.

For this to happen, we — in the first instance — have to ge

t beyond thinking that only rainforest, oldgrowth speciality timbers are necessary for a successful design/manufacturing industry.

Instead, let’s move to using the many varieties of eucalypts and other species readily available. If Sweden and IKEA can do it with their softwood “pine” timber, so can we with our hardwood eucalypt.

I am of this opinion as, having taught and lectured on design all over the world, I can give a fairly accurate description of the more important aspects of the design process.

In particular, how would one answer this question — when and where are bird’s eye huon or tiger myrtle or black-heart sassafras important in the success of a furniture piece?

Well, to be truthful, rarely.

The reason for this is that form and function are the two main priorities of good design.

Surface decoration or type of wood used is superfluous.

Generally, it is the less capable designer/maker who depends on fancy woods to sell her or his work.

If Tasmania is to develop a global image of craftsmanship, let’s begin by not depending on the unimaginative and hugely expensive government policies that still revolve around current forestry practices. We need to move into a future where there is no hint whatsoever of a connection between our Tasmanian designer/makers and the island’s World Heritage Area.

Peter Adams ... beautiful creation: An artist’s sermon on that word ...

How this future is realised brings me to the second aspect of how our unique Tasmanian brand of furniture can create a vibrant niche market for itself.

We have to get beyond thinking that only rainforest, oldgrowth speciality timbers are necessary for a successful design/manufacturing industry.

In other words, who should be behind the marketing of our fledgling eucalypt-based furniture industry?

To this end, Tourism Tasmania, not Forestry Tasmania, should get behind designer/makers who presently, or will, use eucalyptus in their work and showcase them to the world.

In national and global advertising campaigns we can creatively change the focus from myrtle and other rainforest species of speciality timber to the more-than-beautiful dry sclerophyll trees, such as silver peppermint, black peppermint, blue gum and white gum.

And why not add silver wattle and plantation blackwood to the list while we are at it?

The branding of Tasmanian furniture needs to carry a logo, a signature stamped on the wood, showing that it is sourced outside the World Heritage Area.

Before the battlelines get drawn up yet again over the use of our forests, Tourism Tasmania can step in today and resolve this issue.

The bald truth is Forestry Tasmania as a brand of creative, imaginative thinking has been irreparably damaged.

By trashing our forests, it has trashed its reputation. It will take years to fix.

In the meantime, Tourism Tasmania is the appropriate venue to market the arts and our state’s wonderful natural advantage to the world.

Let us use our more than capable imaginative wits as designers and government policymakers to show the world that the trees in the World Heritage Area can remain long-lived, while our stunning designs and fabrications from non-WHA forests are being sought by every discerning tourist visiting this state.

What should guide this discussion is the notion that there is no piece of furniture or sculpture anywhere near as beautiful as the living, standing, oldgrowth tree.

Peter Adams has taught design at the University of Tasmania for seven years. He has also taught at Schumacher College in England, Haystack School in America, and was the resident designer/maker of furniture at Penland School of Crafts in America for five years. He holds a history degree from Harvard and a masters degree from Antioch College. His furniture is in six museums internationally, including our own Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, and the Launceston Design Centre. He resides at “Windgrove — a refuge for learning” on the Tasman Peninsula.

First published as Talking Point in the Saturday Mercury

• John Hayward in Comments: I suspect the main value of special timbers to FT is that they are now more sparse or remote and will require broad and conspicuous access tracks through WHA forests. The FT tag. FT will continue to lose money for the benefit of Ta Ann, but will have the gratification of sticking it up everyone who loves forests or hates corruption.