Steam Wood Brings the Forest to a Department Store


It's called "Spirit of the Forest" but this is one forest that you wouldn't notice unless you looked carefully. Artfully sculpted around the front door of Harvey Nichols Department Store in London is a huge 50m long sculpture that runs the entire length of the front of the store and forms the window display as it flows through 11 windows and over the main entrance.

Made of oak and ash and using the art of steam-bending, it brings the smell and look of freshly cut trees to the downtown. The sculpture incorporates real branches, roots and a tree-stump as it winds its way through the store. The process has been developed by Charlie Whinney, formerly of Sixixis, and this piece of work pushes his type of steam-bending of eco-friendly green wood further than ever.


Steam bending has been around for a long time, however this designer and his former colleagues at Sixixis have adapted the machines and the process so that they could twist the wood into more complex and creative shapes using their own ideas. They use locally sourced, unseasoned (green) timber. Because they want to be ethically and environmentally responsible, the wood is from renewable sources and there are no resins or sealants used. All of the work is done in their studio so that they have complete quality control over the furniture and other products.


Whinney also makes curly lampshades of solid steam bent ash which is coiled and twisted and look luminous when the light comes through the natural grain.


Note the Curly Shade lamp coyly nestled in the display in the front window of the store. Clever marketing. : Charlie Whinney

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