This month we feature Aaron and Corné from Arisan Woods. They are a husband and wife duo who specialize in beautiful, custom-made, wood products and furniture - all while ensuring their products are sustainable and ethically sourced.
Tell us a little bit more about Arisan Woods and how you got started?
Aaron has been designing and making wood items for most of his life, his father was a hobby carpenter that made furniture, and passed the passion onto him. Corné has been a crafter and artist all of her life. A little over two years ago, we decided that it was time to start our business full time, combining our two passions of artistic, handcrafted and well-made furniture and decor. We were looking for a way to teach our children how it was possible to give back more than they took, without the consequences of hurting themselves, their family or their community. This is how the idea of Arisan Woods was born. "Arisan" is an old English word for "arise, renew or regrow". Because of the nature of our business (wood products and furniture), it made sense that we would plant trees as well as our way of giving back.
Each piece you create is made from "Fallen Wood" – what does that mean and what makes your products sustainable?
We use the term "fallen wood" in regards to wood that either fell down naturally, or had to come down due to endangering people or the environment around them. An example of this would be all of the Ash trees that have had to come down due to the infestation of the Ash Borer beetle. Another example would be a Black Walnut tree that we recently harvested from a property that had come down in a wind storm. All of the woods that we use are sufficiently air dried, and then kiln-dried to kill any infestations. We absolutely LOVE the odd pieces from a tree that have different textures or voids, as we can inlay them with different mediums such as pigmented resin or a different type of wood. These accents serve to complement a gorgeous piece that another woodworker might toss in the burn pile, but for us are a beautiful piece of art made from nature. These pieces serve to tell a part of the story of the growth of a tree that might otherwise be lost.
In regards to sustainability, this means that each and every item we make was ethically sourced, rather than clear cut just for the purpose of using the wood. In addition to this, we've partnered with a couple of "Not for Profits" that endeavor to reforest areas throughout the world that have lost forest due to devastation. Our focus is mainly on Canadian and other North American areas that have seen forest fire or other types of a disaster such as Northern Ontario, BC, and Alberta. For example, 500 of the trees that we had planted last year were planted in BC in the wake of the devastating forest fires of 2017. For EVERY single item that we sell, a portion of that sale is donated to organizations like One Tree Planted. This is what makes us sustainable. Last year, for instance, we actually operated at a carbon deficit, offsetting not just our own carbon footprint as a business and family, but for many other homes and business within our community.
Can you tell us about the process you use to create your pieces?
It all starts with the wood! We go to a variety of areas from Niagara to the Bruce Peninsula to the outskirts of Toronto to source our wood. We've managed to build a full network of Canadian suppliers and fabricators for all of the materials that go into our items, from the wood to a Canadian made epoxy made by Quebec manufacturer Polymerés Technologies. Even the steel legs that we have made for many of our furniture items are made by a local couple that fabricates steel bases and legs to our specific designs. After sourcing our wood, and finding the inspiration for an item, the build process begins. As an example, for us to build one of our river tables, it can be about 3 times more cost and labour intensive than building a regular table. Once the design is worked out, the wood pieces that will fit into the table are essentially "pre-finished", sanded, flattened and squared up. Next, a mould is built for them to fit into. Think of it like building another table, for the table. The mould must be completely water tight, and level. After fitting the pieces into the mould and securing them down, we start mixing and pouring our resins. This part is one of the most interesting, as the resins and pigments sometimes take on a life of their own. While other makers that do resin pouring typically prefer just one or two pours in a project, we usually do as many as 5-6. This gives us a little more control over the pigments, layering and how our design gets laid out. Once everything is cured (about 2 weeks total time), the rough piece is removed from the mould. At this point, we begin the finishing process that usually take another week or so. Most of our furniture pieces take about 4-6 weeks total time from start to finish.
What inspires you for your pieces?
Anything and everything! We both find inspiration from the woods that we work with and nature itself obviously, but the world around us inspires us as well! We get a TON of inspiration from our clients. We specialize in Custom, so our clients will often come to us with an idea. When they allow us to expand on it, and "be the artist" as it will, we've done some pretty amazing pieces. Prior to having a family, we both traveled extensively, so you can see from our maps that this was a big influence. Our kids are a daily source of inspiration, and we constantly scour interior designers, home magazines, colour palettes, and the internet for new inspiration and ideas. Some ideas are completely out of the blue, some are brought on from a small idea that we will bounce off each other until it becomes a reality. Some inspiration never sees the light of day, as once one of us describes an idea to the other, that person will play devil's advocate in trying to see if it would work or not. The greatest part of working together is that somehow we ended up complimenting each other and making up for the other's deficiencies in a specific area. We rarely have arguments, rather we will discuss something, write or draw down ideas and draw inspiration from each other. We always say that we can get three times as much done together as either of us can as an individual.
As a husband and wife team, what advice would you give other entrepreneurs and creators who are looking to go into business for themselves?
Do it. If you have an idea that you think will work, and that you will find a passion in every day, do it. You'll have days where it might be hard to find the motivation but just do it. You'll have naysayers, and not everything is blue skies. There will be difficult roads, from figuring things out to financial - plug through it. DO NOT undervalue yourself, your time or your work. Some may try to take advantage of the fact that you're a "newer artist". Remember, if they value your work, you are worth it! We can honestly say that we've never been happier than we are now. We've finally started forcing ourselves to take at least one day off a week for rest and family time, but all of the hard work that we've been putting in is starting to show. Get an accountant to help with finances if that's not your bag. You'll need it, and it will help to alleviate a lot of unnecessary stress that you may not see right now. If you can, get a mentor. While this isn't something that we did, it is something that looking back would have been a good idea, to give advice, and help to motivate. Luckily, from the motivation side of things, we've always had each other, but that's not always the case for many entrepreneurs. Research! If you think your idea is a great one, figure out why, and will it work in your area? If not, can you take it somewhere close by where it will? We can tell you wholeheartedly that our product and the way we do things has evolved in a huge way since we first started! If there are others in your area that are doing something somewhat similar, reach out to them and see if there might be a way to learn from them, or even collaborate! We're strong believers in community over competition, and you'd be surprised at how many others in your community are as well. If you can, it's always wonderful to have others that will help to motivate you, and are more than willing to lend a hand.
Are there any events coming up or places where people can purchase your pieces?
Yes! We've just recently put a few pieces into Mori Gardens, a local store in Niagara on the Lake, but we will also be at The Huronia Festival of Arts and Crafts from August 3-5 in Barrie, ON and we're really looking forward to being a part of the Fall Handmade Market at 13th Street Winery Sept 13-15. For other dates and locations, we have everything on our website. As we mentioned earlier, we specialize in custom work, and can always be contacted through our website, or reach out to us via Instagram or Facebook!
You can find more information on Aaron and Corné's work at www.arisanwoods.com or find them on Facebook @arisanwoods.