Using what he calls “Zen 3D printing,” designer Gavin Munro is challenging notions of traditional furniture design. Instead of chopping down mature trees to saw and nail into chairs and tables, his company Full Grown actually grows furniture from the ground up. Trees are strategically planted, grafted, and shaped into specific structures. When harvested, they’re already elegant furniture pieces.
It’s a technique he and his team have been developing for 10 years, an arduous process that requires patience as the trees mature. Their open-air factory, located in the UK, is a four-acre field with 3,000 trees planted. They currently have 500 pieces in production, which include chairs, lamps, and tables. No glue or joints are used in the finished pieces, just grafts where necessary. The result is beautifully sculptural pieces that honor the original material and demonstrate what subtle, human intervention can produce.
The idea is one Munro had from childhood, after noticing a bonsai in his garden that had taken on the shape of a chair. When illness forced him into long stays at a hospital a few years later, that memory germinated into what would later become Full Grown. As during that time, he learned the patience that would serve well in a process that takes many years to flourish.
“In essence it’s an incredibly simple art. You start by training and pruning young tree branches as they grow over specially made formers. At certain points we then graft them together so that the object grows into one solid piece—I’m interested in the way that this is like an organic 3D printing that uses air, soil and sunshine as its source materials,” Munro explains. “After it’s grown into the shape we want, we continue to care for and nurture the tree, while it thickens and matures, before harvesting it in the winter and then letting it season and dry. It’s then a matter of planing and finishing to show off the wood and grain inside.”
Confirming their success, Full Grown’s prototype Willow Chair is now part of the National Museum of Scotland‘s permanent collection. In order to help fund their final year going into a new harvest, they have recently launched a Kickstarter. With low material costs and the ability to grow anywhere, Full Grown is an exciting concept that has the possibility to revolutionize the way we think about furniture design.