Head and shoulder photo of Dr Chris Cattle
|Occupation||Professor of furniture design, tree trainer, artist and teacher|
Christopher Cattle is a British furniture designer who has developed a process of growing furniture by shaping living trees. Cattle calls his work GrownUp Furniture but it is also known as Grown Furniture.
Cattle wanted to grow stools rather than create them from existing cut wood because with grown furniture, very little energy is required to convert a living tree into the finished piece of furniture, and very little pollution is created in the process. Cattle comments: "Growing furniture isn't going to save the planet, but it can show that it's possible to create genuinely useful things without adding to the pollution that industry inevitably seems to produce. Trees are self-generating, and the only energy needed is that which the sun provides worldwide. It's free and it's non-polluting. My aim though is to encourage as many people as possible to try it for themselves."
Cattle lectured at High Wycombe in Furniture Design. In the late 1970s, he became interested in a way of making furniture that was more environmentally sustainable. He thought of growing, training and grafting trees to shape, and developed the concept into a 3-legged stool and tables. He encourages others to try growing their furniture.
In 2007, as part of the exhibition 'Going Green' held by the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL), Cattle gave a talk about his grown furniture, and explained how to train saplings on his plywood jigs. In 2008, MERL invited Cattle to demonstrate his art by installing six growing stools into MERL's garden. The MERL's Environmental Learning Officer Kathryn Robinson, as well as Thames Valley University students (a group with learning difficulties) and their teacher, helped Christopher Cattle to plant and maintain the growing furniture. The expected time frame of growing was 5 years, at which point the trees will be harvested to create the finished furniture.
Christopher Cattle has been successfully growing stools at several schools and museums in the UK. The stools have been exhibited in several woodland and craft shows in England, and at the 'Big Tent' at Falkland Palace in Scotland.
Cattle's finished stools have also been included in international exhibitions:
- 2005 World Expo 2005 Japan
- 2008 'Matieres a Cultiver' at the Avenue Daumesnil showrooms of VIA.
- 2008 Museum of English Rural Life
- 2009 Exhibition HABITAT ET JARDIN
Process of tree shaping
In order to grow his stools, Christopher Cattle gradually shapes trees using a variety of horticultural, arboricultural, and artistic techniques. His first planting of saplings destined to become stools was in 1996. At that point he created his wooden jig as a framework for the saplings. He then intended to regrow more examples using the same design, to find out what the results would be.
Christopher Cattle has successfully grown his stool/table design using the following kinds of trees:
- Axel Erlandson
- Arthur Wiechula
- John Krubsack
- Richard Reames
- Fab Tree Hab: Living Home of Shaped Trees
- Davies, David (1 June 1996). "Plant your own furniture. Watch it grow". The Independent. UK. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
- "How to grow your stool". Retrieved 2009-05-08.
- Fischbacher, Thomas (2007), Botanical Engineering (PDF), School of Engineering Sciences @ University of Southampton, archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-12-22
- "Grown Furniture at the Museum of English Rural Life" (Press release). University of Reading, UK. 26 March 2008. Retrieved 2010-06-14.
- Sit Up: 16 Sustainable Seats. [re]design]. September 3, 2007. ISBN 978-0955712906. Retrieved 5 July 2012.
- "Grown to measure", The Garden, 122, p. 222
- Exhibition listing
- Johnson, Bonnie K. (December 1999). An Industrial Designer's Ethic – a study: Products for Urban Ecology (PDF) (M.Sc. in Architecture). Blacksburg, Virginia: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.