Green Living: First Growth Reclaimed transforms discarded lumber into festive trinkets

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      Salvaged lumber typically sees new life as reclaimed-wood furnishings, fixtures, and small household objects. But one local maker is preserving the precious resource by transforming it into a collection of particularly festive pieces: Christmas-tree ornaments.

      Garet Robinson, founder of First Growth Reclaimed Design, began crafting the decorative items three years ago. While his company was initially known for its handcrafted and recovered-timber coffee and dining tables when it was launched in an East Van garage in 2013, the laser-cut ornaments—available in a slate of quirky shapes like acorns, electric guitars, and bicycles—have been a consistent hit among Vancouverites.

      For Robinson, producing the one-of-a-kind and extremely giftable curios are simply a way to reuse first-growth lumber, wood grown naturally in forests over hundreds of years that he rescues from residential teardowns around town. Although much of this timber is no longer sent to landfills—the City of Vancouver implemented a clean-wood-recycling program in 2015 that chips it for mulch, composting, and fuel—the self-taught woodworker felt compelled to showcase the durability and rough-sawn character of the material in a tangible object.

      “Most of that wood is in structures, it’s in buildings,” Robinson tells the Straight by phone. “So I have a passion to preserve at least some of that and that history and heritage, so to speak.”

      Garet Robinson

      Robinson sources much of his wood from demolitions and renovations of pre-1940s houses via sustainable contracting company Naturally Crafted and the Maple Ridge–based Western Reclaimed Timber. Many of these homes were constructed with solid Douglas fir, which, for the Vancouver native, represents the old-growth forests that once populated B.C. Because these trees matured at a slower rate thanks to limited light and competition from other plants, they boast tighter growth rings, making their wood stronger and more resistant to rot and termites. “The grain is very beautiful,” notes Robinson.

      While manufacturing furnishings, wall hangings, and mirror frames, he discovered that the lumber looks great fashioned as holiday-friendly trinkets, too. Drawing inspiration from seasonal motifs and West Coast landmarks and symbols, First Growth produces Douglas-fir ornaments (from $10) modeled after mittens, the North Shore mountains, maple leaves, and the now iconic East Van Cross. Elsewhere, you’ll find surprisingly detailed keyboards for the musically inclined, snowshoes for outdoorsy types, and the Vancouver skyline—an apt present for those who take pride in where they live.

      There’s even a piece that depicts the logo of the East Van Baseball League, a recreational group that Robinson plays in. (Partial proceeds from the sale of this design benefit the Greater Vancouver Food Bank.) The woodworker’s favourite ornament, however, is one that illustrates three fir trees, bringing the company’s cause full circle. “I want to preserve the wood that’s remaining from all these forests that have gone,” Robinson reiterates.

      First Growth Reclaimed Design products can at local retailers such as Second Nature Home Boutique (1827 Victoria Diversion) and various craft markets happening ahead of Christmas. Coming up, you can find the brand at the Eastside Flea (December 1 to 3 at 1024 Main Street); the Tugboat Landing Artisan Market (December 2 at 2010 East Kent Avenue); and the New West Craft Christmas Night Market (December 2 at 810 Quayside Drive).

      Looking for more gift ideas? Check out the Georgia Straight's 2017 holiday gift guide here.

      Follow Lucy Lau on Twitter @lucylau.