This isn’t the most politically correct thing to say but craft work – making – tends to break down along gender lines. In general, textiles seem to a woman’s “thing”. Metalwork and glassblowing: mostly a male “thing”. Ceramics: a little more gender-neutral. Working with wood? Definitely a guy’s “thing”.
Sometimes it’s tradition. Sometimes it’s a physical thing. But the divide still remains.
So you have love it when you find someone who dares to cross those imaginary boundaries, someone like wood turner Silvia Song.
San Francisco Bay Area-based Silvia creates exquisitely wrought bowls, vessels and boards out of wood, calling herself a “wood potter”.
It’s hard for me to decide which piece of hers I’m most drawn to. It might actually be her cutting boards (particularly when stacked on top of each other, ziggurat style.) I know they’re functional and not just sculptural, but I can definitely see a trio of cutting boards in a place of honor, far from the kitchen.
At the other end of the spectrum are her diminutive vessels, particularly in a group: they have a sense of being a family and it seems a shame to break them up.
The fact that she’s a former architect is clear: her designs are breathtakingly and deceptively simple – perfectly balanced and formed, hinting of classicism but looking utterly modern.
But it’s the wood that makes you want to touch, touch, touch them. The pieces – often out of maple and the rare claro walnut are buttery smooth (the mark of a true artisan) and it’s clear that she sees the grain of the wood as a way to extend and deepen her design.
She’s also an experimenter: she recently created a mind-blowing line of maple bowls dipped in indigo, with the help of (These vessels are available exclusively at legendary home and kitchen store, March in San Francisco.)
None of this comes easily. She sources her claro walnut from a city arborist who emails her photos of felled trees. To complete her indigo project, Silvia worked with natural-dye specialist Kristine Vejar of A Verb for Keeping Warm. “The indigo plant was grown and composted in Marin County, California. Composted indigo, called sukumo, combined with handmade lye water fermented for 30 days, bringing to life the active cultures needed to activate the blue dye. Each piece is turned using sustainably harvested sugar maple and hand dipped in indigo dye.” That’s what I call sweating the details.
She also photographs her own work and process (quite gorgeously, I might add.)
It’s so refreshing to come across a maker who is as dedicated to the craft as to the design, someone who’s unafraid of experimentation and play. Silvia Song is someone to watch.