This post is part of a blog series revealing the table of contents of upcoming Issue Sixteen. As is our custom, we’ll be discussing one article per weekday in order to give you a taste of what is to come.
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Joseph Brihiez – “Working With the Trees”
A scientific approach to the management and understanding of our woodlands has brought about a great number of advancements in commercial productivity, but reductionism only has so much value when it comes to truly knowing the forest. There is more going on there than can fit in a textbook.
In Issue Sixteen, author and carpenter Joseph Brihiez ventures into the woods with a group of traditional French carpenters. An ethnographic researcher as well as an axe hewer, Brihiez is passionate to learn about the ancient connection that a woodworker had with the trees he utilized in his craft. Under the tutelage of these experienced timber framers, he learns how to read the bark and “see inside the tree” to determine suitability for a given project – to recognize that a tree is not just a large piece of wood, but a dynamic living being.
“Their work is not so much with wood, but with trees,” he writes, “Through discussions with foresters, these carpenters recognize that they have access to new knowledge and a broader understanding of what forces act on and through a growing tree, forces that will affect their woodwork.” An understanding of these forces does not arrive through mastering scientific knowledge, but through regular engagement with the woodland: shouldering an axe or saw and venturing out under the canopy to see what is to be seen.