Handcrafted wooden objects
Handcrafted wooden objects

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A natural resource with possibilities for sustainable development

Handcrafted wooden objects

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Employment in the wood industry

From silviculture to paper manufacture...

The wood sector represents over 180 000 jobs in the UK over 20, 000 different processing and distribution companies (forestry, logging, woodworking, energy, construction, furniture and the industrial sector).  The woodwork industry turned over 3.8 billion pounds in the UK in 2022.

Mainland France is the 4th most wooded country in Europe with 31% of its land area covered by forest. The forestry - wood sector represents over 400,000 jobs in France and in 2018 the forestry and wood industry represented an added value of €26.0 billion, or 1.1% of GDP.

How can we find responsibly sourced wood in France and the UK?

If you would like to use sustainable wood from responsibly managed forests, or would like to put your mind to rest about carbon emissions, there are several national and international certification programs concerned with sustainable use of healthy forests:

"Bois Français" 

"Bois Français" aims to promote and enhance the value of wood, whatever the species, and wood-based products from French forests.

This certification guarantees buyers that the wood sold is of French origin and that the processing and assembly of the wood was carried out on national soil - thus reducing transport pollution.

Grown in Britain

A non-profit organization working with diverse partners - from retail to the government - Grown in Britain assures that wood is grown in sustainably managed British woods and forests.  Compliance is verified by indepedent auditors.  

They aim to reduce timber imports through assuring sustainable management of British forests and woodlands.  They've added more strings to their bow through their work in creating woodlands, research and development and biosecurity.  

Quote from the Grown in Britain website:

In the UK, we import £7.8bn of foreign timber each year, whilst neglecting the potential of our own forests and woodlands. Only China imports more wood than the UK.

The UK Woodland Assurance Standard

The UK Woodland Assurance Standard (UKWAS) is an independent certification verifying that woodland is managed sustainably.

It is reviewed every five years and is used for both the Forest Stewardship Council and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) certification.  You can find out more about both these certifications below.

International certifications

The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes certification

The PEFC was founded in 1999.  It is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation available in 55 countries, including France and the UK. It certifies that the wood comes from sustainably managed forests and promotes a balance between the environmental, societal and economic dimensions of the forests in the PEFC network.  It guarantees sustainable practices through the involvement of 74,500 forest owners and more than 3,100 companies in France.

PEFC considers the French forest as a biodiversity reserve - with 138 species of trees, 73 species of mammals and 120 species of birds. As it captures more than 10% of the CO2 emitted each year in France it also regulates the climate.

The Forest Stewardship Council

The FSC is governed by an international network of 1,000 individuals and organizations with the objective of including a range of environmental, social, and economic perspectives.  They promote sustainable forest management worldwide so that forests and people can flourish.

They are currently developing new solutions concerning responsible sourcing (aiding businesses to work with forests responsibly), conservation (maintaining and enhancing forest value, restoration (accelerating forest recovery).

Forestry facts

Did you know that in France...

- the hardwood forest is mainly privately owned (74%), with 3.8 million owners. 

- public forests are owned by the State (10%) or local authorities (16%) and are managed by the National Forestry Office (ONF).

While in the UK...

- only 13% of the United Kingdom is covered in woods and forests. 

- the Woodland Trust owns and takes care of over 1,000 of them and they are free to visit.  

- 10 private landowners own 20% of England’s woodland.

Are you interested in woodwork or would you like to know a little more about the artisanal side to this billion pound industry?

What better way to find out more than talking to a woodwork artisan?  

We invited some natifcreatif woodwork artisans to talk about their personal experience, inspirations and thoughts concerning sustainable development.  

Pierre-Marie Châteauneuf

Pierre-Marie is a woodwork artisan living and working in the north of Montpellier, France.  

You can find out more about his work here.

1. What do you make?

Guitars (mainly electric), basses and some slightly unusual instruments such as a guitarist's version of the oud.

2. What got you into woodworking?

I used to enjoy making wooden things with my grandfather, and then playing the guitar naturally led me to making guitars.

3. What inspires you?

The idea is to find curves that give an instrument both beauty and ergonomics. The inspiration can come from anywhere, a shape in nature, an object in everyday life...

4. What is your favourite object to make and why?

The only wooden objects I make are instruments. Of these instruments I prefer original projects, either my designs or those created with the musician, rather than copies of existing models.

5. Where do you get your raw materials?

Different suppliers, some local, a few kilometres from the workshop, others in Spain, which is not so far from Montpellier (compared to the North of France).

6. How do you think woodworking is compatible with sustainable development?

The Association Pour La Guitare (APLG), to which I belong, does a lot in this respect. Overall, guitar makers and the guitar industry are not big consumers of wood compared to other sectors.

8. What plans do you have for future wood creations?

I am currently developing my own version of the acoustic guitar.

Handcrafted wooden objects

Monica Ghosh

Monica is a part-time woodwork artisan living and working in Bristol, England.

You can find out more about her work here.

1. What do you make?

I make simple, hand-sawn, reclaimed wood items for the garden and home, e.g. planters, animal/ insect shelters, shelving, plant stands and potting benches. I also make Christmas and other indoor decorations.

2. What got you into woodwork?

I am pretty new to woodworking , and just started by making a few simple wooden coasters during the Covid Lockdown in 2020 out of some spare wood I had lying around. I tried it to occupy my mind in a different way, initially, to have something positive and more creative to focus on. I had seen a design I liked online, and decided to have a go at making them. I found the whole process really enjoyable, and so then decided to try out more ideas. It just grew from there, and I continued to experiment and test out different designs. People saw what I was doing via friends and family, and were interested in buying some of my items. Some designs were more successful than others, but that’s part of the process! I still definitely have lots more to learn, but that is also part of the appeal for me.

3. What inspires you?

For me, the outdoors and nature is the best source of inspiration. I love to think about making garden items that can compliment, support or blend into nature as much as possible, whilst still maintaining a practical purpose for the customer. My indoor and Christmas decorations are also usually all inspired by animals and the natural environment.

4. What is your favourite piece to make and why?

I get a lot of pleasure from making any item using reclaimed wood, as I find carrying out all the processes involved-from sourcing materials to sanding and sawing- really enjoyable. In fact, I’d probably say it’s a cathartic process for me. If I feel low or I am struggling to feel positive, I can get stuck into a woodworking project and it does really make a positive difference to how I am feeling. Recently, I have greatly enjoyed making some large, raised planters for someone who has mobility issues. The joy she gets from being able to use these items with ease in her garden is really satisfying to witness!

5. Where do you source your raw materials?

Honestly- anywhere I can find it! I am always on the lookout for wood, whether it’s leftover wood people are getting rid of from a project, or in skips, allotments and in gardens- it’s amazing what you can find being thrown away sometimes!

6. How do you think woodwork is compatible with sustainable development?

Using reclaimed materials in woodwork as much as possible is essential for sustainability, and items created this way definitely seem to be getting more popular. Most of the customers I have really like to know what their particular item has been made out of, so clearly customers are becoming more discerning about the source of raw materials. I think the more woodworkers can reuse and repurpose existing wood for their projects, the better!

7. What plans do you have for future woodwork creations?

I am planning to continue making and extending my range of garden items – I have made a number of bird feeding tables and insect hotels, so I am looking to extend this theme by making some hedgehog houses. Anything I can make to help nature thrive is always a pleasure to create!

Thank you Pierre-Marie and Monica!

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