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Meet William Stranger of Stranger Furniture in Pasadena

Today we’d like to introduce you to William Stranger.

William, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I moved to Los Angeles and started working on a building site 1985. I worked for a year framing and doing finish carpentry before starting my own workshop in an apartment garage. In 1992 I moved to a space located in an old torpedo testing facility in Pasadena CA. The studio produced limited production and custom wood furniture as well as selected built-in cabinetry.

I remember talking to a parent at my daughter’s school soon after I opened my garage shop. He wondered how I could use a material that led to forest destruction. This question started me on the path to furniture made from completely sustainable materials and non-toxic finishes. As the destructive power of our disposable society has grown so has my commitment to designing and producing objects with as low an environmental impact as possible.

When I first started making furniture I was interested in the structure of the pieces and the strong traditional joinery that would allow them to last for generations. I still see this as a primary goal: to make furniture that is simple, timeless and durable.

In 1990 I saw the great modern furniture maker George Nakashima’s Full Circle retrospective. His use of organic forms and his reverence for the spirit of the tree influenced me a great deal. I began to search for ways to use the live edge of boards in my own work. The acquisition of these boards led to suppliers who were salvaging urban and rural trees that would otherwise be burned or thrown away.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
As my interest in design grew my company evolved from primarily custom work to the production of several lines of furniture based on forms derived from the intersection of nature and culture. It has sometimes been challenging to let go of the relative safety of custom work in favor of building my own designs. Acquiring wood from local trees and responsible sources is always more difficult, time-consuming and expensive than buying it at the lumber yard.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Stranger Furniture – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I love to hike in the local mountains and I am inspired by the form of native California trees. I am a member of Box Collective, a group of like-minded furniture makers who use sustainable materials. A fellow member refers to the work we do as “slow furniture”. This phrase describes our process at Stranger Furniture well. We are dedicated to using locally sourced material and grounding our work in the community we live in. We make furniture pieces one at a time or in small batches using as much handwork as possible.

In this way, we ensure the connection between design, fabrication and material which expresses the intersection of nature and culture that is at the heart of our work. My assistants and I work together with great attention to imbue each piece with a tangible energy and presence.

Our primary source of material is local urban salvage. Trees that are blown over or cut down due to disease or construction are milled on site or at a local salvage yard. The wood is then stickered and air dried. The final step prior to milling and fabrication may be a month or two in a local dehumidification kiln. This process allows the use of unique wood that would otherwise be wasted and keeps trees out of the landfill. We sometimes work with materials reclaimed from local demolished buildings and construction sites. Furniture is finished with zero v.o.c. plant-based oils.

We also recycle off-cuts into accessories such as cutting boards and vases. Sawdust is saved for use as mulch in a local organic garden. Scrap is donated to schools and other artists. In the office we use 100% recycled paper, we reuse scrap paper and recycle wastepaper and packaging. The large skylight in our shop allows us to work by natural light in the summer.

We are often commissioned to build furniture from trees that die or have to be removed. People love the trees that they grow up and coexist with. It is particularly gratifying when a piece of furniture goes back to live in a building where the tree that provided it’s raw material once grew.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 3202 East Foothill Blvd. #6H Pasadena CA 91107
  • Website: strangerfurniture.com
  • Phone: 626-840-4286
  • Email: strangerfurniture@gmail.com
  • Instagram: @strangerfurniture
  • Facebook: strangerfurniture

Image Credit:
Alison Yin

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