The Story Behind Your Teak Sculptures

For centuries, Teak has grown in Burma and Thailand. It has always been a prized wood for use in building homes, furniture, boats, and for sculptures.  Because of its fine grain and texture, it has been much in demand world wide.  Several hundred years ago, Dutch families brought Teak to the islands of Indonesia and began the process of cultivating plantations of teak forests to serve the world demand for this unique timber.

After hundreds of years of harvesting teak, in the mid 20th century, the Indonesian government began to restrict the harvesting of Teak. The roots from most of the original harvesting remain in the ground, inhibiting proper regeneration of the plantation. Teak is very, very slow to rot, and the root system will remain in the ground and occupy that ground space for centuries to come.

Because Teak roots grow close to the surface, and intertwine with nearby teak trees, a complex web of roots renders hundreds of acres of fertile land useless.  To free up the land, one common practice, in the past, has been to try to burn out the stump, usually using diesel fuel or gasoline. This method is ineffective and an unnecessary pollution to both the air and the soil.  The teak roots do not burn very well, they only char where the burning fuel makes contact.  Often, rather than burning, they simply leave the root in the ground, abandoning any hope of productive land use.

We have identified this issue, and have turned it into an opportunity in which everyone benefits, including the environment. Working with an Indonesian family, the Rarems, we have developed our operation by training Wayan Rarem and his brothers Made & Nyoman on the process. This has grown to a group of over 40. We have been working with Wayan and his family since 1993. In 2003 we bought land and built an 8000 square foot workshop to continue to facilitate our growth.

The basic root process is as follows:

From the plantation we carefully extract the roots from the soil and do some rough shaping on site. We then remove the bark, the soil and the rocks which the roots have grown over and through. We do not use any heavy equipment in the process, in order to minimize the impact on the terrain. We then transport the roots by truck to our workshop in Bali where we do the designing and shaping.

In Bali we allow the roots to dry naturally in the open air so the pieces can adjust to being exposed to the air and sun. Each piece is then sculpted into the shape of a chair, bench, table, display or an abstract work of art. This process requires tremendous creativity and flexibility as some pieces need a great deal of attention to work out the best function the root can be shaped into.

We have been granted the proper government permits and licenses to remove the roots from the plantations. In 2005 we presented the Indonesian government with a more progressive and structured re-forestation program than the one they are using. (Brent Bywater of Uprooted Designs has 13 years experience and was an owner of the largest silviculture company in Canada).

Our project is very environmentally friendly, and our working relationship with the Indonesian people involved is based on a strong sense of community support, and ethical practices. Remuneration for the Rarem family is based on profit sharing and all the workers earn well above the standard wages.        

We are proud to be part of this environmental and cultural renaissance.