When designers take inspiration from the world around them, it’s not always the sunny, positive things in their environments. For woodworker Casey McCafferty, the design for his Drought Collection sprang from the California water crisis. The collection features a dining table, cocktail table, bench, and milking stool. Each piece is made with native California hardwoods charred using the Japanese Shou Sugi Ban technique, in addition to crushed turquoise, brass, and smoked glass. By combining the elements and techniques in this way, McCafferty offers a stunning statement on the fragility of the natural environment.
When was the Drought Collection developed?
It was developed in 2016.
How did the name come about?
I moved to Southern Cal recently, and was struck by the area’s struggles with water. My wife and I would hike in the canyons and it was so dry, but along these empty stream beds we’d discover pops of green. Defiant life, insisting on survival.
What inspired the collection?
The Drought Collection speaks to the relationship between my new environment and the new life I was building here in L.A. I wanted to create something that brought together my skills in woodworking, which is how I express myself, with what I saw being expressed in the landscape. I use native woods, charred to further emphasize the dryness, then add smoked glass for the sky, and rub in crushed turquoise to show how the water, tenuous as it is, hangs on.
What was the biggest challenge in bringing it to life?
I had just moved from a shared workspace into my own workshop in Venice, Calif., and I had no tools. I had to build all of the prototypes by hand. It’s satisfying work, but really time-consuming. Fortunately, I sold some pieces and used the proceeds to invest in my own tools.
How has the response been so far?
The visuals get a lot of attention. The materials are dramatic; the turquoise and the charcoal really make a statement. But they’re hard to place in an existing design scheme; you really have to have the right architecture and interior design. That’s a lot of why I do so much custom work—to suit the client.
What is your hope for the collection?
I like that people want to touch the furniture, and want to talk about it and tell stories. It seems to open up conversation about how we experience our world and how we want to live in it. My hope is that Drought encourages people to choose furniture for their spaces that has meaning to them, that they actually use, and that encourages conversations.
Are there any changes on the horizon?
Well, fortunately, our drought is over, and I hope my collection lives on. I was just asked to build a Drought-inspired swiveling bar table. It has lots of turquoise and copper accents, and when the client opens her floor-to-ceiling sliding doors the table swivels out and serves as an outdoor entertaining surface. It’s pretty cool. So, more custom applications like that are definitely in the future.
What’s something people don’t know about the Drought Collection?
Some people aren’t familiar with the Shou Sugi Ban technique of charring wood, so it’s pretty cool to introduce them to that. And then, of course, that they can ask for customizations. Furniture is meant to be lived with, not admired like a museum piece, so I want to make things that people want to touch and enjoy using.
cbmwoodworks.com | Photography by Elyn Marto