The spirit of craftsmanship.

Fonction Business: made in ch

For lovers of wood, hardwoods such as teak have a definite appeal over fast-growing pine--but there is a financial and environmental cost attached. Now, two Swiss partners are offering beautiful furniture and accessories crafted from their proprietary "Blue Teak", which grows about four times faster than traditional teak.

Sharewood sells some of this timber in Brazil, where it is grown, and exports some to India, but it is here in Switzerland, with partner Wohngeist, that it gets turned into some truly special items.

The benefits of Blue Teak, grown using a proprietary process by Swiss firm Sharewood, are clear. First of all, it's gorgeous. Growing so fast means there is a lot more variation in tone; the wood shows broad streaks of gold and nut brown. Then, it's cheaper, since it can be harvested after at most 20 years (with thinnings occurring three or four times within that cycle), compared with 50-100 years for old teak.

"It's not so much forestry, more like gardening," explains ShareWood CEO Peter Mockli. "The plantation manager is not a forestry engineer, he's an agriculture engineer. It's about growing, managing the soil and so on, not managing a forest. He's a wood gardener."

And of course that is also great news for the atmosphere. The growing trees lock in carbon from the atmosphere; then they are cut down, new trees planted and even more carbon captured. It's demonstrably sustainable--beautiful, exotic hardwood, with no environmental guilt.

Special products, special market

But the qualities that make Blue Teak special also require special handling: it takes care to place those beautiful streaks for the best effect. And young wood is more sensitive and needs different processes; for instance, it must be kept very, very dry. So Mockli chose Swiss master craftsman, WohnGeist founder Stefan Senn, to turn this unconventional wood into equally unique designs. "Normal teak is really boring compared with this," says Senn.

Senn, a fourth-generation carpenter who has also studied design, has created a range of 14 products in Blue Teak, some of which I viewed on a visit to the WohnGeist workshop. They range from...

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