From fruit to furniture: the magic of mango wood.
The central building of the mango wood workshop is surrounded by an outdoor area, in which young mango trees grow. These particular trees, their leaves dusted with a fine coating of sawdust, aren’t here to be harvested. They’re a symbol for the carpenters and the carvers: men from Uttar Pradesh who honed their skills on the wood of a mango tree, crafting furniture for their villages before moving on to the artisan workshops of Jaipur.
Mango trees grow quickly. In just twenty years, they can reach up to 100ft in height and 3ft in diameter. An oak tree, on the other hand, will only reach 15ft in the same time. Once the tree reaches its full height, it stops bearing fruit. Rather than discard of the timber, farmers cut the trees down so they can be used for the crafting of furniture.
New trees are planted before the older ones stop bearing fruit, ensuring the continuation of the cycle. This means that mango wood is one of the most sustainable woods in the furniture industry.
A hardwood, like oak, mango wood is sturdy and hardwearing, which makes it perfect for those pieces of furniture we tend to use every day. In order to ensure its long-lasting qualities, it’s seasoned and kiln dried to control its moisture levels. Shivkumar, one of our artisans, stacks the timber into a kiln, each piece slotted together like a jigsaw. “I have to build it this way, to make sure there’s spaces between the planks for the air to pass through.”
The grain in a piece of mango wood is detailed, variegated and kaleidoscopic in colour. Streams of gold, ribbons of pink, and fine black lines undulate freely. “If we put a dark stain on it,” our finishing artisan tells us, “it transforms the grain, subduing the lighter colours and drawing out the darker ones.” He runs a finger over the Sullivan side table, absently tracing the journey of one of its lines. “I prefer the natural colouring, it shows a unique quality, one that’s beautiful.”
Hardwearing, yet soft enough to carve intricate detail into, and with a grain that sets it apart from the rest, it’s no surprise that everyone, from carpenters to lovers of furniture, adore this wood. As we walk across the workshop yard, two women, each carrying the frame of a Lille armchair, stop to chat to us as we go by. Asking them what they know about mango trees, one of them smiles warmly. “Mango trees are very important in India,” she tells us. “They’re a symbol of good fortune and happiness.”