Upcycled style: a burgeoning desire for reclaimed wood.
Furniture makers, decorators, artists and antique dealers come from all over the province of Zhejiang to the wood market in Shangyu, China. It’s like a small wooden town on the edge of the city where twenty vendors, each with their own outdoor area, can sell their wares.
Jing, our reclaimed wood buyer, accompanies us. In the business since the 1980s, he travels around China sourcing the reclaimed elm and pine we use to craft our Rubricks chest of drawers.
“What usually happens,” Jing explains, “is that old buildings, damaged and irreparable, are demolished. Before that happens, a local agent will call someone like myself, and we will go over and evaluate the wood.” He pauses, momentarily distracted by a selection of planks. “We work out what can be reclaimed, negotiate the price, and they send it over here to the wood market.”
Most of the wood that the market receives is pine that comes from the Fujian province, about 700 km south of Shangyu. According to Jing, the reclaimed elm that we use on our Rubricks chest of drawers is extremely rare and expensive. “It’s usually older, from homes built in the 1940s, and generally less material from a plank can be reused,” he tells us, “making it more precious, more coveted.”
Jing’s business requires a lot of travel, sometimes up to four trips a month. “One of my most impressive sourcing trips was to Tianjin province near Beijing,” he tells us. “In the late 19th century certain areas were leased to the British and the French to build houses on. On the outside, these buildings look like plain brick houses, but when you go inside you notice that every surface – floor, ceiling, walls – is covered with long, beautiful wood planks. It’s breath-taking.”
Jing’s passion for this particular style of wood is obvious and he lists aesthetics as one of the main things he looks for in a plank. “Reclaimed wood is full of marks showing the decades of use, and it’s important that one of the sides is beautiful enough to be used as a showcase piece,” he says, casually putting his hands in his pockets. “Like the ones we hand-select for your Rubricks chest of drawers.”