i + D - November/December 2020 - 29

Tucker Robbins

Tucker Robbins
works with carvers in
Cameroon to develop
product lines that
will appeal to a global
design audience.
(Image: Courtesy of
Tucker Robbins)

Elevating the Maker
Designer Tucker Robbins has established
a signature style that has been described as
both modern and timeless. What makes his line
distinctive is his ability to draw upon ancient
techniques and iconic forms to achieve more
contemporary, lasting results. In Robbins' view,
global artisans present a historic path for the
uplifting of humanity and the restoration of the
environment. " In the hands of a potter, mud goes
from dirt to fine art as illustrated by my ceramic
furniture made in Peru, " he says.
For more than three decades Robbins has
worked with the Njoya family from the western
grasslands of Cameroon. The Njoya family is
one of the longest-reigning royal families of the
Bamum people, beginning in the 10th century
until today. According to Robbins, the sultan or
ruler of the Bamum is elected among the Njoya,
and great favor is given to the artisan within the
family. " Hence, the arts have a major cultural and
financial impact upon the community's solidarity
and welfare, " he says. " Today, with Njoya
integrity, we create the Snaka Waka, Spider's
Nest, and Bangle [tables], and Lattice stools. "

Artisans keep a careful
eye on quality, leading
to well-crafted products
that will endure.

During COVID, Robbins has returned to his
beloved Sri Lanka-where he had gone in 2001
to recover from 9/11-to work with a unique
Sri Lankan material: sunken kumbuk. The kumbuk
is a sacred tree planted by the kings of Sri Lanka
to shore up and filter the water tanks. Over time,
great logs sunk into the water where they have
been preserved, and the fossilization process
is well under way. Robbins explains how he uses
this unique material: " Artisans excavate these
wooden bones in the dry season and transport
them with elephants and trucks to mills,
where multiple blades are being broken to
create bespoke siding for a home designed by
Bates Masi + Architects in the Hamptons. "
The wood proves challenging to cut because
pebbles and larger river stones grow right into the
logs while submerged in the water. Robbins also
uses sunken kumbuk for custom slab furniture.
After Sri Lanka, Robbins says, he and teams of
designers and master woodworkers will converge
on Puerto Rico, where hurricanes and earthquakes
have left broken homes and some 30 million
dead standing trees. He will teach the art of
salvage, carving, agroforestry, milling, and forest
management. " The beauty is in the simplicity
of creating from materials at hand, " he says.
" Very few tools are needed-only willing hands
and minds-to build independent livelihoods. "

(Image: Courtesy of
Tucker Robbins)

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i + D - November/December 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of i + D - November/December 2020

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i + D - November/December 2020 - Cover1
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https://www.nxtbook.com/emerald/id/20210304
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