British Columbia

Vancouver's 'wood whisperer' provides behind-the-scenes glimpse of studio

Brent Comber never planned to go into woodwork, but he’s now known as the "wood whisperer," because of the way he molds stunning objects out of cast off pieces of wood.

Brent Comber creates artwork and furniture out of salvaged wood from around province

Brent Comber's studio is on the North Shore and his work is displayed around the world. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

Brent Comber never planned to go into woodwork, but he's now known as a "wood whisperer" because of the way he molds stunning objects from cast off pieces of wood.

His work is on display across the world — pieces like the Shattered Spheres at VanDusen Botanical Garden, made from trees knocked down in Stanley Park during a 2006 windstorm.

The wood he uses comes from all over the province, from old maple trees that have come down in farmers' fields to industry leftovers.

"It's not that I'm interested in the whole reusable and recyclable movement," Comber said. "I look at [the wood] as people. Interesting people have quirks and certain personalities."

The tables and chairs he creates are as much art as they are furniture.

A salvaged log outside Brent Comber's studio. He finds the story in the imperfections of wood. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

'Waiting for a story'

He finds the beauty in the bark's seams, knots and splits, he says. A story comes out of the different movements in the grain.

A large oak log, salvaged from behind the Richmond Olympic Oval is laid out behind Comber's shop, poised for a narrative to be whittled out of it.

"This is still waiting for a story, I don't want to rush into it," Comber told Margaret Gallagher, the guest host of CBC's North By Northwest.

His studio in the North Shore is overflowing with material that he's collected over the years, each waiting to be turned into a piece of art or furniture.

"I have it all catalogued in my brain," Comber said. "This is my shopping cart in here, this is where it all starts."

He opened up his studios and invited visitors to see his process this week as part Crafted Vancouver, a month-long celebration of local art makers.

Brent Comber has a large supply of wood from all over the province, waiting to be worked on. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

Partly, he said, he hopes to share his love for wood as a material for building and creating — the same goal that prompted his initial interest in the work.  

"I didn't study furniture making, I really just sort of trusted the process and my intuition," Comber said. "I wanted people and my customers to reconnect to wood as a beautiful material first so it just made sense to me to be carving."

With files from Margaret Gallagher and North By Northwest.