Having grown up in the construction industry with his builder father, and a twenty-year career path, furniture making was an innately, if hidden part of his psyche: “Being around tools and on job sites instils in you a little bit of giving everything a go. I’ve always loved working with my hands, just making things really. And I wanted to be out of the construction industry and let the creative side of my brain do more than just following plans,” says Henderson.
It wasn’t, however, until he and his wife moved to the Northern Rivers of NSW that things started to take shape. The couple needed furniture for their newly renovated home, so Henderson turned his hand to furniture making, which was around five years ago: “I have always looked at furniture as something that I could do, but hadn’t. And then I started making some furniture for our house,” explains Henderson.
That said, it’s only in the last six months that Henderson has started to create his unique pieces for sale and commission. Though he works with steel, stone and sculpted concrete, his primary material is timber.
Working with a local miller who sources and kiln dries timbers that are reclaimed, salvaged or removed as felled or fallen farm trees, each of the pieces can be identified back to an individual tree. This includes Camphor Laurel, which features in the current collection.
“It’s not a timber that everyone loves that much, but I really love the fact that it’s considered a weed as introduced, I love the silky sheen of the wood and the way it smells, its beautiful grains and being nice to work with.”
This is despite a reputation as a difficult timber for outdoor use, being slightly unstable as he explains: “Camphor does have a fair bit of movement in it, but I like that in my furniture. I like embracing the natural things that timbers do around knots.”
Getting around this movement, Henderson allows the edge to be live (organically shifting with time and the elements) while the main surfaces and knots are stabilised with bowtie insertions and inlays. Effectively this allows each piece to be a uniquely designed and experienced expression of the timber: “I’ve always loved the natural rugged lines that are occurring in the furniture and it’s taken me a while to realise there was a term for it: Wabi-sabi,” shares Henderson, of the perfection of imperfection intentionally incorporated into his work.
Camphor isn’t the only material, he notes Australian hardwoods as a preferred timber to work with, “I love working with spotted gum, it has a beautiful grain and is lovely to work with”. Imported timbers are also highly regarded, but the preference is for local: “Don’t get me wrong, all the important timber is really beautiful to work with too, but I just like that idea of working with Australian and locally sourced recycled timbers.”
Selecting timber for a project or finding inspiration for a piece of furniture in the timber, are equal drivers. If, for example, he is commissioned to make a unique table with a live edge, the timber sourced will need to suit that quality. He is also in the process of developing a catalogue of furniture, which effectively acts as a starting point that will shift depending on the timber used. “They all have their own individuality but also can be re-made. So, someone can look at a piece and say, ‘I want that’ and I can make it, and it’s along the same lines, but it will have its own unique qualities,” he says.
With tables and benches his main staple (so far) it is perhaps germane that his philosophical approach to designing furniture is about connectivity and communication: “I love the idea that furniture can bring people together, especially a dining room bringing people together around a meal. That’s the passion.”