In the season seven finale of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David, playing the (debatably) fictional version of himself, is accused by Julia Louis-Dreyfus (you know her as Seinfeld’s Elaine Marie Benes) of leaving a ring stain on an antique table in her house. As a result, Julia asks Larry for $500 to repair the table, which Larry adamantly denies having anything to do with because, quite simply, he “respects wood”. Determined to exonerate himself and find out whodunit, Larry starts grilling the improvised comedy’s usual suspects: “Do you respect wood, Susie?”
Besides making sure there’s something to soak up the perspiration of my especially sweaty drinks and not inviting (fictional) Larry David to a house party if ever the opportunity were occasioned for fear of him not doing the same (although in fairness, the last few minutes of the episode reveal it was not in fact Larry, but his wife, Cheryl David), I can’t think of more ways I respect wood. Wait, yes I can: the first, I take my kicks off whenever I’m on hardwood floors because I think the wood feels used enough being walked all over, it doesn’t need to be scratched unnecessarily too. The second, I make a concerted effort to print double-sided so as to save trees because I really like living among them. The third (and related to the second), I get tremendously indignant when anything is one-sided and there’s no reason for it, the air thereafter prone to my childlike kicks as an expression of such indignance and everyone I subsequently deal with prone to getting notes and work scrawled on the back of said one sides in an almost deafeningly silent retaliation, regardless of whether they were responsible for the one-sidedness in the first place. These, I think, constitute sufficiently sized notches on the “respecting wood” belt that I and hopefully most people wear, the larger, more elaborate belts finding shelter only on the waists of the more deserving – timber framers, fine artisan carpenters…y’know the type.
And if you don’t, let me give you a perfect example. Sam Clemens and Lenny Hopkins, the brothers and business partners behind Hobo Woodworks. Now these two really respect wood. What best encapsulates this fact is Hobo Woodworks’ use of reclaimed material – that’s right, the stuff people throw away. Sam and Lenny are steadfast subscribers to one man’s meat being another man’s poison. One man’s ceiling being another man’s floor. More relevantly, one man’s broken and forgettable chair leg being another man’s trusty tool box handle – I could do this all day but to spare you, I’ll just settle by stating, “and so on with the derivatives of this famous idiom”. As such, Julia Louis-Dreyfus can rest assured that Sam and Lenny would never not use a coaster on an antique table at her house.
Sam Clemens (left) and Lenny Hopkins (right), the boys behind Hobo Woodworks by Take Kayo
Born and raised on the West Coast, Sam and Lenny decided to open up shop (or studio, more like) in Vancouver where they use and re-use woods indigenous to the Province of British Columbia to hand craft a variety of products from business carry-alls that fit a Macbook Air to removable bicycle crates and butcher block tables. You name it, they’ve done it…or they’re happy to test drive their imaginations for a custom job resulting in something that reflects the simplicity of the coast they grew up on and that elicits conversation because Hobo craftsmanship makes for looks unprecedented. And what a time to take up this art, namely, in the wake of people fervently in search of a meaning behind where they live and what they surround themselves with, different from the stuff of a college kid starting out on his own or that of a just-out-of-college couple starting out on their own because their address doesn’t accommodate much more. Here’s looking at you, blue and yellow European brand with names that contain an “o” under two peering black eyes…or the free page on Craigslist. Not that there’s anything wrong with filling your house in such fashions (hey, the recklessly young version of us all did), it’s just people now are ever thirsty for a narrative or as Sam Clemens puts it, “don’t want crap with dubious origins.” Clemens goes on to say, “People are fed up with mass produced junk and corporate agendas that are harming our planet, so I think this traditional craft movement, especially in Vancouver, is exciting and healthy.” This is particularly true for the boys of Hobo who say that half their time is spent on commissioned work for people who desire only the real and inspired, thereby necessitating a reading of the wood and a sharp eye for where a nail goes perfectly. After all, that’s what happens when these boys make straight from their heart.
Hobo Woodworks products by Sam Clemens
Perhaps just as important as the recycling wood thing is where the hard work begins, the salt of the Earth, rustic cabin feeling venue otherwise known as the Hobo studio. With the company’s crest, one red-bladed and another blue-bladed ax cutting into tree bark on either end, alive on all Hobo products and standing modest in the corner with some acoustic guitar seemingly afloat on a nearby wall, the Hobo studio is meant to serve as a community hub, a free and democratic space where friends convene, good times roll (as do skateboard wheels – yeah, the studio enjoys a new built-in ramp), and life inspires. Unlike suppliers with glossy catalogues and product numbers, Hobo welcomes customers to the workplace to gander at the creative process and local wood scraps in the back of the Hobo pickup from which the next wine holder could be cut. “It’s fun to work with people,” Sam Clemens notes, however he cautions gently, “there’s not much room for compromising our aesthetic vision. There is an entire lifetime behind what we do and there has to be an understanding that customers are getting a Hobo piece.” So hang up your hat, have a sit, and be witness to the creative flow because what you get is just what you’d expect to come out of such a unique studio and the experienced hands at Hobo: works that are inviting, freshly original, environmentally sustainable, and look straight up cool wherever they’re put.
The studio by Sam Clemens
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