Welcome to Sleeping Bear Twig Furniture. My name is Bill Perkins.
I was first introduced as a child to the idea of making furniture from branches, twigs and bark in their natural state. This happened when some neighbors took me along on one of their visits to a friend's grandmother's "Up North" cottage, which was furnished in the rustic style. I was really impressed by these twisting and gnarly chairs and tables. My previous experiences with this style had been building tree forts and hideouts as a kid.
Years later, when I moved to northern Michigan in my twenties, I remembered those willow pieces and began to make them myself. I liked the idea of bringing trees inside the house and shaping them into beautiful and functional objects, without losing the character and identity of the materials.
From my first rickety plant stands to the pieces I make now, each piece of willow I trim and bend, each piece of maple or bark has taught me something new. I have looked often and carefully at the great rustic pieces found in the Adirondack camps and in northern Michigan. A visit to Germany and Austria introduced me to some of the ideas and the flowing lines of Art Nouveau and the Wiener Werkstatte. A session or two with Clifton Monteith introduced me to his unique take on the the relationship of rusticity and modernism. The Arts and Crafts movement has also been an influence.
Though I love and respect the history and tradition of rustic furniture, I don't feel constrained to only reproduce Adirondack period pieces. I like letting all these influences, and many others I happen across, have their say.
I like to use unprocessed materials in my work and harness the immediacy of a shoot of willow.
Environmentally, my work is about as low-impact as furniture gets. Willow is an extremely renewable resource, and thrives with harvesting. I only take birch and cedar bark from dead trees. I also use the hugely over-planted Douglas fir Christmas tree.
I make each piece of work myself as I have for the last 25 years.