By Kadie Yale | Photography by Elyn Marton
By CBM Woodworks
When designers take inspiration from the world around them, it’s not always the
sunny, positive things in their environments. For
woodworker Casey McCafferty, the design for
his Drought Collection sprang from the California
water crisis. The collection features a dining table,
cocktail table, bench, and milking stool. Each piece
is made with native California hardwoods charred
using the Japanese Shou Sugi Ban technique, in
addition to crushed turquoise, brass, and smoked
glass. By combining the elements and techniques
in this way, McCafferty offers a stunning statement
on the fragility of the natural environment.
WHEN WAS THE DROUGHT COLLECTION DEVELOPED?
It was developed in 2016.
HOW DID THE NAME COME ABOUT?
I moved to Southern Cal recently, and was struck by
the area’s struggles with water. My wife and I would
hike in the canyons and it was so dry, but along these
empty stream beds we’d discover pops of green.
Defiant life, insisting on survival.
WHAT INSPIRED THE COLLECTION?
The Drought Collection speaks to the relationship
between my new environment and the new life I was
building here in L.A. I wanted to create something that
brought together my skills in woodworking, which is
how I express myself, with what I saw being expressed
in the landscape. I use native woods, charred to further
emphasize the dryness, then add smoked glass for
the sky, and rub in crushed turquoise to show how the
water, tenuous as it is, hangs on.
WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE IN BRINGING IT TO LIFE?
I had just moved from a shared workspace into my own
workshop in Venice, Calif., and I had no tools. I had to
build all of the prototypes by hand. It’s satisfying work,
but really time-consuming. Fortunately, I sold some pieces
and used the proceeds to invest in my own tools.
HOW HAS THE RESPONSE BEEN SO FAR?
The visuals get a lot of attention. The materials are
dramatic; the turquoise and the charcoal really make
a statement. But they’re hard to place in an existing
design scheme; you really have to have the right
architecture and interior design. That’s a lot of why I
do so much custom work—to suit the client.
WHAT IS YOUR HOPE FOR THE COLLECTION?
I like that people want to touch the furniture, and
want to talk about it and tell stories. It seems to open
up conversation about how we experience our world
and how we want to live in it. My hope is that Drought
encourages people to choose furniture for their
spaces that has meaning to them, that they actually
use, and that encourages conversations.
ARE THERE ANY CHANGES ON THE HORIZON?
Well, fortunately, our drought is over, and I hope
my collection lives on. I was just asked to build a
Drought-inspired swiveling bar table. It has lots of
turquoise and copper accents, and when the client
opens her floor-to-ceiling sliding doors the table swivels
out and serves as an outdoor entertaining surface. It’s
pretty cool. So, more custom applications like that are
definitely in the future.
WHAT’S SOMETHING PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT THE
Some people aren’t familiar with the Shou Sugi Ban
technique of charring wood, so it’s pretty cool to introduce
them to that. And then, of course, that they can ask for
customizations. Furniture is meant to be lived with,
not admired like a museum piece, so I want to make
things that people want to touch and enjoy using.