International Wood Magazine, September 2015

Matanda Wood Creations

“I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree …”

“Poet Joyce Kilmer got it right,” says Vic Barr, founder of Matanda Wood Creations. “A tree is a perfect expression of the elements of earth, air, water and, eventually, fire. My intent at Matanda is to honor the spirit of that creation in handcrafted objects that celebrate the beauty of wood.”

Barr founded Matanda Wood Creations, a custom boutique woodshop in St. Louis, MO, in 1999.

“A turning point for me was when I discovered exotic words,” Barr says. “The exotics have fabulous colors, grains, figuring, aromas, and they are just incredible to work with. Exotics are often more colorful than domestic species, with a finished wood palette that can be variations of red, purple, yellow, orange, brown, black or variegated. Their grain patterns are spectacular and their durability unsurpassed. Each species has distinctive attributes, such as oil content, scent, figuring, grain, and density.

Barr estimates that he has worked with 92 species of wood over the course of his career. He is particularly partial to the rosewoods, and has worked with 11 of the 50 plus varieties of rosewood. Other favorites include: Central American Cocobolo, distinguished by its cinnamon-y scent, fine texture, lustrous finish and kaleidoscope of colors; dark dense Ziricote from Central America with its unique spider-webbing grain figure; and Tulipwood from Brazil, a straight-grained, finely textured wood streaked with colorful yellows, reds, oranges, and pinks.

“The longer you work with wood, the more you see,” Barr says. He takes inspiration from the curves, grains, figuring, coloring, fragrance and even the sound of the woods. “Because wood is beautiful in its own right, I don’t want to cover it, disguise it, or put it on a production line. It should express itself through me—just as I express myself through the wood.”

Often a piece of wood at a lumber yard or a distributor draws him because it’s highly figured or beautifully grained. “I know it wants to be something, but it hasn’t yet told me what it wants to be,” he says.

A self-acknowledged perfectionist, Barr admits that he is happiest in his workshop, designing a new and challenging piece, making the all the parts fit perfectly, enhancing the beauty of the wood.

“I never bought a piece of wood that I didn’t hold in my hands,” he says. “I don’t buy off the internet and I only source from reputable importers. In addition, Barr plans the use of every piece of wood down to the smallest scrap so that there is little left but shavings and sawdust.

Depending on the wood, he uses nitrocellulose lacquer, polyurethane or Danish oil as a finish. “On some of the pieces, I spend 40 percent of my time on the finish because the last thing I do is the first thing a buyer sees and we all know how important first impressions are.”

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Matanda is a made-up word derived from the names of Barr’s two children, Matt and Amanda.

International Wood Magazine, September 2015vicbarr4