Author Archives: GJW

Design for Global Forestry – AIA Presentation and White Paper Launch

Last Wednesday, October 18th, I presented my newly updated Global Forestry lecture in the AIA’s Centre for Architecture New York as part of Wilsonart’s National Day of Learning.

I am linking here to a review of the lecture from

And here is a link to the survey results and a link to my white paper – Design for Global Forestry.

You can also see a recording of the presentation here.

The responses have been overwhelming and I really believe we are turning the thought leaders of architects and designers on to the concept that trees may be renewable bit forests are not. I am looking forward to bringing this message to larger audiences in 2018.

We must do all we can to protect our global forests.



National Day of Learning – Global Forestry

In a recent national survey conducted by SMS Research Advisors for Wilsonart, 70 percent of architects and designers agree that using responsibly sourced wood materials is a priority. The challenge: 99 percent could not correctly identify the majority of endangered woods from a list they were given. Furthermore, the survey revealed awareness that a wood is endangered does not always prevent usage. Up to 51 percent of endangered wood users are aware that the wood is endangered or threatened, but 40 percent of respondents said they would still specify an endangered wood if their client specifically requested it.

“We learned from this survey that professionals in the industry need to be more informed about the materials they specify,” said Tammy Weadock, Communications Manager at Wilsonart. “The largest knowledge gap exists where it could impact architects and designers the most, in their own practices.” To bridge this deep gap in awareness, knowledge and action in specifying products, Wilsonart is launching Understanding Wood: Sourcing Against the Grain, an educational initiative for architects and designers. The program aims to educate architects and designers not only on how to identify endangered and threatened woods, but to equip them to find alternate materials that meet their aesthetic and functional needs.

“The design community is largely unaware that while trees are renewable, forests are not,” said Weadock. “Aside from the lack of knowledge about specific endangered woods, designers and architects are even less informed about the rules and regulations in protected forests and the logging that happens there. Forty-two percent did not know what makes a forest protected, and only 24 percent were very familiar with the Lacey Act, which makes using responsibly harvested wood not only an ethical choice, but a legal responsibility.” Wilsonart’s program will offer the A&D community CEUs, presentations, educational materials, infographics and a white paper on this critical conservation issue. “We are urging architects and designers to use properly sourced wood materials,” Weadock noted. “This will help save protected forests, endangered wildlife and the very air we breathe.”

Key components of Understanding Wood include:

  • A National Day of Learning. Wilsonart invites architects and designers across the U.S. to join in person or online for a CEU on the topic of Global Forestry and what architects and designers need to know to protect their practices. The CEU will take place October 18, 2017 at The Center for Architecture in NYC and will be livestreamed twice that day so participants outside of NYC can join. The Global Forestry CEU, which is accredited by AIA and IDCEC, will be presented by Grace Jeffers, thought leader, design historian and materials expert, who is known for an interdisciplinary and integrated approach to the study of materials.
  • A Global Forestry White Paper. Knowing how complex this issue is, a white paper has been created to provide the A&D community a comprehensive overview of the subject and steps they can take to protect their practice.
  • A Partnership with the Interlochen Academy of the Arts. Situated on a 1,200-acre campus near Traverse City, Michigan, Interlochen Academy of the Arts is one of America’s premiere arts educational institutions. It draws young people from around the world to study music, theater, dance, visual arts, creative writing, motion picture arts and comparative arts. Wilsonart has underwritten curriculum exploring “The Art of Ecology,” and “The Ecology of Art.” As part of the course material, artists Daniel McCormick and Mary O’Brien will visit the campus and collaborate with students on art installations within the forests at Interlochen. Additionally, Wilsonart is supporting the transformation of a Red Pine plantation forest, located on the Interlochen campus, into a natural, native forest. Phase one, which takes place in late 2017 and throughout 2018, involves selective thinning of the existing forest and the reintroduction of native species.
  • An Educational Hub. In the fall, 2017, Wilsonart will launch an education hub with all materials developed for the program on The hub will act both as a resource for the A&D community and a gallery of Interlochen students’ blog posts, videos and perspectives about the issue.



Great Laminate Article from VLK Architects

Plastic Laminate. We use and see it every day whether we realize it or not, but still the name Plastic Laminate can make you wrinkle your nose in disgust. But why?

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Arborite factory facility in beautiful Montreal! I loved the experience and learned a ton, but I think the most important thing I learned is that using Plastic Laminate and other man-made or “fake” materials isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can be a very good thing for a number of reasons. Arborite’s historian and materials expert, Grace Jeffers, gave a very enlightening presentation entitled, Man-made Natural; the Truth about Fake Materials. The presentation basically boiled down to when you should use a “fake” or man-made material vs. the “real” or natural thing.

Read full article here.

Metropolis Magazine on Wilsonart Chair Competition 2017

am delighted that Metropolis Magazine covered our competition at this years ICFF. Please follow the link to their review which opens as follows:

“If there is one object that remains a source of endless fascination for designers, it is undoubtedly the chair. For the past 13 years, the Wilsonart Challenges Student Chair Design Competition has been presenting students across the United States with this ultimate test. Hosted by a different design school each year, the program is both a competition and a yearlong class, during which students are tasked with designing and building a one-of-a-kind chair, while also preparing for a major trade show. Wilsonart supplies the materials and technical expertise; design historian Grace Jeffers oversees the program and provides it with a much-needed historical framework.”

Read the full article here

Cusp 2016 Releases Presentation Video

One of the highlights of my year was speaking at the Cusp conference. Cusp is not a ‘how to design things’ conference. It’s eclectic by design, intended to provoke cross-pollination of ideas and generate new thinking. Attendees enjoy 25+ inspiring and thought-provoking presentations by people who are passionate about designing a better future. Every attendee has the opportunity to see every presentation—there are no breakouts or q+a sessions. You can book a place by clicking here: Cusp 2017.

ASID SCALE tops off frantic lecture schedule

Grace gave two lectures at The ASID SCALE event last weekend in Oklahoma University. This is ASID’s National Student Summit formerly known as LAUNCH is a one-of-a-kind, multi-day conference for interior design students includes seminars for educators and ASID chapter leaders.

Grace’s Manmade Natural and Global Forestry 101 were very well attended with standing room only for both. The ASID Scale event marked the end of a frantic lecture schedule that started with her appearance in The New York School of Interior Design before flying to Montreal to present to 60 plus IDCEC attendees.

Her next major lecture is in Chicago at the Cabinets & Closets Conference at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Wednesday April 12 and Thursday April 13.  Click here to register.

10 Most Endangered Wood Species – Woodworking Network

treedownMy thanks to Bill Esler, Editor of Woodworking Network for his article covering my research into endangered woods.

You can read his article by clicking here.

I have been lucky enough to be invited to give my Manmade Natural lecture in cities across the US, meeting with architects and designers in their firms. I have asked the same questions regarding their plans for wood into the future.

I am consistently saddened at the lack of awareness that certain woods are endangered and I urge my colleagues to learn more about the woods they plan to recommend. They wouldn’t cover a couch in tiger skin so why would they specify Zebra wood?

I will be writing more about this in the year to come and once again thank you Bill for covering this story.





Primeval Białowieża forest under threat in Poland

European bison in Poland’s Białowieża forest. Photograph: Łukasz Mazurek/

It is one of Europe’s last remaining primeval forests, a last vestige of those that once covered the entire European plain from the Bay of Biscay in the west to the Russian Ural Mountains in the east. It is home to 800 European bison, is an EU Natura 2000 Special Area of Conservation and this forest is a UNESCO designated world heritage site.

You and I might believe this little miracle of survival would stand forever protected from loggers. But we’d be wrong.

Under the guise of harmless beetle the Polish government has authorised the logging of 180,000 cubic metres. National forest director Konrad Tomaszewski outlined the plan to harvest wood in order to halt forest degradation by combating a spruce bark beetle infestation, to protect tourists and rangers from the risk of trees falling on trails.

So why are half the trees cut down to date non-spruce and therefore not affected by this beetle? And why are they worried about a perfectly normal forestry infestation? It is an excuse to rob us of our forestry heritage for profit.

Greenpeace Poland activist Katarzyna Jagiełło said.“The minister does not understand that this insect is a frequent and natural visitor, that it has always existed and the forest has managed to survive,”

A delegation from Unesco visited Białowieża between in June to assess the situation. Luc Bas, the director of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which advises the Unesco world heritage committee said that the organisation was receiving “a lot of worrying information” about logging activity in Białowieża.

“The IUCN is planning a mission to Białowieża … to assess the situation and the effect of the new logging plans on the World Heritage site. We would advise that, as a precautionary approach, logging should not be proceeding in the Białowieża forest until there has been an assessment of its implications for its world heritage status,” he said.

Latest Update

The initial IUCN opinion said: “Plans by the Polish government to undertake logging in Bialowieza Forest could disturb the natural ecological processes that are part of the World Heritage values of the site and, if implemented, could provide the basis for listing the site as ‘in danger’ in 2017”.

The IUCN’s Tim Badman told EUobserver: “The World Heritage Convention was established to give the highest level of protection to sites with outstanding universal value, which in the case of Bialowieza includes undisturbed natural processes and the richness of dead wood.”

Read more – Guardian Article

Read more – EU Observer Article