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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.



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.

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


Bill Esler’s Preview of NeoCon Lecture – Global Forestry 101

Please click here to see full article by Bill Esler

Grace Jeffers, a design expert and wood products research specialist, details endangered and non-legal wood species, including Lacey Act protections, in a June 13 presentation at 11:00 a.m. at NeoCon 2016 in Chicago.

New legislation worldwide is cracking down on the purchase and export of threatened, endangered, and illegally sourced wood. Not knowing the facts and legal issues could cause unexpected liabilities for designers, specifiers, and for wood manufacturing firms anywhere along the supply chain.
Jeffers will examine the relationship between wood products, and the forests from which they come, and provide key information resources that will help you rapidly identify threatened and endangered species, and at-risk environments.
In this one-hour session attendees will learn to navigate through tricky territory with confidence, getting the tools to protect clients and their own businessess, as well as to protect our natural resources. Jeffers will also provide options for providing clients the very finest alternatives, latest products, and best design ideas available.
Jeffers has spent several years research the status of endanger tree species. Her wide-ranging presentation will also examine the relationship between individual trees and the forests in which they live. She will also delve into the global registries, such as Cites, used by regulatory agencies around the world, and as reference points for legislation.
Based in New York City, Jeffers lectures frequently on design at colleges and consults for high end clients like Wilsonart and MeadWestvaco. She was part of the creative team that rebranded, revitalized and repopularized the Airstream travel trailers.
More than 40,000 are expected at the commercial furniture and design show, which runs June 13-15 at the Merchandise Mart.
About Bill Esler, Editorial Director, Woodworking Network
Bill is responsible for overall content at, FDMC and Closets magazines and related publications and newsletters. Bill also manages event programs for Woodworking Network conferences at the Woodworking Machinery & Supplies Expo in Toronto, WoodPro Expo in Baltimore, and Cabinets & Closets Expo. He develops audience engagement programs using social media, digital printing, live lead-generating events, custom websites and digital/print content.