For me design is an evolution, not a destination. With each new piece I revisit my design decisions and perfect the overall look. Could the top be thinner, or thicker? What about the legs? I don't think perfection can be achieved, but that isn't a reason to strive for it. Most of the time this process leads to changes so subtle few would ever notice, however sometimes it generates radical new results.
My dished Moon side and Orbit coffee tables have been in production for a while now. I like to have the live edge of the slab interrupt the geometric perimeter of the table top, but I have always taken it as a given that I cut the oval or circle out of the slab to match the dished area.
Recently I began work on a new Orbit coffee table that threw my whole process into doubt. This piece was to be made with some very special apple wood. I had milled this wood myself three years ago from, quite possibly, the largest apple tree in existence. The tree was growing in a backyard in Portland; it had termites and posed a risk to the surrounding houses. It had to come down, luckily the owner realized what she had and didn't want it to go to waste. She called me to give the tree a second life, and I was happy to oblige. It was well worth the effort as the wood was simply stunning. Apple has dense grain and a wide variety of color, from fleshy white to chocolate brown along with pinks and reds. When it came time to cut out the oval, I couldn't do it. Call it a sentimental attachment, but the wood was just to precious and too rare to remove any part of it. This made me wonder why I felt compelled to cut out the oval in the first place? It seemed like a huge design risk, but I thought it might be pretty cool to dish the oval out of the slab leaving the live edge all around it.
My wife has always been my best design confidant and I always ask her opinion before jumping out on a limb. She never has a problem letting me know when I have gone too far, and I deeply respect her for that. In this case she was strongly against the dished slab. She thought it would look weird, and I felt there was a good chance she was right, yet something wouldn't let me abandon this idea. So despite her disapproval I went ahead with it. Success or fail, I just had to see what this piece would look like.
Making this piece was quite a risk. I only had three slabs from the apple tree, and it would be hard to forgive myself for ruining one. Yet when I first saw the dished slab I knew it had been worth it. Somehow it changed the whole way you looked at the piece, the sunken oval outlined "our" space and left the natural beauty intact all around. Neither part infringed on the other, making the coffee table a metaphor for sustainable living. The salvaged nature of the apple top makes the piece even more poignant. Nature's beauty can enhance our lives, if we are bold enough to embrace it and not try to control it.