Lua Garcia escaped a life of screens and scrolling to rekindle her creative flame as a London-based woodworker. But switching spreadsheets for splinters doesn’t come without challenges: every day Lua has to manage the balance in creating bespoke furniture that’s versatile enough to last generations yet still fits with a client’s vision. Not only does Lua strive to maintain sustainability practises in her woodwork, but this mentality also spills over into her personal life, as she uses biking to counter the overwhelming pace of life in the UK’s capital.
Lua’s mission as a contemporary woodworker is to foreground sustainability, an aspect of her work that often comes into play when discussing design decisions with her clients: “I try to adapt someone’s vision to make it more sustainable and use less material or use it better.” Once a client has settled on their commission, Lua collects the timber from as sustainable a source as possible. Lua’s trusty local timber specialist saves trees which have reached the natural end of their life: “Councils or local burroughs will contact him and he saves the trees from being chipped, which gives them another purpose – otherwise they’d just be burned.”
Once Lua has her wood, it comes down to pure craftsmanship. Making furniture of the highest quality and versatility is key to Lua’s efforts in keeping things green: “I’m confident the furniture I make is going to last 100 to 150 years, and where possible, I try to make it so that it’s repurposable in the future. So for example, a cabinet can always be made into shelves, and you can have it through generations of your family.”
For Lua, working with wood is far more than a profession. It’s artistry. “You really get to know each species [of tree] and what it might do, and I find that relationship really beautiful. Your ash is really reliable. Your oak could twist.” The process Lua describes is mesmerizing, even sensory: “One of the things I love most about working with wood is the smell and touch of it, at all the different stages that you’re working with it. So it starts off as a really rough plank – it might be really splintered or rough, or it’s wonky. And you work to transform it slowly, machining it into perfect squares.” Well, now it’s not hard to see why Lua was lured away from sitting behind a computer screen all day. This true passion for her work is never more obvious than when she describes her favorite of woods, the walnut: “It’s buttery when you touch it; it’s silky. And when you carve it, it looks like chocolate curls and you can sort of grate it like a high bar of chocolate – it’s beautiful.”
“It’s buttery when you touch it; it’s silky. And when you carve it, it looks like chocolate curls and you can sort of grate it like a high bar of chocolate – it’s beautiful.”
Lua now pays a new level of attention to the nature that surrounds her, even in the middle of London: “A walk in the park or in the forest is completely different now. And to my mind, I’m looking at how the trees grow.” But life in London wasn’t always so connected for Lua: “I found London incredibly overwhelming when I first arrived nine years ago,” she remembers: “Actually, one of the things that helped was getting on a bike and seeing the city differently, instead of through a bus window or on the tube.” Want to discover a fresh perspective on your city, fast? Take a leaf out of Lua’s book, and choose to leave the tube behind and move a little differently.