Building bridges with old bridges: Indigenous furniture shop blazes upcycling trail

Click to play video: 'Don’t burn bridges, build furniture'
Don’t burn bridges, build furniture
WATCH: A former B.C. pulp mill worker and his son are saving Douglas fir from a fiery death, and creating beautiful furniture. Paul Johnson reports – Sep 21, 2023

An Indigenous environmental company is blazing an upcycled trail in the furniture industry, using old logging bridges to build beautiful indoor pieces.

Bridge Furniture, whose showroom is in Calgary, has a memorandum of understanding with Canfor that allows it to reclaim its logging bridges, saving them from the burn pile. The company also uses wood it finds washed up or discarded in British Columbia to add texture and dimension, according to owner Tracy Sloan.

“Douglas fir — we utilize a lot of that in the furniture, but we also want to add the art part,” she said Thursday.

“Because we love Mother Earth, Mother Nature, basically we hand-pick pieces of beach wood from the West Coast as well to add the art to the furniture. That’s often sometimes burned as well or it’s just junk in some people’s backyards.”

Click to play video: 'Indigenous artisans connect to their cultural roots at PNE'
Indigenous artisans connect to their cultural roots at PNE

Sloan said each piece of furniture is unique and signed by the artist. Right now, the company has a number of artists working at its shop in Mackenzie, a district municipality in central B.C.

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“Each piece will have a name, has an artistic flair to it. Right now, we have this beautiful mirror that is used to stand against a wall and the top piece of driftwood looks like an eagle, so we call it the Eagle Mirror,” she said.

“The quality that goes in our pieces is just amazing. You normally would never see this because we have so much wood, and a lot of the wood we work with is weathered, right? So it’s going to last a long time.”

Right now, the company’s sales focus in on Calgary, she added, since that’s where the brick and mortar store is and much of the furniture is heavy enough to make shipping a challenge.

Click to play video: 'Hornby Island Indigenous midden partially dug up during BC Ferries construction'
Hornby Island Indigenous midden partially dug up during BC Ferries construction

Bridge Furniture uses old and usually damaged sections of logging bridges called mods. Each one weighs about 16,000 pounds and each bridge has six on average, although some bridges have up to 30.

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CEO Brayden Sloan said Bridge Furniture’s logging partners are happy to have the environmental group remove them through contracted crane truck.

“The logging bridges are put there for the logging trucks to go out and bring back the logs that are cut down in the forests, so they cross over rivers, ridges,” he explained.  “Basically they have no more use. They need to remove the liability.”

Instead of burning them, the logging groups let Bridge Furniture teams break them down and remove the large spikes that hold the mods together. The beams are then run through the company’s sawmill to break the mods into usable pieces.

Bridge Furniture also recycles the metal spikes into the final product. To date, the company has turned between 60 and 80 mods into furniture, and still has enough wood to last another 10 years.

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