Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Forging Ahead Resident Artist at Urban Tree Branches out While Continuing Its Work of Turning Reclaimed Wood into Furniture

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Forging Ahead Resident Artist at Urban Tree Branches out While Continuing Its Work of Turning Reclaimed Wood into Furniture

Article excerpt

Three years ago, a visionary project called the Urban Tree Forge almost toppled with the death of founder John Metzler. It could have disappeared altogether if not for others who shared his passion for the trees of Pittsburgh.

Today, artist Jason Boone carries on that vision at Urban Tree (www.pittsburghurban-tree.com), a new name and a new location in Homewood that honors the old forge.

"It's been a lifelong dream to have a workshop, bring in the wood on one side and the furniture comes out the other," said Mr. Boone.

Like many life passions, Mr. Boone's love of woodworking started at an early age, on a farm near Kansas City, Mo.

"My parents were brave enough to allow me to have a fair amount of tools in the garage," he said, laughing. A young entrepreneur, he would buy pattern books, go around town getting orders and return later with the finished piece.

Trained as an architect, Mr. Boone moved to Pittsburgh in 2006 to work with the firm of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson. Yet his hobby remained a central part of his life. After running out of room in his apartment kitchen to do the kind of woodworking projects he wanted, he started working as a resident artist at the Urban Tree Forge.

He said the direction of his life changed the day Metzler died in 2010.

"He passed away May 13, and he had a bunch of jobs waiting to be finished," said Mr. Boone. "I jumped in and helped finish up. Then in July, I got laid off from the architectural firm."

Mr. Boone's dream remained with the forge and so did he. However, many of the other artists drifted away.

"I started up my own company, buying out pieces of the Urban Tree Forge, even some of the wood," he said.

Last July, he made the move from the old location on Washington Boulevard in Lincoln-Lemington to the new one on Susquehanna Street in Homewood. It still functions as a cooperative, with five businesses sharing the space.

Mr. Boone's dream of a "full-cycle" workshop came closer with the building of a drying kiln, a key component in creating quality furniture.

"It was a big investment. ... I either needed to build it or buy a truck to haul the stuff back and forth," he said.

Important to Mr. Boone's vision is keeping everything local; building the kiln was an obvious step. "I source things here and do everything here. …

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