Designer Profile: Brent Comber
Focused on creating sculpted objects, functional pieces and design environments, the Vancouver, Canada-based designer Brent Comber has built an international reputation for his aesthetic interpretation of the Pacific Northwest by using local natural materials to create modern urban forms.
The inspiration for my pieces stems from my connection to the basic material I use in my work. This connection has everything to do with my personal history and sense of place in the region and community in which I was born.
I’m the fourth generation of my family to make my home in North Vancouver, a city situated between one of the West Coast’s busiest harbours and the backcountry forest on the slopes of the Coastal Mountain range. My first business in this community was a landscaping company. I loved the creative aspects of designing gardens as well as working with the rock, wood, soil and other raw, natural materials necessary for their construction. I acquired my knowledge of landscaping the same way I’ve learned my woodworking skills: through my hands.
While running my landscaping business I began to renovate my first home. My search for older wood appropriate to the pre-war construction of my house led me to the harbour area of North Vancouver where the demolition of the old shipyard buildings was underway. Combing through the lumber on the site, it occurred to me what a magical place this was. The touch and even the smell of the old wood evoked in me a powerful sense of history. Many years earlier, my grandfather had driven the streetcar to and from the ship yards and I suddenly had a strong mental image of him driving by, carrying a load of shipyard workers to their job. At that moment, I discovered the capacity of old wood to tell stories in its own rich and expressive language. This discovery inspired me to begin building objects from historically significant wood.
Initially, I made all of my pieces from wood that I salvaged from demolition sites around Vancouver. My material now comes from several environmentally friendly sources. But while my wood choices are in keeping with the precepts of sustainability, this is incidental rather than intentional. I simply want to use wood that best suits my purposes: unprocessed wood with cracks, bark sinews, knots, and swirling and uneven grain patterns. This type of wood is not available from most commercial wood outlets, which generally stock clear, straight-grained wood. Instead, I visit mills, lumber yards and other sources to find cast-off wood in which the lumber industry has little or no interest. For me, this is authentic wood, wood with powerful character and capable of telling the strongest and most vivid stories.
The Brent Comber studio is located in North Vancouver, Canada. Nestled in a busy marina on Vancouver’s North Shore, our location allows us to maintain an intimate connection with our customers, the local design community, and the natural materials found on the Coast Mountains and on Vancouver Island.
Led by Brent, the studio includes a diverse group of artists and craftspeople, each of whom brings their own knowledge and experience to the table. Our furniture and sculptural objects are built by hand, one at a time. As such, we are able to work symbiotically with our customers, pairing our skill and understanding with any special design requests they may have.