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Paris-born sculptor Julien Peltier creates organic, textural furniture pieces that draw on Japanese woodworking techniques and unusual tools—he often starts his process with a chainsaw. He holds sustainability at the heart of his practice: many of the materials he works with are salvaged from natural tree falls in his neighbourhood. We’re proud to note that Provide was one of the first representatives of his work.

We caught up with Julien from his studio in Vancouver—just a month before he and his partner, artist Marion Gamba of A Deumain, relocate to Montreal.


You’re originally from Paris—what brought you to Vancouver? 

My wife Marion found a job here, and we decided to go for an adventure. We didn’t know Canada at all, and we didn’t know Vancouver. But we were tired of Paris, so we said, let’s go to learn English—and we’re still learning! We’ve been super happy to be here, and to meet people here, and being in nature—it’s great. We’re sad to leave, but it’s another beginning.


Tell me a little bit about what your average day is like. Where is your studio?

Well, I have a very basic studio. I’m working in a garage, and it’s very tiny. Everything has to be very organized, because I don’t have much space, but I need to have access to the outdoors—I need to have a backyard to burn the wood, because I do that a lot. 


Can you talk a little bit about that process? 

Yes, it’s called Shou Sugi Ban—it’s a traditional Japanese technique which has been used for siding or cladding on a house since, I don’t know, maybe the seventeenth or eighteenth century. It makes the material much more resistant, because the layer of burnt char protects against UV and against bug infestations.

But in my work, I really like it because I want my work to be aligned with my values: trying to be as sustainable as I can, and using less, trying to not use any petroleum products, using natural oil, things like that. So it’s perfect using this technique, because the Japanese just burn the wood and use oil to seal the charcoal, and make a very solid structure or surface. I also like the textural nature of it, because I like to have the organic aspect of the work. It’s really decorative, with a nice matte finish—it gives a very deep black matte. I do mostly that for Provide—and I think that’s what David liked in my work at the beginning. 


How challenging is the technique—controlling the burn? 

I mean, I made a lot of mistakes! Lots of mistakes. But the more mistakes we made, the more we learned. To get really nice results, it took a little while. I work first with a chainsaw to get the main shape. And then I get texture by carving the surface and burning, and then brushing, and then burning again. The second step of burning takes much more time, because it’s a very detailed burning—it’s a very tiny flame instead of the propane torch I use first. 

And then I seal that with many layers of a pure oil. And then it takes a while for the oil to cure.

You describe yourself as a sculptor rather than a furniture maker. 

When I first decided to say, okay, you can make a business out of what you’re doing, I needed to find peace between furniture design and sculptural design—that a piece could be both. Because I didn’t feel like a legitimate artist. It was hard for me to just say, Okay, you can do that. My friends had to push me. My wife had to push me a little bit. At the beginning it’s difficult to trust yourself and see why you, and why not someone else. 

David was one of the first guys who was supportive of me in this way. Maybe the first year or the second year I started to do this business, he started to order pieces. 


Why did you start working with Provide?

I like what David is doing at Provide. And I like the designers he is working with, and the mood he has been able to create, especially at Provide Design Gallery. I think my work matches its atmosphere, or its mood. And there are not many stores like that in Vancouver, where my pieces could be displayed. 

Did you have a practice in Paris, too, or did you develop it once you came here? 

Not exactly. I’d been working in the art field as an art handler and specialist in conservation in Paris for 10 years. So I was working for museums, art galleries and foundations for art, like Vuitton. I wasn’t making furniture, but I was making crates for conservation of the art—to preserve the artwork. It could be a painting, or a sculpture, or ceramics, or different things that would be in storage. They’d have to go for transportation, or to send overseas, etc. It’s very niche work. I was sculpting, but not very often, because I was busy working. But when I came here I had more time for me, because I couldn’t do the same job here. There was no possibility for me to do that work—it doesn’t exist here. 

One of your clients was Vuitton?

I was working for the Fondation Louis Vuitton—I was working with them on the conservation of their private collection. I was basically working in their storage, where they collect the most famous artists in the world. We were in charge with curators and restorers to take care of that, and also take care of all the old Vuitton items—the old trunks, the old bags. I’m talking very old, like 200-year-old trunks. I had a chance to work with that, create things around that, so they could be preserved. 



You, talked about how sustainability was important to you. Has that always been part of your practice?

Yes. When I started to do business, I needed to find something aligned with my values and sustainability. I love nature. I’m trying to do my best to be as sustainable as I can in my life. I’m not a huge consumer. I needed to design a piece of furniture that would be robust, strong, massive. I’m working with logs, and I didn’t want to use glue. 

So first I started to work with fallen trees from the neighborhood. I bought a chainsaw and I started to make shapes with these logs. I talked to a guy at the city, and he told me how they’re just going to go into the compost— that they’re going become mulch. And it was a massive maple tree that fell down because of a storm. So they were just cutting the logs into parts. I took some, and I was playing with my chainsaw, and I started from there.

Now, because I have more demands, I cannot only rely on that. It’s 50/50—I want to continue with it, because it’s reuse: a piece of a log which would go in the dumpster becomes a sculptural piece of furniture. And I like that. That’s why my logs have defects, they have knots. They are not like a Douglas fir that grew in a massive field of monoculture. 

And for the Douglas fir I need to buy now, I work with a little mill on the Sunshine Coast. It’s a little guy by himself, and he works with logs that are not beautiful: because they have cracks, because they have knots, because of this and that, they’re pushed to the side. They’re going to become mulch. And this guy is grabbing them to make the most of it—he’s making dimensional lumber. But he has a lot of waste and I’m buying that from him. 

And so that’s the way I found to be as sustainable as I could. Because I know this industry is not the best industry in the world, the wood industry. I’m trying to do my best, but it’s not easy.


Contact Provide for more information on our Studio Julien Peltier collection.

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