Wood – A poem without words

According to the Cambridge dictionary, wood is described as a hard substance that forms the branches and trunks of trees and can be used as a building material and for making things. The man that I am meeting today has left behind a life as a civil engineer and developed his hobby of working with wood into a passion and a home-based business. 


The website of Marco de São Vicente’s company Rustikuswood adds a lot of flavour to this matter-of-fact definition. “Wood is the architecture of the forests, shaping landscapes of sheer beauty into the far horizon. Wood has forever been man’s introduction to building comfort, warmth and security.” Poetic indeed.

Historically, the new world would not have been discovered without the wooden ships that sailed off into the great unknown and no railway tracks would ever have been laid without the sleepers of the mighty oak. Wood can also be described as a precious resource that brings shape and beauty, along with structure and practicality, to many of the things that we use in everyday life. And imagine a world without paper, dining tables or log fires.

Now we are drifting into the area of visual aesthetics: art and design. This is a good place to be if we want to understand what Marco and his team are producing. After all, according to a quote from their website, “A piece of wood is a poem without words.”

The coffee table that Marco and I were sitting at to start our conversation was a fine example of his work, clearly designed to fit the curved shape of the area it fits into. It is simply unique, made with care and precision. The subtle tones of colour in the hardwoods used and the exposed ragged edges from where the bark has been removed combine to make full use of the character of the woods. I found it irresistible to run the palm of my hand over the perfectly polished finish and somehow connect with its organic nature.

We talked for a while about this connection, why nearly all of us get pleasure from wood at some level and why we have it in our homes. Later on, when we drove off to visit his home and workshop, tucked away in a quiet valley in the foothills above São Bras, the answer was not difficult to see. When someone grows up in the Algarve countryside with trees all around them, and breathes in their smells all their life, how can they not be deeply influenced? These trees represent Marco’s childhood when he fished using local bamboo as a rod and a piece of cork as a float. Of course, his house has a wood-burning stove and traditional bread oven. These things are simply in his nature and it came as no surprise to me to hear that he loves playing the guitar, the resonance of sound from a wooden box.

I personally suspect that this human connection with wood is ingrained in our DNA; it is literally that deep-rooted. After all, the use of wood for tools, making huts and keeping us warm came a long time before the Bronze Age.

Marco showed me the various pieces of raw wood, including oak, cedar, chestnut and acacia, and I was impressed with his knowledge: how to dry them, store them and where they come from. It is easy to see that here is a man who cares as much about the environment as he does the finished pieces of work. What doesn’t get shaped into something is used as firewood and it was good to see some offcuts have been made into little figures for his son’s school Christmas nativity scene. Indeed, the lack of time spent with family was one of the reasons for giving up the stress of working as a project manager in Switzerland. Here is a man who is clearly enjoying the freedom to dovetail other pleasures of life with his work. There must have been an obvious financial consideration for this change of lifestyle, but working with wood, having time to go fly fishing and picking your own wild mushrooms in your local hills seems like a good trade-off to me.

A project can be anything from small artisan items, to furniture pieces or even outside constructions. A customer may have a specific purpose or location for a piece, or Marco will design and present drawings to discuss and develop with them. Despite the description of “rustic “ in the company’s name, for me, “bespoke” better conveys the end product and I doubt that Marco and his team would ever make the same thing twice.

To quote the website again, “Friendship is the only investment that never really goes bankrupt. You will feel comfortable and welcome with our overall positive posture as we interact and communicate. Interactions between us, clients and guests, are pleasant, uplifting and filled with laughter.”


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