Q&A with Bowyer & Toulson

“Our boards will last a lifetime. We think it’s important to provide our customers with the tree’s provenance.”

Tell us about how Bowyer & Toulson came to be?

I have always had a fascination for trees and woodland areas. As a kid growing up in London, UK, I spent most of the time with my friends exploring urban woodland areas and, of course, every street in London has an abundance of trees. I also love design and working with wood. It is such a versatile and beautiful product to work with.

The concept of Bowyer & Toulson started about two years ago. I was on West 6th Avenue in Vancouver in January and an old cherry tree had fallen after a big wind storm had hit the city. As often happens with our urban trees, it was being chopped up and chipped to be used as mulch. Cherry wood has beautiful, rich colours of reds, pinks and creams, and I remember thinking I would love to re-purpose some of that wood and give the tree an extension of life by making heirloom wood products.

I did not have the capacity to collect urban trees and mill them myself so I started looking for people, with a similar ethos, who could. Two years later, we now have the Urban Forestry Network in place. This network is a trusted group of urban tree owners, arborists, mill workers, and finishers who re-purpose trees that have either fallen from winter storms, have to be removed for safety reasons, or have special municipal permits to be removed.

What is most important to you about sourcing locally and recycling?
Two things are important to me: supporting local and sustainability.Supporting local suppliers and artists has historically always been the way we have lived in our communities. It creates a relationship with who is growing our food or making the things we use everyday. Because of this relationship, trust builds between the buyer and the seller; that is always good for the community.

Sustainability is also really important. Our vision is to reduce the environmental impact on our local forests through the creation of an Urban Forestry Network. However, for us to have real, meaningful social impact that has longevity, our business model needs to be very solid. It’s important to us to design and produce products that have longevity and surround ourselves with good people who want this initiative to succeed.

What’s next for Bowyer & Toulson?

We have two goals for 2017.

First, we hope to inspire other urban tree owners, arborists, millers and finishers like myself to participate in the Urban Forestry Network. The more people involved in supplying and using urban trees, the higher our social impact will be and will hopefully turn this model of sourcing lumber into the norm rather than the exception.

Second, we have been working really hard on new product designs. A solid rolling pin made out of ash is going to provide a weight to the pin that is ideal for rolling dough. We have also been working on a carving board in black walnut which is very durable with beautiful colours of dark chocolate, greys, or purples. We will also be releasing a longer charcuterie board made from either maple or cherry. 

What one ingredient and kitchen tool could you not live without?
I do most of the cooking at home and love to do it. One ingredient I don’t think I could live without would be whatever fresh herbs are in season from our herb garden. Of course, my B&T ash chopping board is a vital tool but, if I’m being less biased, I would say I could not live without a set of Zwilling chef’s knives.
Favourite local product?
Pretty much any charcuterie from Oyama in Granville Island. John van der Lieck has really mastered these great traditional recipes and I think he is a true artisan. He has so much passion for making amazing products of the highest quality.
Favourite thing about living in BC?
BC has some of the most spectacular old growth trees and forests – we are so lucky to have access to these, right across our province. I want to explore opportunities to direct some of our needs for lumber from within our urban areas rather than just our forests. I think we can do this because we have a wealth of great entrepreneurs starting all sorts of small businesses that have a social impact focus. We are really driving innovative ways of looking at the resources we have and doing things fundamentally different for a positive change in our communities.
To find out more about what Bowyer & Toulson are up to, follow along on their Instagram, check out their website, or purchase your very own board here.

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