Gale-Force Designer: Matthew Steckley

Steckley creates furniture from salvaged driftwood.

| July/August 2007

Miami woodworker Matthew Steckley reincarnates hurricane-downed trees and salvaged driftwood into fabulous furniture.

His “Eureka!” moment: Inspired by driftwood and the waves during a surf trip in Baja California, Mexico, Matthew Steckley formulated plans for a furniture-design business with environmental sensitivity. This year, the self-taught artisan celebrates his 10th anniversary building chairs, tables and accessories that have earned him design awards.

Downed but not out: Many of Steckley’s pieces are crafted from trees that fell during Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Other timbers include victims of Dutch elm disease and recovered driftwood from ships off the Miami coast, which he collects while surfing. Steckley often chooses naturally downed Cuban mahogany, a mainstay along Miami roadways, for his creations. “The grain and color are beautiful and only get better with time,” he says.

Going into labor: Steckley’s designs are labor intensive—you won’t find a nail or screw anywhere. He opts, instead, for demanding mortise-and-tenon or dovetail joinery. A single stool can take 8 to 10 days to hand-sculpt and polish.

When furniture comes to life: The moment a piece truly lives is just after the first coat of all-natural oil finish is applied. “It’s now separate from its origin, yet it displays beautiful elements from the source wood,” Steckley says. “Add to that the results of several hands working their experiences into the design, and a special piece is realized.”

Surf it yourself:

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