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Stickbulb: To the Water Tower

By harmonizing wood with light, the creative minds at Stickbulb have added a new layer of beauty and life to their lighting designs. In addition to their being beautifully and sustainably designed, you can also infuse these designs–from small portable lamps to large scale custom pieces–with an air of mystery and history. How? With exquisite redwood recycled and reclaimed from demolished water towers in New York City.

Known for its beauty and longevity, the redwood species includes the largest and tallest trees in the world. Originating in Pacific coastal forests of California and Oregon, Sequoia sempervirens has inspired many poets and writers, including Walt Whitman and John Steinbeck, with their character and beauty. Many of these trees have a lifespan that lasts over thousands of years.

And these trees aren’t just beautiful, they are also environmental powerhouses. Studies show that these majestic trees capture more carbon dioxide from cars, trucks and power plants than any other tree on earth. That’s an important contribution to our air quality, especially at a time when global warming is a topic on everyone’s minds. Sadly, as victims of logging that began during the Gold Rush era, only 5% of the original estimated two million acres of redwood forest survives to the present day.

Image courtesy of Tri-Lox
Image courtesy of Tri-Lox

Redwood is a popular selection for constructing decks, barns, outdoor furniture and other structures that need to withstand the elements. A hard wood, redwood is durable and tends to resist insects and UV rays better than many other wood options. It is due to these qualities that some of the wood logged during the Gold Rush era traveled all the way to New York, where it was used to construct water towers.

Image courtesy of Tri-Lox

Fast forward to present day. While they served their duties admirably, water towers built in the 19th century are no longer used to meet the water needs of New York’s citizens. So, they are being removed from rooftops one by one. Acting on a hot tip that a water tank tower in downtown Manhattan was being taken down, Stickbulb co-founders Russell Greenberg and Christopher Beardsley sought to reclaim the wood and see if it was salvageable.

In a sheer stroke of luck, the water tower turned out to be built from a 350 year-old redwood tree. These beautiful timbers and John Steinbeck’s characterization of redwood trees in Travels With Charlie inspired Stickbulb’s award-winning Ambassador light installation at Collective Design in 2017.

Stickbulb light sculpture, Ambassador
Ambassador detail

After considerable research and testing–and the successful reception of Ambassador–Stickbulb decided to bring the beauty of this wood to their entire product line. “Each piece of wood has its own story, its own history,” says Beardsley. “And we want to reflect that and acknowledge that in the pieces we make.”

The history of these redwood pieces is displayed through striking and unique color banding. The exposure to the elements on one side and water on the other have only helped enhance and highlight the natural rich red color and occasional black veining inherent to the natural wood.

As water towers are taken down over time, Stickbulb will continue to reclaim the wood planks. Giving the redwood that makes up the defunct water towers a new life and purpose continues Sticksbulb’s design ethos to sustainably source reclaimed wood from remarkable places while, at the same time, cherishing the material and honoring the ancient forests where the wood originated.

The history and beauty of water tower redwood shines on in Stickbulb lighting designs. See your variety of options here.

Nicole Tatem

Nicole Tatem

Nicole is the Home Décor Site Merchandiser at YDesign Group. She is obsessed with great design in all forms with a special love for jewelry, wine bottle labels, and tableware. When she’s not exploring the many museums and art galleries of the Bay Area, Nicole spends time looking for and visiting obscure and unusual destinations (locally and abroad) while practicing her photography skills.

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