“Legacy. What is a Legacy? It's planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.” – Lin-Manuel Miranda Thirty years ago, inspired by his love of woodwork and fascination with the old-world art of wood bending, Charles Mast planted the first seeds of the Woodbender legacy, when he started crafting and selling cottage-style furniture. Around the same time, he also began learning to bend wooden parts with his wife, Shirley, and father, John, for what was to become the company’s first chair – a replica of the Thonet no. 14 chair, manufactured in Imbuia wood. Fast forward three decades and today, we’re celebrating a legacy based on our people, product and process, where each piece of furniture is shaped by at least twenty craftsmen and women, using a handcrafted process that preserves the integrity of the wood. While the past 30 years have seen us move to bigger premises, open two beautiful showrooms – one in Strand, Cape Town, the other in Parkhurst, Johannesburg – and develop machinery and software to keep our designs and processes future-forward, one thing has remained the same: our commitment to crafting quality bentwood furniture made of solid ash wood imported from certified and sustainably managed forests. Over the next few months, we’ll be taking a moment to thank everyone who has been part of this journey and helped us grow our legacy: The Woodbender family, a team of dedicated individuals, many of whom have been with us for many years, and who strive for excellence in everything they do. Our clients (we’re privileged to have worked alongside some of the most wonderful individuals and businesses in the décor and hospitality industries) who have supported us and added their unique touch to each piece through their choice of fabric and finish. Our suppliers who deliver the materials we need to create beautiful bentwood furniture that is comfortable, durable, and seamlessly fuses form with function. And finally, the media who have helped us tell our story. What does the future hold for Woodbender? As excited as we are to celebrate 30 years in business, we’re just as excited about the next 30 and are already investing time and energy into finding innovative ways of creating pieces that continue to celebrate the beauty of solid bent wood. Woodbender owner and director, Shirley Mast, takes us on a trip down memory lane… What is one of your favourite Woodbender memories? It has to be travelling to Italy in 2000 to view a bending machine and being greeted by Angelo Moras (another bent wood enthusiast) at Venezia Airport holding a mass of bent beechwood to identify himself! It was such a treat meeting someone with the same passion as us and going on to build a firm friendship with him was an added bonus. What has been the biggest milestone for you? It has been with great pleasure that I have watched our son and daughter develop a passion and love for what the business does and stands for, and seen their commitment to driving it forward. Our company pledge promises a ‘sustainable work environment’ and to make this happen, the company ethos and vision needs to be carried into the future and adapted with fresh energy and input to keep the company relevant. With Andy and Emily’s unique talents and commitment, I know that the company is in excellent hands. What has been most important to you in your journey? I could not have done this without my faith, my talented husband who dreamed the dream and built many of the machines, my children who will carry the dream forward and an incredible team who has helped to make it happen. And finally, which Woodbender piece is your favourite? All of our products have a special place in my heart, but if pushed for a favourite it would have to be the Chelsea Showwood.
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