Locals and visitors can learn the history of western red cedar and how to transform it into beautiful furniture by visiting the chairmaking Économusée at Tofino Cedar Furniture.
According to the Économusée website, an Économusée is a ‘living museum’ in which entrepreneurs share the authentic hands-on techniques of their craft. Originally conceptualized in Quebec, the artisans network is endorsed by UNESCO as a model for the preservation of cultural heritage and has a global reach with over 70 certified sites in Northern Europe and Canada.
“It’s cultural tourism. People want more than just watching whales and going in the boats. They want to know more about the area and that’s kind of the beginning of learning about the cedar tree and what the natives used to do,” said co-owner of Tofino Cedar Furniture Daniel Lamarche.
About a year ago, Tofino Cedar Furniture was selected by Économusée British Columbia to be part of the global network of artisans. Once selected, the longstanding Tofino business had to construct a bilingual interpretive centre before opening up to the public as an Économusée.
“We feel honoured that we’ve been recognized in this way because they choose businesses that have exceptional quality and craftsmanship and doing things the old fashion way,” said Tofino Cedar Furniture co-owner Barbara Lamarche.
The Lamarche’s launched their cedar furniture company in 1993 as Clayoquot Crafts with the philosophy to use only wood that has been left behind.
“No trees are cut,” said Mr. Lamarche. “We used salvaged wood that is blowed down or left from logging. We try to be sustainable and environmentally friendly, which keeps us small in some ways.”
Currently, the majority of their furniture sales are driven by their online store. They hope the launch of their new Économusée site will draw more Vancouver Island based visitors to their workshop and perhaps even inspire young locals to pick-up the sustainable furniture making trade.
“It could be a good business for a young person, but it’s not easy. Nobody’s gonna be competing too fast,” said Mr. Lamarche who spent most of the ‘70s constructing houses along Chesterman Beach.
Their relative shrine to western red cedar displays the process of making a chair from the rough wood stage to the finished product.
“It’s handled 10 times before it becomes final,” said Mrs. Lamarche.
Visitors can also read about its many uses in First Nations communities and how its infused into other popular products found on the West Coast.
“Cedar is very unique. It only grows on the West Coast of North America from Oregon to Alaska. That’s the only place in the world that western red cedar grows,” said Mr. Lamarche.