Ingenuity. Passionate resourcefulness. Opportunity. Waste not, salvage more.
These words come to my mind when I think of self-confessed “farm boy at heart” from Maine turned NYC Wilhelmina Models agent, Topher DesPrés. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy toppled thousands of old New York City trees, some standing since the Civil War. That’s right, we’re talking OLD growth trees. If you’re a woodworker, or one that has laid dormant for 20 years as in the case of Topher DesPrés, watching these fallen trees being cleared and run through chippers awakened the jinni from the bottle. DesPrés set about collecting fallen tree stumps at night after work, wheeling them back to his apartment via the subway and carving them into stunning live edge bowls and vases. Topher is not immune to using a hand saw to painstakingly salvage a tree trunk or dumpster dive to rescue another from the mulcher. (A few of the guys on the tree crews have since befriended Topher and set aside stumps for him in advance of his arrival.) I saw one of Topher’s earliest bowls in November 2012 via an Instagram post from stylist and magazine namesake Sweet Paul at the first Williams-Sonoma fundraiser for Bette Midler’s New York Restoration Project.
‘Sweet Paul’ Einlyng’s instagram photo of Topher holding one of his first rough-hewn bowls, captioned “Bette Midler is going to get one of these bowls made from trees in NYC felled by hurricane sandy tonight from the New York Restoration Project!” Naturally, I had to learn more about these bowls and the passion behind them. A slow and steady internet search led me to Topher DesPrés. I’ve since watched him appear on MSNBC and recently in Huff Post New York. I continue to follow his artistry from afar with great respect. He has stayed true to his mission of salvaging, carving, and giving back to the city he loves. Today’s tribute honors the artist’s work as well as his integrity of commitment.
“Part of the reason I love this type of work is because it gives you a lot of time to think… about the metaphors of the work and how they relate to life. Do a good job on what you can right now, don’t worry too much about what’s out of your reach… when the time is right you’ll reposition yourself and do a good job on what’s in front of you.” – Topher DesPrés, Feb. 14, 2013
The clean honest lines of live-edge woodcraft. Photo below courtesy of Topher DesPrés.