In Bentong, harvested wood is turned into fungi figurines.

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becca abramson
Photo credit: Dave Dostie
From the May 2023 issue

As children, cousins ​​Luke and Edmund Couture spent much time in the woodworking shop on Luke’s parents’ farm in Benton. They taught themselves to carve spoons, spatulas, and coasters, and at the age of 12 Common Ground began selling their work at his county fairs. The 22-year-old cousins ​​still spend most of their time in the woodworking shop. I started woodworking full time. And in addition to making tools, they also took on the more esoteric endeavor of carving mushrooms.

Their fungi figurines were born several years ago when the cousins ​​(and best friends) became interested in mycology. Luke and Edmund started by foraging for mushrooms in the woods on their family’s property in Benton, and then began growing their own mushrooms, including oysters, shiitake, and lion’s mane. Last winter, when Luke was playing in the store, he was carving little mushrooms out of wood. Then it occurred to him why not combine his love of woodworking and mushrooms.My cousins ​​registered and opened a domain. natural featuresan online marketplace for handmade products such as wooden “shrooms” of all shapes and sizes.

One of the Coutures’ favorite types of wood to carve is apple. “It’s consistent and satisfying,” says Edmund. “You reveal so many crazy details – and it smells good.”

Today, the family forest is not only a place to go mushroom hunting, but also a place for sustainable material sourcing. The cousins ​​harvest cherry, birch, maple, cedar, and pine trees from trees that would otherwise die or rot, and also collect dead wood from the forest floor. Back at the shop, they used Luke’s grandfather’s old drawknife to strip the bark, an angle grinder to remove excess material, a Kutsal grinding bit to add detail, and a homemade drum sander to rough it up. Smooth the edges. They finish each mushroom by rubbing it with linseed oil to bring out the grain color. Or Edmund’s girlfriend, Sydney Bouchard, paints mushrooms using realistic shades of red, white, and yellow. The cap and stem of each mushroom are made separately before being joined together with wood glue, and the final product can vary in height from a few inches to nearly 3 feet.

Each sculpture takes anywhere from 45 minutes to several hours to complete, and each is a collaborative effort. Sometimes Edmund carves the cap and Luke carves the trunk, or vice versa. “We wanted to earn money while being outside doing what we love,” Luke says. “This is a way we can make a living working with nature instead of against it.”

Please tell me more
luke and edmund couture

Why collect all the materials?

We love working with natural materials. It gives us a way to relate to and use things in our environment. We grew up on farms all our lives, so we’ve always worked with nature. Our name, Nature’s Functions, is tied to sustainability and working with nature. You don’t want to do anything that harms where you live, where you get your food, where animals live and eat.

What’s next?

We hope to start creating more accurate replicas of different types of mushrooms, such as Morels, Cortinarius species, and other Amanita species. Stone is also one of our favorite natural materials and we would like to start carving bowls, lamps, and other kitchen utensils. I would like to try my hand at making jewelry as well. We started collecting minerals and creating unique pieces with what we found.

What’s so special about growing mushrooms?

We love making spoons, but we’ve been making spoons for so long that it can be a headache to make so many. Mushrooms are even more fun because you can see them all coming together. Most of the materials we use to make mushrooms are burned in the fire, but we take the beautiful, twisted pieces that have been sitting around for years and turn them into art.

natural features Mushroom sculptures sell for $60 to $225. Custom orders start at $40.

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