Profile: Blair Baker, Ontario Wood Producer
Blair Baker’s workshop is based in Pickering, Ontario, but his passion and talent for crafting unique wood products go back to his roots growing up on a farm in Schomberg. Baker also spent time at the family cabin along the Irondale River in Haliburton, where he was surrounded by talented woodworkers in his family and would “draw inspiration for my original creations from the rugged beauty that surrounded me.”
After spending fifteen years as a head carpenter in the set building industry, specializing in creating sets for television, Baker established Baker Brothers in 2012 and began crafting unique, one of a kind pieces such as tables, lamps, furniture, and art pieces. Baker’s products are all handcrafted with an aesthetic entirely their own. These are not merely products made from wood, but ones that are inspired by and reflect the beauty of Ontario’s forests and natural landscapes.
Shortly after establishing his business, Baker became an Ontario Wood partner, one of almost 100 builders, woodworkers, producers, and craftspeople across the province creating products from local wood. Ontario Wood promotes the work of producers and brings greater awareness to the fact that local wood products are an eco-friendly choice and one that supports economic growth in Ontario.
Sustainability is a passion of Baker’s, especially in the choosing of his production materials. Baker’s most enjoyable projects involve crafting art pieces and furniture using fallen or disregarded trees, with a particular fondness for ash trees infested by the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB).
In 2013, Baker was involved in a community enhancement project in Pickering led by students at Dunbarton High School. The project involved the revitalization of Ernie L. Straud Park, located behind the school. Supported by the City of Pickering’s Celebrating Sustainable Neighbourhoods program, students planted trees throughout the park and established a water efficient perennial garden comprised of plants requiring less water and supporting pollinators.
Baker’s involvement came with the design and crafting of a park bench made from an ash tree that was marked for removal due to EAB infestation. With the devastation to the tree canopy caused by the EAB, ash trees have become an abundant and readily available source of quality building material. Baker’s work is an example of how fallen or diseased trees can be, in his words, “brought back to life.”
Baker hopes to continue using reclaimed wood to beautify public spaces. Among his recent projects was the design of another bench fashioned from a branch of the famous Maple Leaf Forever Tree. The design was selected as part of a competition organized by LEAF, the City of Toronto, Ontario Wood, and the Green Living Show, and even spurred an idea for a similar project. “When I went to pick up the branch from the City of Toronto yard,” Baker says, “I spotted an unusual and interesting burl measuring 11 feet high and 7 feet wide. I am envisioning a beautiful art feature for a large indoor public space.”
Much like his other work, the Maple Leaf Forever bench is a one of a kind piece that creates a functional product that highlights the natural beauty and features of its material. For Blair Baker, these are the projects that best capture why he loves working with wood. “In the course of my career, I have built silos, barns, and entire homes, but what I enjoy most is designing and handcrafting furniture and art pieces, transforming a vision – a description or simple sketch – into a piece worth cherishing.”