Stand back a metre or so and you can still feel the strength: Acacia gives off an aura of raw power, perhaps more than any other SouthEast Asian wood. Each piece is a bundle of potential energy, like the haunch of a horse. Even the grain flows in sinuous waves, resembling the rippling muscles of an animal in motion.
Acacia is not a ferocious animal, however — more like a trusty steed, slow and steady and majestic in a humble way. It’s such an impressively solid and massive wood that it snaps saw blades with ease. Acacia is like a beast that doesn’t know its own strength.
The lazy bends of copper, blond and brown give acacia a sense of gentle flow. You could think of the casual trot of a racehorse between heats. There’s a slight shimmer in the swerving grain, too: the light reflects differently from different vantage points, like mother of pearl. The glowing reddish brown in a piece of acacia could also call to mind the memory of caramel; imagine a smooth crawl of it down the back of a spoon.
In Asia, builders naturally know all about acacia’s reputation for being resilient and sturdy. The wood is strong enough that it's often enlisted for use as flooring and as a construction material. From a practical standpoint, we take comfort in knowing that furniture made of acacia will generally have a high tolerance for moisture and pests.
Thanks to its hardness, it tends not to crack. These traits give acacia an impressive longevity — a piece of furniture might outlive the owner and become a beloved heirloom.
It’s so easy to appreciate acacia for these hard-headed reasons that we run the risk of failing to appreciate its subtleties and its beauty. The situation of acacia is comparable to that of certain workhorse grapes in the wine world, whose brute simplicity, rustic heritage and often power of flavour have tempted some drinkers to dismiss them. We could mention the Zinfandel/Primitivo varietal, or Monastrell of Spain, or North America’s own Baco Noir: strong and simple, yes, but also capable of depth and complexity when worked by the right hands. Perhaps no grape is as comparable to acacia as Barbera, of Italy. It is light of body whereas acacia is heavy; the trait they have in common is that they start as a fairly simple material, but a craftsperson can transform them into a masterpiece using the right set of techniques. In Barbera’s case, that means choosing appropriate soils and then generously oaking the wine. Over the last two decades, Barbera has mended its reputation thanks to these innovations.
In similar fashion, Artemano has taken advantage in breakthroughs of technique that have expanded the range of finishes available to acacia, working with its particular properties to create works of subtle harmony.
Acacia responds well to sandblasting, for example, which exposes the grain, opens the pores and lends an even richer appearance to the wood. Artemano’s multistage process gives the furnishings a weathered look. Paradoxically, the furniture itself is clean and modern in appearance despite the “antiquing.” It’s visually versatile as well, perfectly able to fit in with a variety of different atmospheres from traditional to starkly contemporary (acacia against exposed brick or concrete makes a lovely, brutalist contrast).
Take it slow when appreciating a piece of acacia. Consider every angle. Watch how the light changes from one side to another. See how the clean lines of a piece of furniture capture a sense of warmth. See how the grey-to-black flecks and lines paint a primitive picture on the surface, like marks of charcoal on a cave wall. Some are natural markings and others the result of the finishing process. Either way, they float over the pattern of the grain, lending acacia a sense of character and maturity. The markings give each piece its own distinct personality, a pattern that we subconsciously memorize as it becomes a part of your home and a trusty companion for life.