Iran has a long and vibrant history of working with wood in the arts—from Khatam to modern woodturning artists, Persian artists have been transforming wood into extraordinary works of art for generations. And throughout the Diaspora, some Iranians have continued the woodworking tradition with just as much fire and excellence.
Never Cut A Living Tree
Massood and Sasha Nouri are a father and daughter team of wood turners who have molded clumps of wood into functional art since 2009 when they began their business “Under The Chestnut Tree.” Their work is crafted from a variety of wood but always with an eye towards respect for nature and sustainability.
“I will never cut a living tree,” Massood said. “Usually we use wood from broken trees, fallen trees. Or, if a living tree must be cut because it is harming a building or is dangerous, we will use that.”
But Massood doesn’t find it acceptable to simply impose his artistic vision onto the wood cut from a living tree. All living trees must be given voice to express into what they want to transform. “I think all trees are very much alive. They have feelings just like us,” Massood said. “And when I have a living tree that’s been cut, I like to study the tree. I look at the how the wind has shaped it and the elements, and I listen to what that is telling me, and that is what I do, that is what I create.”
Massood’s creations are made from listening to the wood but also to his daughter, Sasha, who has been shadowing him and learning from him since she was a little girl. Sasha and Massood always had many of the same interests, and over the years Sasha took on a kind of informal apprenticeship with her father. She learned how to turn wood and eventually in 2009 while Sasha was in college, she and her father began their business together. It started small—Sasha and Massood created bowls and other functional art made from wood that everyone loved. “So many people wanted my father’s bowls,” Sasha said. “We just said, ‘you know, we should make this a business’.”
The woodworking community is dominated by men, and because of that this father and daughter team stands out. “My father is a feminist. All of us are,” Sasha said. “He never stopped me and my sister from doing things that some people thought should only be for boys.”
Massood is a lot more bold about his thoughts on the matter, insisting that not only was it right and normal for Sasha to learn woodworking but that some of the best woodturners are female.
“In my experience, women create some of the most amazing pieces,” Massood said. “It’s true that historically, it has been a very male art but maybe that is because back then, you needed physical strength to pick up a large piece of wood and work it. But also, it is women who create the most delicate and intricate pieces with the most emotion and feeling in them. I say that women are simply better at creating these types of pieces.”
For her part, Sasha is humbled by the opportunity to work with her father. “Nowadays, most people live so far away from their parents,” Sasha says. “It’s not like how I have it. I feel so blessed to be here with my father, working with him every day and learning from him.”
Sasha and Massood hope that their collaboration can continue for many more years.