“It's all about form,” says the self-taught Silvia Song, whose wooden bowls, platters, and butcher blocks—some dyed in rich, natural indigo—are known for their spare elegance. Born in São Paulo, Brazil, and trained as an architect, Song left the field 10 years ago when she realized that she didn’t want to sit all day long drafting on a computer. “I missed working with my hands,” she explains. So she set up a studio in her El Cerrito, California, home, and began cutting, carving, and sanding away, prioritizing structure over surface beauty.
When selecting timber, for instance, she doesn’t fall for a particular grain; she envisions the shape of what a raw piece will become, preferring varieties like maple and Monterey cypress for their quiet colors. To make a bowl, she slices a disk from a block of wood—“the more uniform, the better,” she says—and turns it on a lathe, first chiseling away the outside, then meticulously hollowing out the inside. Last, she sands it to a velvety-smooth finish. “It’s a reductive process,” says the designer, who has started to work with new materials like marble and in more abstract forms. But the results have maximum impact.