Brazilian artisan Hugo França gives old trees new life.

Hugo França

By: Lianna Patch

To understand the scale of Hugo França’s work, you’ll need to have a very flexible neck. That’s because the pequi tree, from which França fashions most of his famous “furniture sculptures,” can grow to well over 100 feet high and 1,000 years old — not to mention up to 10 feet in diameter.

Luckily for you and your neck, França makes most of his work from charred, six-foot pequi stumps left over from logging runs or forest fires. Only rarely on his trips to find these stumps in rural areas near coastal Bahia, Brazil does he happen across an old-growth pequi that, though dead, is still standing.

Hugo França working

With a team of men and machines, França harvests these enormous pequi remnants and totes them back to his studio in Trancoso, Brazil, where he cuts, sands, carves, and planes them into sofas, chairs, tables, and accoutrements. The simplest of his works go for nearly $20,000 each; the more a piece’s complexity increases, the more zeroes you can add to its price tag.

You could call França a pioneer in the now-booming realm of “eco chic” furnishings, but the reality is that his work is less about capitalism than conservation. By bringing the environment into his audience’s yards and homes, he calls attention to the plight of deforestation and to the issue of sustainability as a whole. Widespread regions of the Brazilian cerrado have suffered the effects of agricultural development and deforestation, with virgin land turned into plantations, industrial centers, and livestock ranches.

hugo França

The limited availability of pequi wood means that França’s work is not just original — it’s finite. When the old-growth pequi runs out, there will be no more 20-foot, wood-slab dining tables or 11-person Jacuzzis carved into colossal stumps. There will be no more craning your neck to peer up … and up … and up the trunk of a tree 10 times older than your parents.

This is the message França hopes to convey. In 1981, at the age of 26, he left a career as an industrial engineer to live closer to nature. He moved to Trancoso, which was then a remote village, where he began studying woodworking with the Pataxó indigenous tribe. He began working with old Pataxó canoes, moving on to pequi trees thereafter, and simply asked local farmers to guide him to the trees’ locations.

Now, Trancoso is a thriving seaside tourist destination, and França’s work is known far beyond Bahia. After spending 15 years learning his new craft, and nearly 20 years since then practicing it, he has developed a sixth sense about the underlying forms — bowls, utensils, tables, chairs — hidden inside his hulking, raw media.

Hugo França Furniture inside

França’s glossy finished pieces showcase each tree’s first life, scars and all. Bowls and utensils beg to be touched and used; richly grained sofas and chairs seem to grow straight out of the ground they stand on. His collectors include a host of art dealers and gallerists throughout the Americas, and mining magnate Bernardo Mello Paz has purchased several of França’s long pequi benches for Paz’s public art park, Inhotim.

Because França knows better than anyone that within the next decade, there will be no more pequi trees to transform, he’s experimenting with other hardwoods in his Trancoso and Sao Paulo workshops. He is represented by R & Company.  eco furniture, eco design. eco designer, Brazilian furniture, eco-friendly furniture 


Lianna Pacht

Lianna Patch is a writer and editor from New Orleans, LA, whose portfolio spans copywriting, cultural publications, and literary journals.

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17 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. I discovered your website by accident, and I am shocked why this coincidence didn’t came about earlier, I´m fascinated by Mr. Fraca work. It is amazing. I have one of his pieces in my home.

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    suitable place and other person will also do same in support of you. Are you interested in doing that? plz, contact th. email

  3. What’s up, Mr. Franca work is remarkable. It experimenting with the same techniques, working with wood piece that I collect from nature.

  4. Excellent blog! Do you have any tips and hints for aspiring writers?
    I’m planning to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost
    on everything. Would you suggest starting with a free platform
    like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m completely confused ..
    Any ideas? Thanks a lot!

  5. Pamella Charrington · Edit

    Hey there I am so glad I found your site, I really found you by accident, while I was researching on Google for
    something else, Regardless I am here now and would just like to say a all round enjoyable blog (I also love the theme/design)

  6. I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good. Mr. Franca work really impress me. I would love have one of his piece in my home 😉

  7. This post provides clear idea in support of the new viewers of blogging, that actually how to do blogging and site-building. Franca work is really good. He is transforming, not manufacturing art.

  8. I have read so many posts concerning the blogger lovers except this article is genuinely a pleasant article,
    keep it up.

  9. Hi!This post took my breath away! Franca is a shining example of advanced style, and such an inspiration. Just what I needed!Thank you so much for sharing with us. Best,

  10. WOW just what I was looking for. Hugo Franca works is awesome. Came here by searching for other subject and found Franca article. Great post

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  12. All those trees would be just dust if wasn´t for this beatiful work
    I guess they are really sougth after for its uniqueness

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