The Bodhi Tree collection features an array of naturally sustainable fine home decor made from natural lacquer and bamboo, imported directly from the hands of Asian artisans to the US, and distributed by the Cocoa Beach company run by entrepreneur Michelle Phillips.
As a global business traveler with long experience in Southeast Asia, Bodhi Tree Collections founder Phillips was inspired by the
tradition of artisanal handcrafts in the region. Paired with her understanding of her home market in North America Phillips realized the potential of her unique position. She saw the opportunity to bring artisanal pieces that are sophisticated, eco-friendly and responsibly sourced to savvy, conscientious North American consumers who might not have the time to obtain items of such high quality and beauty from their far off countries of origin.
The ‘Bodhi Tree Collections’ lines of spun bamboo and designer lacquer boxes are authentic handcrafted pieces of functional art for décor, gifts and interior accent.
“I’m not re-creating the wheel. I’m seeing the beautiful things that people have created and with an understanding of the demand in the US I put one and one together to develop something even greater for everyone involved,” said Phillips.
The Designer Lacquer collection is eco-friendly and organic. The containers, perfect for holding anything from jewelry to playing cards, are romantically designed with fanciful silver plated animals serving as handholds. The lacquer itself is a sap extracted from the living Cay-son tree. The symbiotic process does not impact the life of the tree, which continues to grow for years while consistently generating the lacquer sap.
“It’s all based on these materials and crafts that have a long history but are versatile in the number of products they lend themselves to,” Phillips says. “One of the reasons I was attracted to these handcrafts is because the materials are organic, durable, and as appropriate in an urban loft as a beach condo.”
The traditional process of creating lacquerware has been developed and refined in local villages throughout the region over the past three thousand years. From start to finish, creating a single piece of laquerware can take up to 115 days.
A holistic and inspirational process in itself, the mission begins at early dawn, to carefully tap the young Asian trees and gather the raw lacquer sap that pools in seashells at the tree’s base. The cloudy, viscous liquid is collected before the day warms and transferred to a special round bottom lacquered bamboo baskets where it settles into multiple distinct layers. To ensure the integrity of the finished product, a fine cotton gauze covers the lacquered area prior to glaze. The natural lacquer is then mixed by hand with natural resources: finely ground mountain rock, sawdust, and alluvial soil.
Once the lacquer has dried, the piece is polished with water and a soft abrasive. The lacquer application is then repeated to create a thick, smooth, dark surface. Finally, the finishing colored lacquer is layered on top and smoothed giving each piece its brilliant final polished coat.
The Spun Bamboo collection offers ornamental table, bathroom and kitchen canisters in various sizes and color. Part of the charm of the pieces comes from their exclusivity. The artistic process is unique to Southeast Asia. Currently, Spun Bamboo is difficult to find in North America and only minimally exported to Australia and Europe. With the rich history of the art form comes low environmental impact.
“One of the reasons people appreciate bamboo is that it is one of the fastest growing plants on earth, “ Phillips explains. “Bamboo grows back so quickly that it completely regenerates itself within one year after harvest.”
Phillips points to the spun bamboo treatment process as an example of this stewardship. Rather than chemical fumigation, the bamboo is soaked in water for a time period between four months and one year, which eliminates insects naturally.
“I count myself incredibly blessed having grown up in the US and understanding American tastes and values,” she says. “And the idea here isn’t that I’m imposing a foreign style on my suppliers and asking workers in Asia to recreate it. I’m tapping into a cultural history, embracing that and bringing it to my country. I’m going to a place where they have been developing an art form for thousands of years and making a few slight tweaks so that the pieces are suitable for my home country in the US.”
One need only look to the reasoning behind the name to predict the company’s upward trajectory.
“The Bodhi Tree is a metaphor for a place where you can recharge and rethink,” Phillips says. “It is where you feel comfortable and secure but also inspired to take on the challenges of the world.”
Hailing from Central Florida, where Bodhi Tree currently operates, the collection is sold by retailers throughout Florida and quickly expanding across the US.