Aussie Designs Table for French President

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By Athena Yenko | March 3, 2014 2:59 PM EST

Aussie furniture maker Rohan Ward was commissioned by U.S. President's Barack Obama's State Department to design a table in Dec 2013. The table was intended for French President Francois Hollande as a gift.

Mr Ward who was a local of Sydney, Australia is a son of two artists. Growing up as a child, his summers at the family's vacation house along Australia's eastern coastline were spent collecting driftwood. He would then magically transform the olden woods into artistic pieces.

He studied Woodworking and Furniture Design from the Australian National University's Canberra School of Art.

After finishing school, he started a custom furniture business in Canberra.

At present, he owns Rohan Ward Designs in downtown Wilmette.

In an interview with the Chicago tribune, Mr Ward said that his initial reaction was feeling intimidated when he was called for the job. But, he thought that he should not say 'no' to an opportunity that might come only once in lifetime.

"I had a job list with clients who were depending on me to deliver their orders, but when your phone rings and they ask if you're interested in building a table for the President of the United States, you're going to say 'yes. I only had about four to five weeks, but I ended up working on the table for about 350 hours," Mr Ward said.

He had an idea in an impulse - 18th century Federalist style incorporated with his own trademark.

His spirit was high. Going an extra mile, he emailed a miniature replica of the table aside from a sketch of the table which the State Department originally asked.

"I got a phone call, and they told me, 'The president loves the model of your table, and he has it on his desk in the Oval Office. They gave me the specifics of what they wanted, and by early January, I started ordering the wood."

Mr Ward created the table in his Wilmette studio. He used a wood from a fallen oak tree at Mount Vernon - the Virginia home of President George Washington. He also used cherry and walnut woods. All woods were designed using sunburst technique which was a way of paying homage to Point Zero at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

The final creation has a replica key to the Bastille given to Washington in 1790 by the Marquis de Lafayette. The key served as the focal point of the table, enclosed in a see through glass. A blacksmith at Mount Vernon made the replica from olden iron from the Statue of Liberty.

The most challenging part of the job, Mr Ward said, was how to deliver the finish art unharmed to the White House given that the table does not fit any of their cars.

With his wife, he drove a rented van to Washington on Feb. 7 2014.

Mr Ward shared that he experienced the scariest moment of his life when a police dog put its front paws on the table as its way of checking the parcel.

Fortunately, he successfully delivered the table to the State Department.

Mr Ward expressed happiness knowing that Australia was proud of him.

"They were excited to hear that an Australian who had made it over to the U.S. was asked to build a table for the president," Mr Ward finished the interview.

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