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French Artisans Use Local Renewables to Build Furniture that Lasts

Alki’s Oak and Clay Lines Bolster Basque Region Ecosystem and Economy 

Alki’s furniture is crafted mostly from oak and natural clay.
Alki’s furniture is crafted mostly from oak and natural clay. ©Alki

Alki, a prospering furniture company in France’s hilly Basque Country, has found a way to bolster the region’s economy, communities, and ecosystems—by using local renewable stock to design and build furniture that can last for generations.

Alki artisans posing with their handiwork.
Alki means “chair.” Alki artisans posing with their handiwork. ©Alki

A cooperative of local artisans who believe that sustainable development is the only way forward, Alki crafts its lines from certified renewable local hardwoods known for durability, and stability. Their furniture has a distinctive, contemporary look, showcasing a unity of purpose and design—and of functional and natural beauty.

Concerned about increased atmospheric carbon, Alki’s primary resource is both natural and renewable. “Oak, Alki’s main material of choice, embodies our commitment to integrated sustainable development,” Eki Solorzano, Alki’s communications and press official, told The Earth & I.   

“We are able to trace the tree from the moment it is selected from reserved forests, with the focus being on sources certified for their sustainable management.”

Most of the company’s oak comes from French forests. Alki ensures that the wood is Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) certified (Europe) and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified (US). “We are able to trace the tree from the moment it is selected from reserved forests, with the focus being on sources certified for their sustainable management,” Solorzano said.

Alki works with European species of oak, a relatively plentiful, versatile wood that is hard, though fairly easy to work with. Oak also finishes beautifully for natural looks and is quite resistant to humidity and shrinkage, making it an ideal choice for luxury furniture or lasting goods. These include Alki’s Patrick Jouin-designed chairs at the National Library of France (Bibliothèque Nationale de France).

Alki furniture

The longer a piece of furniture lasts, the fewer trees are cut down to replace it.


Rejecting Planned Obsolescence


With both environment and user in mind, the furniture creator readily discards the age-old business strategy of “planned obsolescence,” whereby a manufacturer builds a product with its end in mind. In other words, products are sometimes made to become obsolete, unfashionable, or unusable in a relatively short period of time.


The furniture creator readily discards the age-old business strategy of “planned obsolescence.”

Alki’s mission, from its inception, was the opposite. 

Drawing on Talented Designers

Typically collaborating with some of the most talented regional designers, Alki partners with those aligned with its values of renewable local sourcing and enduring products. “Each designer is carefully selected for each project because each one is different, just as each designer has their ideas, experiences, and background,” Solorzano said.

Alki’s artistic director is French industrial designer Jean Louis Iratzoki. The brand also collaborates with designers and studios such as Ander Lizaso, Form Us With Love, Patrick Jouin, Samuel Accoceberry, and Patrick Norguet.

Sticking to its values for sourcing and design has paid off. In 2023, Alki took its designs to the prestigious Milan Furniture Fair.

Consistent Values from the Beginning


Inspired by working with metal in the Mondragon, the largest group of cooperatives in Basque Country, Alki’s five founders were friends committed to living, working, and building a viable business in the region’s western Pyrenees mountains. 


Launched in 1981, Alki’s initial aim was to stem the flight of local youth and support the Pays Basque, a cross border region of France and Spain that was mired at the time in economic, social, and political crises.

The group began by asking themselves which professions required the most human labor. “Working with metal required too much investment in machinery per workstation,” Eki Solorzano, Alki’s communications and press official, told The Earth & I. The founders settled on furniture, as manufacturing wooden furniture required less investment per workstation.

Alki’s workshop today.
Alki’s workshop today. A new headquarters is planned for 2024. ©Alki

Alki opened its first workshop more than 30 years ago in Itxassou, a small village in the heart of French Basque Country.

Alki’s cooperative roots have since attracted ideological and financial support, ensuring that its impact continues beyond economics.

Pursuing Sustainable Development

To start, Alki managers prioritized the local region. All of Alki’s products are manufactured in its workshop in the heart of the French Basque Country, while 80% of its suppliers are based within a radius of less than 100 km (62 miles).

“For many years, we have fostered alliances and joint efforts with local partners, whether they work with metal, clay, or upholstery,” Solorzano told The Earth & I. “The spirit of collaboration enables Alki to promote and preserve local expertise and techniques while strengthening our roots within our region,” she added.

Our ambition was, and still is, to craft a cultural and commercial project that would be a veritable catalyst for our environment, enabling it to flourish by encouraging cooperation between people and enterprises in order to offer our customers the very best,” said Solorzano. “With this [aim] in mind, Alki works alongside individuals, supporting initiatives and projects that bring added value and strive for the future of our region.”

Quest for Innovation

Although oak is ubiquitous in Alki’s products, the furniture makers use a variety of raw materials in their collections. “Our constant quest for innovation spurs us to explore new avenues and possibilities,” said Solorzano.

 Alki’s Kuskoa Bi chair with bioplastic seating.
Alki’s Kuskoa Bi chair with bioplastic seating. ©Alki

This commitment led Alki to debut a chair line in 2015 called Kuskoa Bi, with seating crafted from a state-of-the-art, 80% plant-based material alternative to fossil-based plastics.

The furniture maker’s Lur Collection features natural clay planters and a matching bistro table with a terracotta base, a collaboration with Basque pottery maker, Poterie Goicoechea. 


In one of its latest creations, Alki has integrated recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a recycled and recyclable plastic. All these materials invariably come from local or European sources,” Solorzano said.

Expanding Operations

In September 2024, Alki will open its new zero-energy workshop in the heart of the Basque region. “The space has been designed so that it does not need heating or air conditioning, as it takes maximum advantage of natural light and fully operates with 100% renewable energy,” shared Solorzano.

Artist’s rendition of Alki’s proposed 2024 HQ.
Artist’s rendition of Alki’s proposed 2024 HQ. ©Alki

Planning for the workshop’s design and construction enabled Alki to review and optimize its manufacturing processes, a step that will result in an 80% reduction in volatile organic compounds emissions. In addition, all wood waste generated in production will be used to manufacture by-products.

Alki’s XUME chair, designed by Ander Lizaso.
Alki’s XUME chair, designed by Ander Lizaso. ©Alki

Looking ahead, Alki will continue to ensure that its extensive experience working with solid wood goes hand-in-hand with complementary trades, such as upholstery and wrought ironwork, to create timeless pieces, one heirloom at a time.


*Natasha Spencer-Jolliffe is a freelance journalist and editor. Over the past decade, Natasha has reported for a host of publications, exploring the wider world and industries from environmental, scientific, business, legal, and sociological perspectives. Natasha has also been interviewed as an insight provider for research institutes and conferences.



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