2008 - Volume #32, Issue #4, Page #09[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Artists Shape Trees Into Furniture And Art
Cook, a jeweler, decided to grow a chair in 1987 after being inspired by three fig trees twisting together. He later teamed up with Northey and they've been at it ever since.
They have about 70 pieces in various stages of growth. They work mostly with wild plum trees, guiding the growth along wire-shaped paths. The couple is also learning how to work with other trees, including black cherry, red bud, pear, willow, dogwood, hazel and oak.
Their art can take as little as a year for neckpieces to 8 to 10 years for bigger pieces such as chairs or people trees. They sent eight pieces to the World Expo 2005 in Japan, and were told their work had a profound effect on the bonsai community there.
While some pieces are grown to remain planted and alive, others can be harvested and enjoyed indoors, like the mirror frame the couple planted in 1998. It's Northey's favorite piece, with the root system serving as the mirror's stand.
Cook's favorites are the people trees. "On the day that I first conceived the idea, it was this flash of inspiration," he recalls. "I drew it full height on the kitchen door with a large, indelible ink pen. The excitement of that first realization that I could grow a man is one that stills echoes through to today."
Many inspirations come from the natural beauty of the land where they live amid clear mountain streams and rugged cliffs. They let their art grow naturally, but must provide protection from kangaroos and wallabies that like to eat the trees, as well as Goanna lizards that can inadvertently break branches while looking for bird eggs.
Cook and Northey are writing a book about their technique as well as developing consultation services for others interested in tree shaping.
"Most people seem to think tree shaping takes too long," the couple says. "That's not how it should be viewed, rather think of it like this: The time you spend shaping a tree is captured by the tree, then amplified. A hundred years from now people will be able to see the tree shaping that you did today."
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Peter "Pook" Cook and Becky Northey firstname.lastname@example.org; www.pooktre.com).
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