5 out of 5 stars  Amazing - I keep giving it away, January 23, 2012

By T. Evens

 Arborsculpture: Solutions for a Small Planet (Paperback) 

Seriously, I am back buying another copy of this book. Every time I repurchase this, 5 times now, I end up giving it away to a fellow gardener or tree lover. It is a fascinating look at what can be done for fun, beauty, function and love with trees. Very inspiring and thorough, despite the review that said it was lacking. The other favorable reviews are very good so I won't repeat.
It is such an exciting perspective anyone with a creative eye or interest in the landscape should buy this. If not for yourself, for that someone who has enthusiasm for the world of trees and natural things. Granted it is not a coffee table book and not an a to z methodology and I agree the price is a bit high but the material is such a gift and labor of love. I will always be willing to pay a little extra to support passing along this kind of dedicated experienced information and inspiration. Now go hug a tree. LOL.


Utne magazine
March / April 2006 Issue


A Living Art -- by Chris Dodge

Imagine a room -- or even an entire house -- made of living trees. Picture spiraling tree trunks, artfully knotted branches, and growing chairs rooted to the ground. The art is called arborsculpture, and in his book by the same title, Richard Reames describes the unusual practice from its historical roots to its contemporary upsurge here and there around the world.

Illustrated with black-and-white photos and drawings, Reames' book looks at such related practices as pleaching ("the technique of weaving branches together into a flat plane . . . to create a sort of hedge on stilts"), bonsai, and espalier, an art form in which trees are trained to a flat plane and then shaped, a practice that reached its peak in mid-19th-century France. Reames, author of the 1995 book How to Grow a Chair, profiles such progenitors as Axel Erlandson and his California-based Tree Circus, describes artists such as Joseph Beuys who have used living trees for sculptures, and introduces the work of contemporary arborsculptors. Finally, he gives tips on what he has learned about trees' properties and the practices of grafting, budding, framing, and otherwise shaping them.

Is the practice natural? Arguably so. Trees sometimes naturally grow together on their own, a process known as inosculation, but Reames and his curious kindred spirits take it to a new level. For Reames, whose sense of wonder is paired with respect for trees as living beings, trees are not toys but teachers with crucial lessons for humanity. His self-published book conveys this clearly, along with a sense of movement toward a more coherent vision

The Good Earth
      By Dan Clost

Gentle Reader, I have just finished reading an inexplicably interesting book; Arborsculpture, Solutions for a Small Planet by Richard Reames. I consider myself a hard-nosed nurseryman more rooted in biology and commerce than in a philosophy of nurturing the self through some imagined attunement with non-sentient organics. In this instance, trees. I confess I also have a reversion towards deliberate manipulations of nature for self-promotion, i.e., "Look what I can do, clever chap that I am."

Before a pillorying mob can assemble, let me also add that I do believe in a connection with this good earth that sustains us. Every one of us has a deep abiding need to belong to the land, we just don't always realize it. Sometimes the travails of my daily work draws the cynic out of the heartwood and causes me to look at things with a jaundiced cast.

Such was my state of mind as I started Arborsculpture. So naturally, I started at the back of the book.

Reames' last words are "Imagine the world you want to live in, and make it so." This happens to nudge up against bits of my philosophy so the jaundiced cast began to lose some of its yellowing tones.

As an aside, GR, when I read a book for review I find myself very interested in the motivations of the author. Many want to share their experiences, impart knowledge and wisdom, or assist in the success of their readers. They do this because they have a passion for the subject. There are some who write solely for profit and this is not necessarily a bad thing; however, I find such efforts usually lack soul. They become textbooks not teaching books.

It is Reames' passion that drew me into his work. In his words, "This book was written to advance the concept that life in all its forms, particularly tree life, can improve the environmental situation on earth. If we can develop respect for all the forms of life and find the common ground where all will thrive. This will be our solution." This is the kind of statement that tells me the author deeply believes that what he is doing has great meaning and impact. It gets my attention.

Simply put, arborsculpture is the art of causing trees to grow into desired shapes or forms both functional and artistic. It is achieved, practically, by bending and grafting primarily the trunk or trunks until they accept their contrived forms. Mind you, you need to add a bit of patience, a year or two, and it does help if you acquaint yourself with some bits of horticultural knowledge.

The book contains a brief history of the tree and its importance in societies and cultures over time, a quick listing of the "superlative" categories such as biggest, oldest, slowest growing , etc., an exceptionally lucid bit on evolution, a history on shaping which includes coppicing, pleaching, and topiary, descriptions and biographical sketches of arborsculpture pioneers, a section on techniques and finally a nice explanation on "how to grow a chair."

It is fascinating stuff and I can see this becoming a trend in the urban landscape.

Would this be a good or a bad thing? I dunno- depends on the motivation I suspect. I also suspect that the tree will shape the shaper and draw him or her into the more elemental aspects of their existence. And that is a good thing.

Richard Reames has done us all a service with this book. Some of us may choose to experiment with this art form, some may not. However, none of us can put this book down unchanged.

Barbara Martin- National Gardening Association

Arborsculptors are people who love trees and patiently grow tree "experiments" that cover the gamut from artistic to funky, poetic to technically challenging. They enjoy embarking upon projects such as growing, say, a chair or a 16-foot row boat or even a house, all by growing and training sapling trees. Arborsculpture: Solutions for A Small Planet, by Richard Reames (Arborsmith Studios, 2005; $20), is an intensely personal and passionate book documenting arborsculpting projects and techniques both old and new. The projects and people described and illustrated in it are unique. Reames also includes helpful pointers that reflect both age-old and modern tree biology, as well as instructions and diagrams to help you with your own projects, including details for how to grow your own living chair. If you enjoy the offbeat and/or have an interest in tree biology, you will adore this book.

Arborsculpture-Solutions for a Small Planet is a book for everyone interested in gardening, landscaping, trees, art and saving the environment. Anyone who has some sun and some soil can start practicing this art today. This book pushes the envelope right out of the box.




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