Arborsculpture is the art and technique of growing and shaping the trunks of trees while they grow. By grafting, bending and pruning the trees are grown into shapes either ornamental or useful. 

 

Arborsculpture relies on the ability of plants (trees) to be united together by approach grafting and the ability to retain a new shape when new layers of wood form to hold a desired shape. Approach grafting is accomplished by wounding two or more parts of a tree or trees by cutting off the bark, to the cambium layer and then binding the wounded parts together so good contact is secure while the wounded tree parts grow together.

Employing the living tree as medium for art or construction successfully, requires understanding the basic physics and physiology of tree growth. Arborsculpture Solutions for a Small Planet  

 

 

 

 

 

Ready to give it a try? Follow the steps below or buy my book for more detailed information on how you can make your own living pieces of art. 

How to Grow a Chair

This is just one of the many ways of growing a chair, innovative artists will develop unique variations and improvements in this re-emerging art form.

Excerpt from Arborsculpture- Solutions for A Small Planet

Materials: 

  • 10 un-branched saplings 6 ft. to 8 ft. (2 m. to 2.5 m.) long, as thin as possible.
  • Cold rolled metal bars 1/2 in. diameter (1.27 cm.) cut to length: two at 5 ft. (1.5 m.) and three at 4 ft. (1.2 m.). 
  • Tie wire.

 

 

Method:

It is best to face the chair toward the north (northern hemisphere) so the back will shade the seat and protect it from sunscald.

Pound the two 5 ft. (1.5 cm.) lengths of metal bars into the ground spaced about 3 ft. (1.3 m.) apart. This will define the back of the chair.

Between the two upright bars tie one of the four-foot metal bars to set the level of the seat. Tie another four-foot metal bar about 8 in. (20 cm.) above the first bar, and the last four-foot piece 8 in. above that.

Select two of your largest, thickest saplings for the back of the chair and two of the thinnest for the arms. Bundle a large one and thin one together and plant just in front of the upright bars. Divide the remaining eight saplings into two even groups and plant them where the front legs belong.

Bend the inside saplings in any pattern to form the seat. Pass them under the lowest bar and back up in front of the next bar and finally behind the highest bar.

Use two hands to create an un-localizing bend at the front of the chair and at the back. Do the same with remaining seat saplings.

Tie the two large saplings together to define the back of the chair.

Bend the two thin arm saplings toward the front and then toward the back and secure with stretch tape.

All junctions can be approach grafted. Any parts that appear out of shape can be pulled into place with stretch tape.

Prune the branches during the growing season to give light to the tips of the smallest of the saplings.

Sit in your chair only after it has grown strong enough to support your weight.

How to Grow a Fence

To grow your own fence first you need to decide on the type of trees to use. The top illustration shows one way to create the pattern. By going over and under a strong yet beautiful fence can be grown. Deciduous trees that can be limbed up (lower branches removed) are shown here. If you desire a privacy fence the same pattern can be used with evergreens but you won't see the pattern emerge until the trees are much older and taller.

This entryway was grown by Axel Erlandson in late 1920's He planted 10 trees and simply pruned and grafted the growing tree parts to create this pattern. He built a scrap wood frame behind it to serve as a guide and hold the tree parts still until the grafts had taken. To learn more about this project other projects along with the complete history of Arborsculpture, pick up your copy of Arborsculpture - Solutions for a Small Planet

This entryway was grown by Axel Erlandson in late 1920's He planted 10 trees and simply pruned and grafted the growing tree parts to create this pattern. He built a scrap wood frame behind it to serve as a guide and hold the tree parts still until the grafts had taken. To learn more about this project other projects along with the complete history of Arborsculpture, pick up your copy of Arborsculpture - Solutions for a Small Planet