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Sit on Your Ash, in Your “Branch” Office and Reduce Global Warming
Living tree furniture takes root
Williams OR---- Trees can be grown into living chairs, tables, benches, boats, bridges and houses. For more than a decade, Richard Reames has applied bending and grafting techniques to thousands of young trees creating “arborsculptures” at his nursery/studio and in the yards of his clients. These growing works of art and function continue to live and grow thicker and taller with every season. “By using live trees for the things that we traditionally killed trees for, we can preserve the large living trees and plant even more to reap all the benefits of live trees, like their ability to remove Co2 (the major culprit in global warming) from the air” says Reames.
Reames owns Arborsmith Studios a hybrid tree nursery - art studio located in Southern Oregon. One large project, planted in 2000 involving several hundred trees for a park in Japan, the effort received the prestigious “Good Design Award” and led to an assignment to help create a exhibit called The Growing Village Pavilion at the World Expo 2005 Aichi Japan.
The term “arborsculpture” is a word coined by Reames himself. Although the art form has a history that is centuries old, no single term had ever been used to describe the process. Reames has developed a network of arborsculptors around the world who, coincidently, all started exploring the technique around the same year he did. “We share ideas and photos and we don’t feel as crazy knowing that we are not alone” While it requires several years to get results Reames says “Just look back on your own life, how fast did the last five years go by? If you start now in just five years or less you can really have something fantastic”. Reames has compiled his extensive research and experience into his new book Arborsculpture: Solutions for a Small Planet (Arborsmith Studios, $20, 224 pages, www.arborsmith.com).
Inspired by the tree sculptures of Axel Erlandson who operated a roadside attraction in California from 1947 to 1963, Reames came to realize that not only is the art form unique, it has the enormous potential to improve the environment. Reames feels his main work is to encourage more experimentation in this art, which if widely embraced could very well lead humanity back to the garden.
For a review copy of the book Arborsculpture, a photo CD or to schedule an interview,
Please contact Mr. Reames at Richard@arborsmith.com
Or by phone at 541-846-7188 also see www.arborsmith.com
Arborsculpture- Solutions for a Small Planet ISBN: 0-9647280-8-7 · 5.5 x 8.5 · Trade Paper · 224 pages · $20.00
Trees Mitigate Global Warming
Trees sequester CO2, a greenhouse gas while producing oxygen. Trees distill water and build soils, convert solar energy to fuel, change colors with the seasons, make microclimates, provide flowers, fruits and nuts. The more trees there are growing on earth, the more stable the climate will be.
Growing a Chair
The first know grown chair was made in Wisconsin in 1908 since then many chairs have sprouted up including some in Thailand, China, and stools in England.
Some people use them as live additions to there garden or landscape some harvest them and use them in the house as unique furniture. The best choice of tree species for a chair or bench is Ash because everyone loves to sit on there Ash.
Grow your own Household Items
Unique items like a chair or table a coat hanger or a wine rack, when grown by the gardeners own hand, become valued items that are never easily cast aside. Growing your own creates a deep connection between user and item. Fuel for construction and transportation is eliminated.
Growing a Living House
Living trees could be grown in such a way as to provide a weather tight structure. Living tree trunks can constitute the walls and ceiling of a habitable living space. Trees of the same species can and do grow together in nature without any help. By planning and encouraging the trees to grow together a solid structure can be grown. The R factor on such constructions increases each year with the growth of the trees. Several researchers beside myself are working on this potential new housing idea.
As an Art medium, trees are kinetic sculpture. A palette consisting of about 100,000 species of trees with millions of different varieties allows artist to create unique projects that have never been tried. Each tree species has it’s own unique habit of growth and it’s own unique response to conditions. This art is at the crossroads of Sculpture and horticulture.
Axel Erlandson opened a roadside attraction composed entirely of shaped trees in California in 1947. He kept his techniques a secret and died in 1964. Erlandson’s work inspired me to learn the art of arborsculpture, research its history and write about the subject so that it would not become a lost art.One old example is a painting by Johann Perreal in 1516.
World Expo 2005 in Japan has a pavilion titled The Growing Village. I was hired to arrange the showing of the Arborsculptures from around the world. We have 2 people from Israel, 2 people from England and one family from Australia along with museum pieces from the Axel Erlandson Collection and some of my work done for the “Laughing Tree Park” or “Mokshown” in Japan in 2000.
Q: This is your second book, right?
A: Yes. In 1996 I wrote How To Grow A Chair. It was very successful for me. I learned a lot about writing a how-to book and about describing the art form itself. That book also put me in contact with a worldwide community of people who, unbeknownst to me, were already practicing the techniques or were just interested how or why someone would grow a chair.
Q: Give us a brief synopsis of your new book Arborsculpture: Solutions
for a Small Planet.
A: My book is about the amazing adaptability of trees and how they are being used as a medium for art and construction today. I talk about the history of arborsculpture; the tree visionaries of the past; what is possible and might be possible to make out of live trees. There’s quite a bit about the pioneers who first shaped live trees into useful items. There are interviews with people around the world who are shaping trees today. There’s some biology stuff. And there’s a step-by-step instructions on how to grow your own chair.
Q: But if you grow a chair, wouldn't the seat eventually grow out of
A: No, trees don’t grow that way. Trees grow from their tips, not their trunks. The trunks just get bigger around as they add annual rings. The seat stays put. The back grows up and everything gets thicker.
Q: Arborsculpture does not appear in my copy of Webster’s. Can you define it for me and explain how this term came into being?
“Arborsculpture” is the practice of shaping live tree trunks into works of art or construction. I coined the word in my first book, How to Grow a Chair, in 1996 because there was no one word to adequately describe the practice.
Q: The art of sculpting trees is very fascinating. How did you first get involved in this type of gardening?
A: Back when I was facing fatherhood, I took a long walk in the forest to think. I asked the universe what would be the best career for me that would be good for the Earth and my family. As I posed the question the answer appeared in my mind in the form of photos I had seen of the tree work of Axel Erlandson. And that’s how it all started for me.
Q: What simple techniques can you share with readers who want to create their own tree art?
A: Trees are extremely adaptable to shaping. And the tree itself usually has the best idea what design it will take. When a sapling is held in place for a few years it will stay in that shape. It’s also possible to grow two or more parts of any tree or trees together by simply shaving off a little bark where they touch and then binding them so they are immobile relative to one another. They will grow together at the point they touch.
Q: Recalling all of the projects that you have worked with can you
choose one that was most rewarding?
A: I really love my peace sign tree. It is one where the tree gave me the idea in the first place. The most rewarding, though, is the ash chair, because I can just go out there now and sit on my ash.
Q: This is ecologically significant art, isn't it?
A: Sure. Just the act of planting a tree is the one of the most important ecological acts anyone can undertake. Trees take in CO2, a greenhouse gas, and give off oxygen. They hold the soil in place, cool the air, and provide shelter and food for wildlife. When people start to nurture trees their whole attitude toward the environment becomes benevolent. And when that caring becomes art, it takes us a thousand steps closer in appreciation for these wonderful living things.
Q: Your book is subtitled Solutions for a Small Planet. How is this art a solution?
A: Let me count the ways: For one thing, when people can grow the things they need right at home, energy is saved because there is no transportation and manufacturing involved. Second, when someone grows his or her own item there is a deep connection with that thing so he or she is much more likely to use and keep it for a long time. Third, when any tree is growing there is a positive environmental impact. If we can develop methods for, say, growing our own living houses, they could live for hundreds of years and contribute positive effects all during that time, and we could conserve the old trees we have today rather than converting them into lumber at a great energy expense.
Q: Do you really think it’s possible to grow a house?
A: Yes, I believe that we can learn how to grow habitable structures. If it’s done right a real living house that is weathertight could be grown. Its insulation value would go up every year as the trees matured. The trees could also provide fruit or firewood on an annual basis. These living houses would be almost indestructible and last for much longer than the life of the trees themselves, which could be hundreds or even thousands of years.
Imagine a yard full of trees growing into chairs and tables and beds, mirror frames and coat hangers. There could be a tunnel of live trees leading to the living house where several circles of trees have grown together creating walls and the ceiling, solidly imbedding the doors and windows that function perfectly. Septic and gray water would feed the trees, as would the compost from the kitchen.
Q: Tell us about your job with the World Expo 2005 in Aichi, Japan.
A: I was selected to round up all the known arborsculptors in the world and create a display of their works. Our pavilion is called The Growing Village and includes some of my work done in Japan in 2000 along with displays of 8 others from the US, Australia, Thailand, Israel and England. The Asian Wall Street Journal said The Growing Village Pavilion is not the largest but may be the most authentic effort on site.
Q: Are you keeping busy as an arborsculptor?
A: I’m happy to say yes, I am. I plant and shape trees for clients worldwide, from public parks to private gardens. I also write a semi annual e-mail based newsletter at my web site Arborsmith.com with a focus on the amazing power of trees and new examples of shaped trees around the world. The web site has extensive information about my own work with links to other important arborsculpture-related web sites.
Q: Arborsculpture: Solutions for a Small Planet is self-published. What was that whole process like?
A: To complete the book I sorted through 10 years of collected bits of information and then researched each detail. I had to prod myself to write something every day then learn the essential workings of Word, Photoshop and Quark. It was challenging, but worth the effort.
Q: What was different in the process between your first book How To Grow A Chair and this book?
A: In 1995 the Internet was in its infancy. I didn’t even have a computer. I worked on a word processor at the time, so I enlisted the help of a co-author/editor who had a computer and could do the layout. This time I was able to do most of the research on the Internet rather than the library and other hardcopy sources. I was able to improve the photos with Photoshop and create the layout myself.
Q: What advice do you have for first time writers?
A: Set a time to write every day and stick to it. Don’t make up any deadlines. Just keep at it until it’s done. Also find a good editor to work with. We tend to leave a lot of what we think is in our book in our heads. A good editor will make you fill in the blanks.
Q: What made you decide to self publish your book? What self-publishing obstacles have you had to face and overcome?
A: The traditional book publishing industry is designed to chew up and spit out authors as fast as possible and get on to the next Big Thing. I self-published so that I would have complete control over my books from content to layout to publicity to distribution. I learned about a lot of the obstacles with my first book, stuff like wholesale contracts where the fine print says things like “withhold payment for 2 years” or “will return damaged or unsold books.” I also came to find out that a Costco discount sticker is almost impossible to remove. I probably made new mistakes this time, but I don’t think they’ll be nearly as costly as the first time. I’ve learned to invite people into my process rather than give it over to them and end up working for them rather than for my own product.
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