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Garry Knox Bennett is an American woodworker, furniture maker, metalworker and artist, He is known for his whimsical, inventive and unconventional uses of materials and designs in his work. His long-established workshop and studio is in Oakland, California. His work is in major museums around the country.

“Got a box from Nakashima Studio—(oh boy! A Conoid chair!!-No, box too small)! Opened it up,…pieces of wood inside?? Phoned John Lutz @ said studio: “Well Garry, the wood was on its way to the burn-pile, when I got a call from Steve Strompf to send it out to you on the West Coast.” Ours is not to question why…?!

I could not understand why they would burn such valuable wood—(one piece was at least 16 inches long)!

A bigger box might have yielded a larger table & frame,...but shipping would
have been problematic. Waste not, want not!”

Garry Knox Bennett

 

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Pho Binh was born in Vietnam and lived thru the horror of the war.  He managed to escape his homeland in 1979.  He relocated with his family to Illinois, where he manages his studio today.  He works almost exclusively in wood looking for the balance of character of each of his pieces.  He infuses traditional Asian images with modern concepts into his sophisticated art of the wooden image. He pushes the wood to its limits by piecing and getting the material paper thin.

“Life defies definition, and attempts to control it will always fail to recognize the sum of all its interdependencies. Thus, negative spaces inspire me, for they represent the unseen weight of the unknown.  This is a principle of Far Eastern Architecture Art, and its influence is seen in my work,
When I received this piece of wood of the Ash tree from “The Children's Tree and Art Foundation” I wanted to create a piece that bridges the Eastern and Western culture.

At the moment the Ash tree is very much decayed, went back to the soil except its soul that reflects in all the pieces in this exhibition. I am exploring the possibilities of negative spaces, looking through the bamboo leaves to see the soul of the Ash tree that once stood in the school ground, providing a shade for the children to play.”

Binh Pho

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David Ellsworth began woodturning as a teenager.  He received a Master’s Degree in Sculpture in 1973.  From his experience with clay, he went on to specialize in the vessel form.  He developed a series of tools that have allowed him to produce extremely thin walled hallow forms through a process he calls ‘blind turning’. Ellsworth is a master at his craft and his work is in major museums around the country.

"Working with historical materials such as this ash tree is both a pleasure and a challenge. One must at the very least consider the intent of those who planted the tree compared to the intent of those who are now working its material; the styles in design that exist today that could not have been conceived during the trees lifetime; what forms of inspiration in poetry, pros, or simple musings might have bloomed as a result of its mere presence; and what conversations, consternations, or even conceptions might have occurred beneath its growing canopy?

It is also a statement to the beauty of Craft, where the material is paramount and an object's intrinsic value is literally defined through the stories that describe it."

David Ellsworth

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J Paul Fennell is a woodturner who has been creating original art in wood on the lathe since the 1970’s.  He specializes in hallow form vessels in simple classic shapes. After the form is created Fennell goes back and hand carves and refines each piece.

“Because of my deep reverence for wood, I am grateful and happy to participate in the Children’s Tree and Art Foundation project, a profound act on the part of dedicated individuals to provide a second life to an historic tree.  Like many good things, this majestic tree is not missed until it is taken away from those accustomed to seeing it always present in their daily lives.  And, what is done with the wood taken from this tree provides a valuable lesson—at a place where learning takes place, no less—that one can show how important trees are to the human spirit.

The piece I made to show reverence to this historic tree is a hollow form, in and of itself a ubiquitous object of humanity, decorated to imply energy, movement,…life.”

J. Paul Fennell

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Ron Fleming was a professional designer and illustrator who has now turned his attention toward wood sculpture and sculpting on the turned vessel form.  Fleming is active in the American Association of Woodturners and the Wood Turning Center where he is currently serving on the Board of Advisers.

“When asked to participate in this project I was thrilled to be included. It seemed the tree was a big part of the children’s lives. I wanted to create something that would continue to represent the tree as well as a new life reborn, a new growth. The wood was simple in grain and texture so I thought the stylized leaf structure would make a strong statement about it's rebirth. I hope this will let the tree where they played so many times, live on in their memory.”

Ron Fleming

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William Hunter is an innovator and a sculptor.  He started out studying philosophy until he was introduced to his first lathe. He has become a student of the wood and is fascinated by its color palette. His work is highly sort after by collectors and is in major museums around the country.

Acknowledging and creating lasting value from what might have been lost in this 350 year old tree is the truest measure of the School Tree Project.  It was a leap of imagination and tenacity to envision and actualize this collection of  wood  art works, which teaches respect for nature and history, sharing of resources and inspiration with each other and future generations.

Simply saving this historic tree from the shredder is admirable. To have the vision of uniting several dozen fine wood craftsmen and artists to commit their heart , hands  and souls into these beautiful objects is a great story.  That this focused tribute collection will stay together as an entity may be the first of it’s kind in wood.

Secondarily and equally important is that this diverse body of work also documents a moment in history of the ideas of many of the people responsible for creating the studio wood art movement. 

The manner in which the national wood community came together with the school, local community and businesses involved makes me proud to be a part of this special project.

 “Circle of Life” as a philosophical concept is the motive of this sculpture. Both the circle and the spiral are metaphor for life, metamorphosis and continuity.  The crucial motive for this piece was to show the vessel in the context of the original timber in order to help the kids see the process of creativity.  As a sculpture, it is the metaphorical emergence of new life from its source.   

It is a very special moment for an artist when he finds that sweet spot where science meets the poetic in harmony with concept .  This project provided the stimulus for a new direction in my own work, which has already born fruit; the circle of life continues!“

William Hunter

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Greg Jensen is a specialist in wood bowl construction using the latest technology from Australia and New Zealand.  His techniques allow him to get multiple nested bowls out of one piece of wood instead of one bowl and a mountain of shavings.  He has crafted his largest bowl ever for the CTAF.

“It was an honor to participate in The Children’s Tree and Art Foundation. One of my favorite memories growing up on a farm in upstate New York was sitting under an ash tree on a hot summer day.  The character and magnificent grain from this tree inspired me to turn this bowl.  The children will truly enjoy seeing the wide variety of artwork created from this magnificent tree.  What a difference one ash tree has made in so many lives.”

Greg Jensen

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John Jordan has been a woodturner for nearly twenty five years. John has given demonstrations and hands on lessons to thousands of woodturners in most states in the US as well as eight other countries. The turned and carved vessels he makes are featured in numerous private and corporate collections, as well as the permanent collecions of more than twenty five museums. This includes seven pieces in the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, and the recent acquisition of two pieces by the prestigious Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

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Bonnie Klein is a full time woodturner who specializes in boxes and tops with threaded lids.  She also designs, produces and markets a small woodturning lathe which is sold throughout the US and abroad.  She participates in symposiums and conducts workshops in many countries.  Bonnie particularly likes to work with young people sharing the excitement and fun of turning.  She has served on the American Association of Woodturners for six years as vice-president.

“When I heard about this project, I was excited and honored to be included.  As a child I loved climbing trees and would never have guessed that someday trees would be such an important part of my life.  Because this tree came from a school yard and was such an important part of the lives of so many children - I wanted to use the wood to create something childlike to honor this great tree.  That is why I turned the sturdy little child's stool in memory of the tree.”

Bonnie Klein

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Bill Luce is passionate about exploring certain subtleties of simple shape and form.   His most current work is bowls and hollow vessels. They are inspired by traditional ceramic forms from around the world, and shapes found in nature. Much of his work is done with fresh green wood where he deliberately utilizes the natural distortion of the wood as it dries to alter and enhance the shape of the piece. Luce is very in tune with wood and how it reacts in nature.

“For me this project includes two facets. It serves to honor a grand old tree that has been part of the local history for some time.  The pieces created are a remembrance of something special that lived a long life and is now gone forever.  For the school kids, the local community, and hopefully eventually to a larger scope of folks.  It is a demonstration of valuing how important the role nature plays in all of our lives.

To me as an artist the project also is a special and unique opportunity to participate in an exploration of both the material (ash wood) and the range of approaches the various artists bring to the project. Starting with basically the same material, each artist has recorded their vision of their life and of the wood itself.

My pieces utilize the wood to show two dramatically different surface treatments – and how those along with subtle (but significant) differences in the simple shapes, create very different emotional statements.”

Bill Luce

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Wendy Maruyama is an artist and educator from San Diego, California who has been making furniture/art since 1970. Wendy is often inspired by extended residencies and visits to various countries such as France, England, Japan, Korea and China   Recently Wendy’s work has taken on stylistic influences from Asia. She had stated that she vacillates between “creating works that both emulate and satirize contemporary Japan”.

“In the past 15 years my work has taken on stylistic influences from Asia. Born in La Junta, Colorado, to second-generation Japanese American parents, I made several pilgrimages to the land of my heritage, Japan. At times reverent of Japan’s craft history and advanced technology, and appalled by Japan’s self-indulgent, materialistic and almost faceless and patriarchal society, I vacillate between creating works that both emulate and satirize contemporary Japan.  Subsequent trips to China and Korea have broadened my subject matter, focusing primarily on gender, ethnicity and stereotypes.

My newest work, "Executive Order 9066" is hitting closer to home - the work is influenced by personal and family history and addresses the internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans in 1942. This event dramatically changed the Japanese American psyche and is to this day is still a vague segment of history to most Americans.

The piece, "A Question of Loyalty" refers directly to the Loyalty Questions # 27 and #28, asked of all Japanese Americans prior to their internment:

Question 27 on the questionnaire asked, "Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States on combat duty, wherever ordered?"
Question 28 asked, "Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States and faithfully defend the United States from any or all attack by foreign or domestic forces, and forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, or any other foreign government, power, or organization?"

If the answer "no" was given to either of these questions, those individuals were sent to the Tule Lake internment camp: because the "no-no" boys were considered to be "untrustworthy or security risks", it had the highest level of security of any of the camps. To be asked such questions after being taken from your homes, and moved to desolate bleak locations was, indeed, confusing to the Japanese Americans.  

The piece is designed to create a sense of uncertainty:  there is a portion of the cabinet that is not accessible.   The questions on the door reveal the answers inside.

Because this project was inspired by the use of an old beautiful tree taken from a (historic?) school ground, that my participation in this exhibit may be a way to emphasize the importance of arts and education. 

Perhaps our works can serve as an historic, educational tool for young people today. “

Wendy Maruyama

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JoHannes Michelsen first turned wood as a child of ten and continued throughout his life on an occasional basis. In 1977 he began to pursue the turned vessel as an art form. His efforts were simple one piece footed and natural edged bowls of burl or spaulted wood of local origin.  He progressed from simple one piece turnings into more complicated vases constructed of many elements with a variety of finishes.  Recently JoHannes has returned to one piece turnings, only now they are hats!  His hats are not only sculptural, but they can be custom fitted, extremely comfortable and wearable.

 

 

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Mira Nakashima creates beauty in free-form chairs, tables, cabinets and Altars for Peace.  Her father George Nakashima was the elder statesman of the American craft movement.  When he died, Mira took over the Nakashima Studio and expanded it from creating her father’s reproductions to her own original designs.  Mira’s new line was named “Keisho”, meaning combination in Japanese.  She has gone on to forge her own identity in wood design. Her work is in major museums around the world.

“When Steve Strompf first contacted me about his Ash Tree idea several years ago, it seemed like a sentimental request similar to several other projects I had done for owners of other trees.  I told him about our logger and sawyer John Kirlew, who salvaged what he could from the massive trunk that was half-rotten inside.  I then went to his yard to decide where and how to cut lumber from the tree, and selected the plank I thought would make the best table-top.  Mr. Strompf by that time had expanded his original mission to create a Foundation, not only to make a book-matched table with seven chairs, but persuaded other woodworkers to create objects from the tree.

In doing so, all of us have created memorials for this mighty and long-lived tree with color and figure very unusual for its species.  Through our work, the tree lives on, not only for the children in the school where it used to stand, but for generations to come!”

Mira Nakashima

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Jere Osgood has developed a recognizable style in his forty years of furniture making. He says he is influenced by architecture and design. Also a long-time author and teacher, his work has been featured several times in Fine Woodworking and at galleries and museum collections around the United States. Now retired from teaching, Osgood continues to build custom furniture out of his New Hampshire workshop.  He is an active member of the Furniture Society and New Hampshire Furniture Masters Association.

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Michael Peterson creates sculpted art by turning, carving, sandblasting, bleaching and pigmenting the burl portion of trees such as madrone, maple, grass tree, elm and locust.  He starts out with multiple wet chunks of wood which are carved and hollowed out using chainsaws. As the pieces dry, they shrink and warp in unpredictable ways that heighten their grain patterns and create rich textures. He then smoothes the edges and sometimes bleaches the pieces prior to layering them with  multiple subtle coats of pigments which he often wipes away to create the illusion of depth, much the same way painters do when using chiaroscuro techniques. Some of the sculptures are composed of individual hollowed out units that, when stacked vertically, are reminiscent of how waves would toss driftwood into unpredictable positions on the beach.

"Congratulations to everyone on their exceptional effort and celebration of this special tree. It was a pleasure to be included and a real opportunity to work with this three hundred year old wood. I felt a "trunk" form very fitting to capture the spirit of this unique celebration."

Michael Peterson

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Mark Sfirri trained at the Rhode Island School of Design.  He turns his wood pieces on multiple axes to get motion and simultaneity of multiple perspectives.  He works independently but has also collaborated with other artists like Robert Dodge and Michael Hosaluk. Sfirri is a professor at Buck County Community College.  He just received the very prestigious nation honor of being named a James Renwick Alliance 2010 Distinguished Educator. 

"It was really a pleasure to be a part of a project like this where all of the wood used by everyone comes from the same tree.  While I use ash often, I was thrilled to see how unusual the grain was being so curly.  What should be exciting is to see all of the work together to see the common thread of the material which bonds the work by so many makers together."

Mark Sfirri

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Jacques Vesery is a Sculptor creating wood art pieces.  He has served in the Navy as a Submariner, drove a Zamboni in Hawaii, was a Scrimshaw artist on Cape Cod, and a Forest Ranger in New Jersey.  He currently serves on the Advisory committee for the American Association of Woodturners.  He is a contributing editor for the American Woodturner Magazine.  He has taught his techniques and lectured on design throughout the states and Europe. Jacques is also an advisor to The Children’s Tree and Art Foundation, Inc.

 

 

Copyright © 2010 The Children's Tree and Art Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Copyright © 2010 The Children's Tree and Art Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved.