I was excited last fall when I received a commission from Richlands, NC to build a piece of artwork in their downtown area. The idea was to start a revitalization effort by adding a point of interest in the park downtown. They want to bring more people back to the downtown area, and the park was a great place to start.
When I received a call asking if I was interested… of course I said yes. The town manager came up with the idea of creating a wishing tree. The concept involved a leafless tree with branches reachable from the ground. The people would take small strips of cloth and write their dreams, their wishes, or their prayers on them. These cloth strips would then be tied to the tree as leaves. They would blow in the wind until they dissolved away.
I first talked about this project back in the fall. You can read that post by clicking here.
The design process was a lot of fun. The structure had to be strong enough to withhold the kind of abuse it would receive, yet still appear to be natural and interesting.
I started building the internal frame after drawing the picture of the tree on the floor of my studio. I laid out two x two x 3/8 inch tubing and started welding the square structure together. As the work progressed, the structure was worked to become round and textured like a gnarled oak tree. The trunk followed a small plaster model I had made to give me some 3-D guidance. The trunk was sheathed in 16 Gage steel, which was textured, bent over an armature, and welded in place.
Here is my blog showing the roots and the structure moving upward.
The branches were another story…
They had to be strong enough to potentially be grabbed and pulled on and yet still light enough to look natural… and they had to be low enough to be reached from the ground by most people. I started using 3 inch rigid tubing and reduced the sizes down smaller and smaller ending up with one inch tubing with steel ball bearings welded into the and give them a nice smooth rounded end.
After bringing the two pieces back from the sandblaster, I started working on the finish. Originally the idea was to rust the entire structure and seal the rust with a clear coat. But I decided to use a metal dye which would color the metal brown color give me some optional color with heat and sanding. The finish it turned out fabulous and the sanded areas did bring out the texture of the trunk.
We invited small children from the local preschool to bring leaves over and embed them in the cement foundation for extra texture… and it was a wonderful morning of laughing and being part of the art.
The tree was later mounted to the base and dedicated by the town.
The occasion was a fun time for all. The day involved about 60 adults, and about 60 children from the local elementary school. They received the honor of being the first ones to have their wishes and prayers flying on the tree.
Here is a 5 min time lapse video of the whole process… you will be tired after you watch it…but it is fun to see.
Overall the project was exciting to use as a test of my imagination, and my skill…AND how much weight I could pick up and move around shop!
The next time you are driving through eastern North Carolina and would like to see the tree, go to Ventors Park in Richlands, North Carolina and check it out. Open the little green box and write your wish on a piece of cloth, tie it to the tree and let it go.
It is the first phase of the park revitalization and I’m excited over watching the process in action.
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