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Chicago Tree Project Continues to Transform Dead Trees into Sculptures

As much as we like to see urban trees reclaimed as lumber and furniture, sometimes the best use of a dying or dead tree is a second life as art.

Chicago Sculpture International (CSI) and the Chicago Park District (CPD), teamed up for “Chicago Tree Project 2017,” the fourth annual citywide effort to transform sick and dying trees into vibrant public art. Using art as a vessel for public engagement, sculptors transformed a variety of trees into fun and whimsical experiences for the greater Chicago community. The collaborative project between CSI artists and CPD and is part of the greater initiative to expand the reach of public art in Chicago.

“The Chicago Park District strives to integrate art and nature in many ways to enhance the experience of public spaces,” said General Superintendent and Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Park District Michael P. Kelly. “This project builds on the city’s reputation for great public art, and brings the work of local sculptors to a wide array of neighborhoods throughout the city.”

Over the course of the summer and fall, artists adopted trees throughout Chicago and modified them through sculpture using traditional carving methods, as well as mixed media and other embellishments. The transformed trees are in geographically diverse areas to give as many residents as possible access to the pieces.

The decorated and carved trees will remain in the parks as long as the trees remain secure.

2017 Tree Artists included: JR Cadawas, Janet Austin, Sandra Bacon & John Hatlestad, Carrie Fischer, Nick Goettling, Tracy Ostmann Haschke, Anthony Heinz May, Cat Chiu Phillips, and Actual Size Artworks (Gail Simpson & Artistotle Georgiades).

Learn more about the Chicago Tree Project and view more sculptures.

 



Chicagoans ‘Import’ Live Edge Walnut Table from KC

Editor’s Note: Many thanks to our friend Tom “The Sawyer” Hogard for putting us in contact with one of his clients – John Stefanchik. John and his wife Jen, both formerly of Chicago, operate Custom Furniture KC in Gardner, KS. 

According to the Custom Furniture KC website, the couple “left our jobs in the busy corporate world looking for something that allowed us to slow down, work together and create environmentally conscious yet stylish products that bring warm to people’s lives.” To wit, working with urban wood, the Stefanchiks have found it “incredibly fulfilling … to give new life to a tree that would otherwise have been destroyed and see it used every day in a way that enhances the owner’s life.”

The Custom Furniture KC website includes a projects channel. John Stefanchik was kind enough to allow us to re-post one of them concerning a live edge walnut table gracing the home of friends in Chicago. John and Jen also previously lived for 20 years in Chicago. “I still consider myself a Chicagoan despite having lived in Kansas for the last seven years,” John says.   

Here is a stripped down version of the step-by-step post that features 17 photos illustrating the project from milling through fabrication and final product. You can read the real deal by clicking here

Some friends of ours from Chicago wanted a walnut dining table and bench for their city home.  We sourced the wood for this project from two different locations.  The wood for the table came from the University of Kansas; taken down as part of a construction project a few years ago.  The wood for the bench came from a tree that was standing dead on a farm south of Kansas City in December of 2015,

The wood for the table was originally milled with two live edges on each board so the first step was the remove one of the edges and then plane each board to uniform thickness.  The top will consist of three separate pieces.

From there the table pieces needed to be joined together and we chose to use some floating tenon joints to add stability to the glue-up.  The table was smoothed and all of the cracks and knots were epoxied to provide stability and enhance their character.

The bench came from a single board, but in order to enhance eye-appeal and ensure long-term durability the board was cut into 4 individual pieces, planed to uniform thickness and glued together.

Once the tops were assembled, we sanded, finished and installed the legs.  The end product is a striking live-edge table with a modern flare, custom built to fit their unique space.

Visit Custom Furniture KC’s website.

 

 

 

 

 



Dead Ash Trees Come to Life in Chainsaw Sculptures

 



ARTS INITIATIVE PAYS HOMAGE TO CHICAGO PARK DISTRICT TREES

Artist Janet Austin captures ‘The A”maze”ing Larvae of the Emerald Ash Borer’ in her sculpture at Palmer Square Park.

Through special arrangement with Chicago Sculpture International, more than two dozen dead or dying trees, have been transformed into works of art on Chicago Park District land throughout the city during the last four years.

The 2017 collection of tree sculptures includes the “A”maze”ing Larvae of the Emerald Ash Borer,’ a creative look at the pest and the path it created boring into the tree it ultimately killed.
Check out the story in this month’s Illinois Urban Wood Update and then visit the Chicago Tree Project website to view all of the creations and the park that each one graces.
Also, this month, watch the third episode of Wood-Mizer’s Urban Sawmilling Series. This video features the owners of Van Urban Timber in Vancouver, BC.

I was happy to receive a call from a writer for Tree Services magazine for information about the urban wood movement. I was delighted to oblige with discussing the Illinois Wood Utilization Team’s mission to putting felled and fallen urban trees to their best and highest valued use. A link to the article is included.

If you haven’t already done so, I urge you to check out the invitation to join the Urban Wood Network. Free membership is being offered until June.
Keep me in mind if you have a story, photo or comment to share about your involvement in the urban wood movement.
Until next time,
Rich Christianson
Communications Director
Illinois Wood Utilization Team
info@illinoisurbanwood.org


Cook County Forest Preserves’ Tree Repurposed for Unique Award Plaques

By Cherie LeBlanc Fisher

In July 2017, Chicago Wilderness presented its first-ever Force of Nature Awards to 10 people and organizations doing outstanding work on behalf of the environment across the region. The physical awards given to the recipients were as unique and special as the awardees themselves and a remarkable example of wood reutilization.

Each award plaque is a large “tree cookie” with the bark left around the outer edge. The tree came from a Forest Preserves of Cook County site.

Forest Preserves of Cook County sign shop foreman Roy McNaughton designed and created them by hand. Each is about the size of  a large dinner plate: roughly 12 inches in diameter and approximately 1.5 inches thick. Each award is unique in shape, color and wood grain.

McNaughton began the transformation by using a belt sander to smooth the rough, chainsaw-cut organic surface of each cookie. Since both sides would display text for the final awards, McNaughton said they required multiple passes with various grits of sand paper to create a smooth surface. He then sealed the wood with numerous coats of clear urethane. The Chicago Wilderness logo and text were printed on a clear vinyl laminate and an additional layer of clear gloss laminate was applied to seal and protect the text. The adhesive-backed graphics were carefully cut and transferred to each cookie.

The back of each award received another laminate sheet that reads, “The Chicago Wilderness Force of Nature Awards recognize people and organizations whose environmental conservation, restoration, advocacy, and/or educational activities extend above and beyond the ordinary and are inspirational examples for others.”

McNaughton estimated that it took him about 60 hours to create all 10 award plaques. The Forest Preserves of Cook County, one of the lead partners in the Chicago Wilderness alliance, generously donated the tree from which the cookies were cut plus Roy’s time, tools and labor to create the awards.

I had the pleasure to emcee the Chicago Wilderness awards ceremony at the Chicago Botanic Garden in July. Recipients were delighted with the tree cookie plaques and eager to display them at their respective organizations.

Learn more about Chicago Wilderness’ 2017 Force of Nature & Excellence in Ecological Restoration Program.

Cherie LeBlanc Fisher works for the U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station. Her current projects include the Forest Service’s Urban Forest Inventory program to collect tree and land use data in the Chicago region. She also participates in the Chicago Region Tree’s Initiative’s Tree Stewardship and Planting Team.

 



SEP Update: City Squanders Ash Tree Removals

Hamilton-Holmes-Shell-TableAs if it’s not difficult enough to make a successful go of local urban wood movements, we would like to think that municipalities would be delighted to have a woodworker interested in repurposing some of its ash tree removals.

Such was not the case in Hamilton, ON, where custom woodworker Nicholas Hamilton Holmes was denied access of trees taken down due to emerald ash borer infestation. Instead of being made into custom furniture and wood products, the trees were chipped and land filled.

Sad but true.

You can read about Holmes’ battle with the city in this month’s Illinois Urban Wood Update.

Speaking of Nicks, learn how to enter the Rebuilding Exchange’s contest to win tickets to a stand-up comedy performance by Nick Offerman at the Chicago Theater. Offerman, an accomplished woodworker in his own right, will hold court on Dec. 1.

Also in this issue, read about the progress the Southeast Urban Wood Exchange has made in launching a website created to connect land owners, arborists, tree removal professionals, sawyers and woodworkers.

If you’ve got the time and the mind, make a date listen in on the Fall Urban Wood Utilization Webcast hosted by the Wood Education and Resource Center. Among the agenda items, Don Peterson will give an update on the Full Circle project that involves wood utilization teams in Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin. The full agenda and a link to the webcast is included in this month’s newsletter.

Have you saved an urban tree from the landfill today? Tell us about it at info@illinoisurbanwood.org.

Until next month, enjoy!

Rich Christianson
Communications Director
Illinois Wood Utilization Team

 

READ THE SEPTEMBER ILLINOIS URBAN WOOD UPDATE



Trees Downed in 2012 Storm Crafted into Stand for Local Bell

Urban wood bell stand

The red oak and black walnut bell stand, now a permanent part of the West Chicago City Museum’s collection, is surrounded from left to right by Tom Tawney, Lorenzo Covarrubias, Fernando Ramirez, Jeff Perkis, Mayor Ruben Pineda and Sara Phalen.

West Chicago, Illinois: August 28, 2015 Downed trees from the storm that hit Reed-Keppler Park in West Chicago on July 1, 2012 continue to give back to the community more than three years later through the talents of architect, woodworker and former resident Jeff Perkis.

The City of West Chicago commissioned Perkis to create a lasting legacy that celebrates the heritage and culture of many of its residents It will play a major role in the upcoming Mexican Independence Day Parade and Celebration, to be held downtown on Sunday, September 13, 2015.

A four-foot tall, solid red oak bell stand with walnut accents, sturdy enough to hold the approximately 80-pound train bell, which has been at the center of the spirited historical re-enactment of El Grito de la Independencia or the Cry of Independence, was built with the repurposed wood that Perkis and his uncle, Ron Myers, milled a couple of months after the storm.

As a member of the Illinois Wood Utilization Team (WUT), as well as a member of the Chicago Furniture Design Association (CFDA), Perkis is a specialist in sustainable design utilizing urban wood. He created Out of the Woods after the storm hit and worked with architecture students and Associate Professor Paul Pettigrew at the Illinois Institute of Technology to design and fabricate various pieces of extraordinary works of art.

Perkis became aware of the need for the bell stand following an introduction to West Chicago resident, Tom Tawney, who also has strong ties to the community. Tawney’s father-in-law, Lorenzo Covarrubias, emigrated from Mexico in 1957 as one of the first Mexican families to settle in West Chicago. He holds the distinction of being West Chicago’s Patron de la Campana, or Patron of the Bell, and has offered the use of his bell for West Chicago’s El Grito for the past 23-years. However, over the years, its makeshift stand was worn and in need of replacement.

The two men agreed to work together on a design, and the City agreed to underwrite the cost of the labor and materials to build a new stand.  From a design standpoint, the decision was made to replicate some of the styles already existing within the community, particularly the Arts and Crafts style of many of the homes in the area. Perkis also referenced work done by architect brothers Greene and Greene, and ended up translating elements of these designs into his own. His fine craftsmanship and woodworking skills produced a stand that is strikingly beautiful and worthy of the momentous historic event that it celebrates.

The project has come to have great significance for Perkis, and he became introspective recently about its meaning for him. “I grew up playing baseball, football and soccer at Reed-Keppler Park. I spent a large part of my childhood in that Park”.

He continues to wonder from which exact tree this wood may have come, and if he had seen it in the Park before? “I found myself reminiscing about many childhood memories. I felt, and still do feel, very proud that I was able to give this wood, from such a devastating event, a chance to continue to be enjoyed by the community. I am happy that not all the wood from that storm was turned into firewood or mulch, and I hope this will help others to see that there is opportunity for a higher use of wood from our own backyards.”

Perkis presented the new bell stand to the West Chicago City Museum on Wednesday, August 26, 2015, surrounded by fellow residents Tom Tawney and Lorenzo Covarrubias, Mayor Ruben Pineda, Museum Director Sara Phalen and Mexican Cultural Center DuPage’s President and event organizer, Fernando Ramirez. Perkis plans on using some of the saw dust and wood chips he collected from the project to make paper on which he will print the details of the stand’s creation so that it will “tell its story” for future generations. The stand will become part of the City’s permanent collection and remain at the Museum when it is not being used at the City event.



Video: Dead Ash Tree Is Chainsaw Artist’s Medium

urban wood sculptorSculptor Jim Long is just one of many who have begun to see the potential of urban wood in the Chicago area. WGN9 News recently reported on Long’s dedication for creating art out of this valuable community resource. For one of his most recent projects, Long brought his chainsaw and a ladder to Nichols Park in Chicago’s Hyde Park area. There he got busy sculpting an ash tree killed by the emerald ash borer into a howling wolf. Check out the video and accompanying article on the WGNtv site..



Urban Wood Makes Waves on Chicago Radio

By Rich Christianson

Illinois’ growing urban wood movement recently made a splash when Out of the Loop, an online radio affiliate of WGN, recorded a segment about students using urban wood to make furniture at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT).

Out of the Loop host Mike Stephen interviewed Paul Pettigrew, an associate professor of architecture at IIT, and Edith Makra, chairman of the Illinois Wood Utilization Team.

Recorded amid the din of a roaring dust collector and whirring woodworking machinery, Pettigrew explained why he chooses to have students of his popular Architecture & Furniture course use locally sourced urban wood to fabricate furniture and other functional objects.

“As students have become more aware of green and sustainable issues they become much more aware of actually where the material is coming from,” Pettigrew said. He added that the urban wood donated by the West Chicago Park District for his summer class embraces sustainability in giving wood milled from dead or dying trees a second life.

Makra said the mission of the Illinois Wood Utilization Team is to develop a viable and sustainable market place for urban wood.

“We want to do something with this material that is overlooked and wasted and we want to keep alive and foster that connection that people have with trees,” Makra said. “We are trying to change the traditional cycle of a tree dies and gets chipped or mulched into being harvested, milled and turned into a value added wood product.”

Pettigrew said the student projects from his summer course, as well as those he plans for his students to make this fall and next spring, will likely culminate in a traveling exhibit to educate consumers and kids about the potential and benefits of urban wood.

Click here to listen to the entire podcast. The urban wood segment begins at the six-minute mark.



A Look Back at 2018’s Most Viewed Posts

The polls are closed and the winners are known. Here are the Top 10 most viewed posts at illinoisurbanwood.org for 2018.

  1. Urban Wood Network Announces ‘How-to Do Urban Wood’ Webinar Series
  2. Chicago Tree Project Continues to Transform Dead Trees into Sculptures
  3. How Much Is Your Log Worth?
  4. UWN to Present Free Urban Wood Seminar at IWFF 2018
  5. Retired Teacher Focuses on Growing Urban Wood Business
  6. Watch Tom the Sawyer Transform an Urban Honey Locust Log
  7. Join the Urban Wood Network Movement
  8. Book Chronicles Urban Tree to Table Movement
  9. Q&A with Erika Horigan of Horigan Urban Forest Products
  10. Story of Riverside’s Wind-Felled Oak Featured in Woodshop News

Top 10 Posts of 2017

Top 10 Posts of 2016