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Grow our own chairs for national tree week

Updated: Mar 2, 2020

1987 Peter Cook

As it is national tree week here in Ireland (7-13 March) at the moment, I thought a tree related post would be appropriate. So what better way to celebrate national tree week, than growing your own chair out of trees!!!!!!!!! Unfortunately as I am currently renting a house in the centre of Dublin city, so I am unable to get to try this out myself, during national tree week, but as soon as I have time to head out to the home place in the heart of the country side of West Cork, I will be heading to our local nursery (which coincidentally, happens to be one of the best in the country to pick up some native trees to give this a go. If you click on the picture below, it will take you to a page on ‘Arborsmith Studios’ website where you will see instructions on how to create one of the magnificent chairs.

Click on the picture to see instructions by arborsmith on how to create a tree chair.

When researching for my living willow structures post, I came across many of these living chairs.

The idea of creating these fantastic structures has been around for some time.

Richard Reames creations

Probably one of the earliest depictions of a living chair is in a painting by Jean Perreal, from 1516 called ‘Dialogue between the Alchemist and Nature’.

‘Dialogue between the Alchemist and Nature’ by Jean Perreal 1516

 However probably one of the first people to give it a go, was bank president/cheese maker and naturalist, John Krubsack (1858-1941) who, unsatisfied with ordinary furniture said “Dammit, one of these days I am going to grow a piece of furniture that will be better and stronger than any human hands can build.” And that is precisely what he did. In the spring of 1907 he planted 32 box elders trees, then the following spring he gradually began to train the young stems to grow gradually in the shape of a chair. After the seventh year all the trees were cut, making in all eleven years from the time the seed was sown until the chair was finally completed.

John Krubsack 1908

Following him in 1925 was arbor sculpture and creator of the tree circus, Axel N Erlandson.

Axel N Erlandson 1925

Some of the more resent contributions include Peter Cook, (pictured at the beginning of the post) who in 1987 asked himself, “I wonder if I can grow a chair?” The answer to this question is evident in the picture at the top of the post.

More recently in 2000, sixty year old Chinese chair designer, Mr. Wu has been shaping elm tree branches into chairs. It takes Wu about five years to grow a tree chair, during which time he constantly trims and guides it into shape before harvesting it. He currently has one tree chair in his home, and six more in production.

Mr. Wu 2000

Although there are many more examples, the final example I will mention is Arbor smith and sculpture Richard Reames, (the guy who’s instructions above you all will be using to plant your own chairs). Richard opened Arborsmith Studios (A tree nursery/art studio) 1993. He has grown many of these chars, and in 1995 wrote a book on the matter, simply titled ‘How to Grow a Chair’

Richard Reames 2000

So I hope ye are all inspired now, and that you all go off now on this national tree week to continue on this tradition started over 100 years ago!

Happy planting

There are still a number of events on this weekend, right around the country. To find out what in happening in your area, follow the tree council of Ireland link

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