Tuesday, May 6, 2014

the giving tree

i've always really loved the book The Giving Tree.  maybe it's because of the simple story and illustrations or maybe because it reminds me of my childhood.  i've just always been drawn to the message . . . give.

a few years ago, when we first laid eyes on the land for our new home i was immediately drawn to the beautiful oak trees.  these enormous trees had provided shade and homes to many animals for over 75 years.  i was excited for my kids to have trees to climb and swing from in their backyard.  after purchasing the property it was obvious to us that we were going to lose the main tree in the center of the yard as it would have been in the middle of our bedroom!  knowing that there was absolutely nothing that could be done to save it or even move it, i knew that i wanted to preserve as much history of the trees that i could.

i began my search to find creative ways to do just that.  i finally settled on two ideas: a table and a relief print, but first i needed to get my hands on some of the wood.

i hired a man from our church to come to the property and to cut two pieces for me.  one was tall enough for an end table and the other was a much thinner section to make a picture from.  as you can tell from the picture below, he isn't even cutting it out of the main section of the trunk.  this tree was so massive that it would have been incredibly difficult to get a good piece that we could work with.

even with cutting from a branch, the larger piece was so incredibly heavy that we literally had to roll it to the shed for storage as it was impossible for him to pick up on his own. 

after keeping it for a few months and letting it dry out we started to plan how we were going to make the print.  i had read on martha stewart's website about an artist who made beautiful relief prints out of tree trunks.  he sells them for thousands of dollars!  that's great for him, but this gal is on a budget and i knew that i could figure out a way to do it on the cheap.  (here is a link to martha's site which features the artist, bryan nash gill)

we set out to one of the best art stores in orlando, sam flax to get our supplies.  purchasing various sheets of paper in different shades and textures, ink, rubber roller, and flat press (that's my generic name for it since i don't know the technical term).  we also needed a blow torch which our friend generously lent to us. 

after renting a plane from the local tool rental shop and having zero success, we finally asked our builder (who is an excellent carpenter with literally every kind of woodworking tool imaginable) to plane the wood for us so we would have a nice flat surface.  luckily, he did this at no cost to us.  huzzah!  

finally, it was time to get going on this project!  we started by first sanding the entire surface.

then the fun really began and my husband got to using the blow torch!

 it was so beautiful to watch the colors of the torch and how quickly the light color of the wood charred leaving the smell of burning wood and blackness.  the burning made it so each of the rings was raised slightly so that they would stand out on the print.  we then cleaned the surface with a toothbrush and compressed air so there was no dust left on the wood.  this quickly became a tedious and somewhat fruitless effort as there were so many minuscule specks that we could never get all of them off.  

the final step was to apply the ink to the wood and hope that it didn't smudge when we laid down the paper.  

we tried many different tools to apply pressure to the paper . . . our trusty flat press, a spoon, the roller . . . in the end though it was our hands that worked the best.  all together we made eight different prints.  we hung them on a line in the garage and sat back and critiqued each one like we were hippies at an art gallery!  it was interesting to see which prints worked on which paper and with what pressing tool and technique. in the end, we finally agreed on our favorite and pitched the others.

eventually, i took it to joann's and paid to have a custom frame made.  this was somewhat pricey but worth every penny because the end result is awesome!  

i'm glad that my husband signed the bottom of the print.  after all, he did the majority of the work.  with his signature he also added a scripture which was perfectly fitting. 

  "They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor." 

many many months have passed since the print was made.  this allowed the stump to have ample time to dry out completely and for me to figure out exactly how to proceed with making it into a table.  i had seen on pinterest some ideas of what could be done on my own.  i also found one that west elm sells for $200!

on a saturday morning i carved out some time to start on the table. i gathered the supplies i thought i would need and got to work.  

i wish i had taken pictures of how i began.  for about an hour i was chipping away at the sides and trying my hardest to get the bark off.  i was having ZERO success.  i swear that i was seconds away from throwing in the towel and rolling the stump to the curb, when i stood up and realized what an absolute ding-dong i was!  stupidly, i was going about it all wrong.  looking down at the top of the stump there was an obvious thick ring around the circumference.  i quickly grabbed my putty knife (i know, what a janky tool to use!) and hammer and gave it a few whacks when the bark came flying off in large sheets.  

so freaking easy!  in no time at all the bark was off and i was on to sanding.  after sanding it all i was still left with this ugly knot.  lucky me, my good friend has a variety of power tools and was happy to give me a hand sawing it off.

i then sanded and sanded some more.  i started with a medium grit sandpaper and gave it a once over before finishing it with a fine grit.  i then used what was left of the finishing paste from a previous project and waxed the entire stump.  finally, because i knew my husband was going to be worried about the wood floors (and honestly, so would i) i backed the entire bottom with some leftover wool felt from my daughter's halloween costume five years ago!  i used spray adhesive to adhere it and then trimmed off the excess.

finally i was done!  i am so thrilled with how it looks.  of course, i love how little i spent on these projects.  however, even more, i love the history and knowing that this tree, which was here for so many years before we were on the earth, will continue to give to our family. 

Project Cost Breakdown . . . 

tree = free!

relief print supplies = $45

custom frame = $100

sandpaper = $6

finishing paste = $0

felt = $0

Grand Total = $151