— Pamela Roth
A dying maple tree on a farm in the Cowichan Valley is now being turned into several works of art that will be on display at the Robert Bateman Centre next month.
Since last December, 43 artists have been working feverishly to prepare for the oneTree Exhibit.
The idea for the exhibit was sparked during an interior design show last fall when Duncan's Live Edge Design had a display that featured all the pieces it had made from one tree that died from natural causes.
Owner John Lore suggested doing a similar show with the Robert Bateman Centre and received a thumbs up. The pressure was now on to find a suitable tree.
The one that was found is estimated to be between 100 and 150 years old. Spanning eight feet in diameter, it lived among three or four generations of farms, and once had children swinging from its mighty branches.
“Just knowing the tree watched all these people growing up and working on the farm was quite fascinating,” said Lore, who received 70 to 80 applications from wood artisans interested in participating in the exhibit. Dividing up the wood for everyone's needs was more complicated than he initially thought.
“It was a huge amount of work for us that we didn't expect because we had most of the artists come here before we started milling to give us instructions. We had to cut the tree up to everybody's specifications and dry it to their specifications and they would come back and hopefully the wood turned out like it was supposed to.”
Ken Geunter of Victoria has been making craft furniture for the past 40 years and now teaches students about furniture making and design at Camosun College.
The 61-year-old got interested in the trade during a woodworking class in high school. It's become his passion and livelihood ever since.
“I love the process of looking at something like a leaf or a tree and thinking, what can I do with that? How can I take that little detail and turn it into a piece of furniture?” said Geunter, who was selected to take part in the exhibit that will feature sculptures, furniture and musical instruments.
From the wood he was given, Geunter created a three-tiered table and stool set that has maple leafs on the surface. He's looking forward to seeing the creations by other artisans at the show and expects some will be his students.
“It's a fun project for people that like to play around with design, especially one that has some sort of a historical significance. The wood is just spectacular,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Robert Bateman Centre called the project “hugely important,” noting its mandate is to connect people with nature through art. Until now, the centre has been entirely focused on the life and work of Bateman — one of Canada's premier artists.
The oneTree Exhibit runs from Nov. 14 to Jan. 15. For more information visit batemancentre.org.