The silence in a forest is paradoxically deafening. Proud, majestic trees stand up tall—the picture of stillness. Moss-covered logs obscure the forest floor. These verdant forests are witnesses to generations of history, stalwarts in times of war and peace.
Alive, these trees are our constant companions; an intimate connection between humanity and Mother Nature. Their rings, knots, and gnarly tree bark memorialize the stories of generations. Each tree—from a tiny seedling to a glorious centuries-old tree—holds our secrets.
Blustery winds, torrential storms and scorching heat are no challenge for these trees bristling with potential—a tree can grow hundreds of years. But what happens when the mighty tree reaches the end of its natural course?
It is the woodworkers’ calling to honor these wise trees by documenting the transformative journey of a tree’s life using simple tools, their hands and their heart. The timber and fine grains become the central line in the tree’s story.
For Perry Shaw, a third-generation woodworker based in the Pacific Northwest, the dynamics of tree growth can be found in the trunk of recently felled trees. Every weekend, Perry makes a pilgrimage to the greenbelt trails near his home to find timber from trees either stricken from disease or brought down from the elements.
Each of Shaw's pieces is a collaboration with the tree—he allows the tree to tell him what it wishes to be, finding that the knots, crags, fissures, and "flaws" tell the most compelling stories. Perry works with the principles of thirds—top, middle, and base—to balance the features of the wood within his vessels and to reveal the character and beauty of the once-proud trees.
When each piece is complete, he places the vessel on his bench and feels a sense of pride—that he has partnered with a tree to produce something of beauty, something useful, out of nature’s discards. He has collaborated with the tree to deliver the tree’s second act.
Perry’s story is the first piece in our series “Borne from a Tree,” where we will explore how woodworkers around the world are inspired and catalyzed by the trees around them. From the legendary craftsmen of Hida Sangyo to individual artisans, their work is more than art or craft—it is a way to collaborate with nature as a storyteller.
Join us as we celebrate their stories.
Tune into Forests Around the World
When I Am Among Trees by Mary Oliver, read by Amanda Palmer
The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben
The Soul of a Tree, A Master Woodworker's Reflection, George Nakashima
Calculating the Incalculable: Thoreau on the True Value of a Tree, Brain Pickings
A Day in the Life of a Tree, The New Yorker
The Why & How of Woodworking: A Simple Approach of Making Meaningful Work, Michael Pekovich
Hermann Hesse on What Trees Teach Us about Belonging and Life, Brain Pickings
Plant a Tree
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