Thursday, March 11, 2010

Grow our own chairs for national tree week

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 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


  1. How absolutely fascinating! One of the reasons that I enjoy your blog is that you feature so many unusual things that are beautiful.

  2. What a fantastic post, I love the idea of growing your own seat. Your blog is such a treat to visit,

    RO xx

  3. Very interesting post. Erlandson's Tree Circus used to be just up the road here, before it was relocated to its current location, so I'm much more familiar with his work. I've always been fascinated by living willow sculptures and fences, it would be fun to try creating our own.

  4. Oh my does this have my brain going! I love the mind that thinks, "I wonder if I can grow a chair?"

  5. I've never seen anything so amazing! I am now wondering what Florida trees might be suitable for such an experiment. Hmmm...

  6. I am indeed inspired! Terrific post!!! Thanks for the links! ;>) Carol

  7. Sunny, such a cool idea isn't it. I do not know if he grows any of his own chairs, but Ivan Hicks has a fascinating book called Tricks With Trees: Growing, Manipulating and Pruning. The things he does in there, mind blowing.

  8. Super beautiful..I love reading the amazing history! Gorgeous photos..wonderful post!

  9. Oh how fun! (Not ANOTHER hobby!!!) I just have to try it out...

    The idea of "harvesting" a chair is intoxicating.

  10. Fascinating! I think the Krubsack chair is a work of art - the form is elegant and suits its medium.

  11. Amazing! I was just wondering what sort of seat would fit into my garden without breaking the bank...time to research what will grow well here for a job like this!

  12. Thanks everyone for all your lovely comments throught out my posts. For all of you who are looking for trees to use for a project like this, here is a list I have found.
    Types of Trees Used
    Box elder- Acer negundo
    Elm- Ulmus sp.
    Cork oak- Quercus suber
    Alder- Alnus sp.
    Ash- Fraxinus sp.
    Sycamore- Platanus racemosa
    White birch- Betula pendula
    Poplar- Populus sp.
    Japanese maple- Acer palmatum
    Cherry- Prunus avium
    Apple- Pyrus malus
    Pear- Pyrus communis
    Locust- Robinia pseudoacacia
    Redwood- Sequoia sempervirens
    Eucalyptus- Eucalyptus sp.
    Weeping Willow- Salix babylonica
    Oak- Quercus sp.
    Ponderosa pine- Pinus ponderos

  13. Absolutely astonishing! Unusual and creative!

  14. aloha sunny,

    this reminds me of the gilroy gardens farms with their tree sculptures....we have soo many trash trees here, i forgot that this was on my tick list of fun experiments to try..thanks for pointing this out, will have to scout out the trees in my property that would work with this.

  15. Amazing, Sunny! I was especially charmed by the first photograph. The idea of sitting in a living tree is so delightful. :)

    Of course, "harvesting a chair" does have a certain ring to it, also.

  16. Now, that is what I'd call an inspiring post!


  17. Now, that is what I'd call an inspiring post!


  18. Wow what a GREAT idea! So much creativity! The very first pic is really cool, thanks for sharing

  19. Your site is amazing! Have never seen a living chair but know I would love one! Thank you for visiting ... I might have never found you otherwise :) Happy St. Patrick's Day tomorrow! Afraid to miss something here, I am now a follower!

  20. Growing a chair, Im enchanted. Where will this idea lead me...

  21. This is a fantastic post! Once again your thoughtful research is wonderful! Willows grow really, really well in our region (Northwestern Washington State, US) and we could really do this! I'm just really amazed. I am so glad that you stopped by my blog so that I could discover yours. It's great!!! Many thanks and good wishes, Bonnie

  22. I am beyond inspired Sunny, thanks so much for this great gift! I am bookmarking this post for future reference. Thanks for th list of trees that will work, too, as some will not grow here, but everyone should find a couple they can try. And a very Happy St. Paddy's Day to you! :-)

  23. This is simply a fantastic idea along with the living willow fences. I love your informative site and thank you so much for visiting my little piece of earth here in Tennessee.

  24. What an interesting article! Never have I ever considered growing and shaping a tree into a chair! Gives me something to consider...

  25. All I can say is Wow! You have such amazing photos on your blog entries.I've been thinking of ordering a book on the subject and came accross Ivan Hicks - tricks with trees. Are you familiar with it?

  26. Simply amazing. Have never even heard of such a thing.

  27. Hi Sunny, just to say thanks for your comment on treeaware and I have just done a post with links to your blog and this wonderful post!

  28. That has to be one of the coolest projects I've ever heard of!

  29. It is amazing! Interesting! Everything's cooool! Thanks Stoneart! I are pleased to keep up with your news!
    Yours, Nellie "Workshop of Landscape by Grigorieva Nellie" Moscow, Russia