Monday, July 05, 2010

A Cookie Tree

When making my own art, I tend to be inspired by medium over message. For the past couple years, I've been working primarily with old books, books on their way to the landfill, mostly using a tiny, sharp knife to carve them into diarama-like sculptures . . .

Funk & Wagnall's Standard Dictionary, Lobate-Z

Now We Are Six (A.A. Milne)

Le francais partout 1

A Treasury of Gilbert & Sullivan

. . . but, I've also tried my hand at carving magazines.

Vogue, December, 2008

I've "exploded" books . . .

First Aid, Fourth Edition

. . . and made mirrors from them . . .

Bible Mirror

Koran Mirror

Torah Mirror

And lately I've been horsing around with mixed media pieces involving books. Here is my latest piece of book-centered art:

The Complete Handyman Encyclopedia, vols. 21-26

I'm not about to give up on working with books. I don't think I've even come close to exhausting their potential, and besides, for better or worse the raw material is cheap and plentiful.

In the meantime, however, I've become enamored of another cheap and plentiful material: tree parts.

It started when I tried making these beads/blocks for the preschool, inspired by Ariella over at Childhood Magic.

This lead me into making these etched tree blocks . . .

Now these first two tree part efforts were intended as toys, but they gave me the art-making itch. Maybe it was the fragrance they release while being cut, or possibly just the beauty of the wood grain revealed in each cross-section . . . or it could simply be that the materials are cheap and plentiful around here, giving me the freedom to just experiment, but I'm hooked.

At the same time, since my journey to Artopia last weekend, I've been wanting to create a piece of interactive art. People always reach out to touch my carved books, to handle them and turn the pages, and they're just a little too delicate to take much of that. Then I came across this post over at Made By Joel and it all came together. This weekend, I made a Cookie Tree:

I've had it around the house for the past couple days. It's hard to walk by it without rearranging the cookies. At times I think it has a lot in common with a mobile, but it's also a lot like decorating a Christmas tree -- you can always find room for one more ornament.

I like the way she (it's definitely a girl) looks as if she's singing, dancing or posing depending on which angle you take.

Of course, in these pictures she's dressed in her full evening regalia. I'm sure she doesn't normally wear it all during the day!

I learned a lot making her. For instance, I'll use greener branches next time, the "seasoned" ones I collected in the yard seem a little too brittle for an interactive piece. But the next step is to install it at the school and let the kids play with it. That will teach me everything I need to know.

If you want to see more of my art, here's a link to my online gallery.

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Barbara Zaborowski said...

Does it make noise when the wind blows through it?

Teacher Tom said...

@Barbara . . . Well, the cookie jewelry does rattle around a lot. I have it on my patio right now and even though the breeze is very light, it hasn't stopped moving around. I'm really getting fond of her! I think soon she'll have a name!

Jean said...

Tom, I love, love, love your cookie tree!!! I have saved the cut off ends of our Christmas trees for the past few years intending to make them into some sort of art.
She's simply beautiful, your dancing tree adorned so purposefully. Inspiration is flowing forth. Thanks for sharing!

Mrs Addams said...

Your carved book are amazing! I am going to have to spend some time looking through them.

I love the cookie tree, too. I know my daughter would love something like that. Maybe I can improvise something with coat hangers and toilet paper tubes...that is what is plentiful around here, hehe.

Jason, as himself said...

So creative! I'm in awe. I especially like the mirrors.

Juliet Robertson said...


I like the use of hooks to hang the cookies. In fact I rather like the idea of this becoming a "tree of knowledge" where children hang up letters to make words. Or words to make sentences or poetry. Or suggestions and ideas about improving the pre-school.

Handy and helpful. Creative and clever. Nice. Nice. Nice.

Teacher Tom said...

Thanks everyone!

@Juliet . . . I was thinking that too! I could put hooks in the etched letter cookies or make a set with icons for storytelling, like you did with your rocks. I'm thinking it would also be fun to add a few prisms to the mix to make sparkly rainbows on sunny days. I have a feeling that once the kids get their hands on it, they'll find all kinds of things to hang from those hooks.

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Your art is just fabulous! You've got a lot rattling around in that brain of yours don't you?! I love the diorama book sculptures, the top photo is my favorite. The cookie tree, carved magazines and mirrors are amazing too. Thank you so much for sharing your art, I'll have to go look at your online gallery now!

Sherry and Donna said...

Wow Tom your books are certainly amazing ... I could never make one of those! That irresistible cookie tree on the other hand ... OH YEAH I can do that! The perfect compliment to my stick trees. Thanks for sharing this great idea.
Donna :) :)

(V.Kerr) School Time Adventures said...

I love the cookie tree! I think it's great when an artist can make an interactive piece where little and big hands can touch it and be apart of the creating. Great job!

Gwynneth Beasley said...

I just looked through your facebook photos - I would love to see your book art up close - I bet its amazing. The kids will have an amazing time with your cookie tree I bet. Although - it might not look quite as stylish if they paint it!

Scott said...

Love the tree. Just looking at the pictures made me want to pick up pieces or move something around. I can't wait to hear what the kids think/do.

Christie - Childhood 101 said...

I love decorating Christmas trees and I can see that your cookie tree would share the same joy but all year round. She is lovely.

Kat in the Hat said...

Have you thought about selling your art on Your work is amazing. Thank you for sharing your infectious ideas!

Deborah (Teach Preschool) said...

This is beautiful Tom - all of your art is but I especially love the cookie tree and the little tree buttons with symbols. I wish I had your talent and perhaps someday you will allow me to contract you to make me something from a book that I love.

Pumpkin Delight said...

Your art is awesome! I love, love, love when you post about it.

Are you on summer break now? If so, you can do more.

PJ Mullen said...

As always Tom, I'm blown away by what you've created here. The cookie tree is pretty cool, but what you've done with those books is just mind boggling. Unfortunately, my art skills are limited to stick figures and sausage making :)

Christie said...

I think i need to try something like that. It is wonderful and I am guessing the kids will adore it!

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