The artist carving a piece of wood down to one growth layer.

Growth Ring Carving

I create art using growth layers.

Years ago I noticed that by carefully carving right along the annual growth rings of the tree from which my wood was taken, I could create completely new, unique and interesting art forms.

Trees grow in stages.

Each year, with the arrival of spring, trees come out of dormancy and begin growing again. Sap runs, branches lengthen, leaves sprout anew, and around the trunk and branches a new layer of wood develops, continuing the annual expansion of the tree’s girth. We’ve all seen these layers when looking at the end of a log or board. Distinct lines, forming irregularly shaped “rings,” mark each year’s growth. Perhaps you’ve counted those rings to determine the age of a tree. Those are growth layers.

Feathers. Each "page" is one growth layer thick. Every ripple is the way the tree grew.

Using growth layers as my artistic vocabulary, I’ve created books, leaves, butterflies, masks, and a variety of abstract forms. With careful carving, I remove unwanted wood right down to a particular layer. Trees, like all plants, grow unpredictably and irregularly, so I must carve very carefully, following the ring’s ups and downs, and it’s quirky wrinkles, to precisely reveal a single year’s growth.

The result is a unique and intimate exposure of wood, yielding the exact form of growth of that tree in one, and only one, year. Books take on the appearance of well-weathered friends. Butterflies seem to flutter in the breeze. Leaves wrinkle with signs of autumn. Each and every piece is one-of-a-kind, unpredictable, utterly irreproducible, and totally organic.

Each wing is one growth layer thick, revealing the form of the tree.

To my knowledge, no one else does growth ring carving. This unique process is an amazing way to communicate with the material, as I am working intimately at the level of the growth going on within the tree itself.

Carving along the growth rings of trees is full of meaning. All the curves in my books, or the wings of the butterflies, any of the bent forms and ripples, are exactly the way the tree naturally grew during those years, forming a sort of diary of the very tree used for the sculpture. They are pages of my books and the wave in the wings. They are also pages from the story of the tree itself, which so far can be revealed only one way.