Tree Shaping: Roots of an Ever Growing Art


by Ari Yahalom October 25, 2016


As we search for ways to live in harmony with the Earth and sustain a healthy economy, we must think outside the box and stretch our imagination.

The art of tree shaping (also called arborsculpture) makes an excellent case for working with the natural environment to create products that are built to last.  This work allows the artisan to minimize resources used to create a unique product that becomes a conversation piece for conservation.  Whether it is a chair, canopy cover, or a symbol molded with branches, these unique forms of art are eye catching and eco-friendly.

With its roots tracing back to India, trees began taking shape thanks to the ancient War-Khasi people who made footbridges with the aerial roots of native banyan fig trees.  Something that would take 15-20 years to develop would be last for hundreds of years, now that’s sustainable!

The great thing about tree shaping is that there is lots of room for Do It Yourself (DIY). With many resources available online, you can grow your own chair or your own business with this unique technique.

Early pioneer Axel N Erlandson, was concerned that he might not be able to pass along his knowledge and techniques. Luckily a modern day Arborsculptor picked up where Axel left off and brought the art of shaping trees back into the spotlight.
 “Arborsculpture is the art and technique of growing and shaping the trunks of trees while they grow. By grafting, bending and pruning the trees are grown into shapes either ornamental or useful.” ~ Richard Reames

Shaping trees goes beyond art and economy though.  It is a lesson in patience and persistence.  When you study the techniques of tree shaping, you also learn about different types of wood, the impact of the elements, and you gain further insight into how trees grow.


It’s amazing to think that we can create foundations and structures with trees without cutting them down.  Best part of all, we can do it in our own backyard.




Ari Yahalom
Ari Yahalom

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