Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Knitted trees

Happy Hookers, Girl on Purl Action, The Nordic Knitters , Crackin Crafting Community and some independent artists decided to knit tree trunk warmers!

They triumphed and Liverpool and the MARKIT Liverpool StreetArt Festival awoke to a woolly corridor leading people down Park Lane to Jamaica Street.



I love a colourful 'yarn bombing'!
 I especially love them when they show more creativity than just wrapping an object.

Take a look at this beautiful tree photographed by Ilginc Tasarimlar:

The Ancient Tradition and Art of Tree Wrapping



When I first got the idea of doing a post on ‘colorfully wrapped trees’ I didn’t really know the extent of what I would be discovering. This is one of the fascinating things I have found since beginning The Colored Giraffe. The more I get into it and follow my heart, allowing intuition and higher guidance to lead me to sources and subjects to cover, the more I enjoy it (which I did anyway, but even more so now!) and the more intrigued I become by what I come up with.
Take Tree Wrapping for instance…I had occasionally come across a pretty picture of a tree wrapped in paper or material and thought it as being a one-off thing, but upon falling into researching another subject I came to learn that tree wrapping is in actual fact an ancient art. It is practiced in many places throughout the world and is done as a celebration of trees for their cultural, historical and environmental importance. Some places dress trees with flags, rags, fruit, ribbons, clothes, jewellery or ornaments.
Furthermore, clothing a tree in colour is as much an act of creation, a work of art, and just as therapeutic as it is to paint or draw.
This post was meant to be just about the Baobab tree that was erected in South Bank in London next to the Hayward gallery as part of the Festival of the World celebrations in July 2012. A giant 14m tall installation. The Baobab is sometimes known as the tree of life because it provides shelter, fruit and bark for making clothes and ropes and storing water. Students from the textile design course at the Chelsea College of Art and Design decorated each ring with colorful textiles from around the world representing their communities of origin. The baobab tree is the oldest living specimen in Africa, a symbol for meditation and community.

But then, as I began to source more information about the Baobab I came across some amazing examples of tree wrapping and I could see that this post would be much more than just the Baobab Tree!
In an article for the Merlian News, Jan Johnsen, author of Trees (Ortho’s All About), writes:
Our modern insulated lifestyle with its technological advances has diminished our contact with the earth and we are now virtually cast adrift, isolated from the strength and resilience that trees can offer us. We spend such little time amongst these grand woody beings that we have lost — unknowingly — an important stabilizing and grounding anchor for our psyche. This changes once we remember to honor the energy that trees emanate. The Zen master, T. D. Suzuki wrote in his book, Zen and Japanese Culture (Mythos: The Princeton-Bollingen Series in World Mythology), “Every old tree of any sort inspires a beholder with a mystic feeling which leads him to a faraway world of timeless eternity”.
One way to encourage all to ‘behold the trees’ is by celebrating certain trees in our midst through an ancient custom I call tree wrapping. Tree wrapping has been practiced for thousands of years in countries across the world. In Japan, it has been elevated to an art form and derives from the Japanese Shinto belief that all natural forms are imbued with spirit.

The Europeans, too, practice tree wrapping, of sorts in their annual Maypole dance. This festive community occasion celebrates the most fruitful time of year around a pole (taken from a hawthorn, maple or birch tree) decorated with green leaves and branches to simulate a tree. The Maypole dance of Sweden takes place at the summer solstice. Several long colored ribbons are suspended from the top of the pole and the celebrants, each holding the end of a ribbon, weave in and around each other until the ribbons are woven together around the ‘tree’, meeting at the base. It is believed that the Maypole celebration derives from the Siberian custom of tying narrow fabric bands or ceremonial silk scarves to the branches of a vigorous tree. This tree now serves as a prayer tree, an intermediary with the invisible world, and each band transmits prayers for peace of the world and personal peace. A variation of this tradition is also practiced in India where local villagers pay tribute to the goddess, Devi, by similarly adorning tree branches in her sacred grove.
Belfire 2008, Dancing around the MayPole.  Eli Reiman -- 6a01287734c58f970c0148c779031b970c-500wi
Which leads me into other examples of tree wrapping that I discovered:
Every day for 9 days artist Carol Hummel wraps this tree [pictured below] in the colors of the flags of the 9 countries that possess nuclear warheads. Entitled “Best of Luck, Nuclear World”, this ‘ceremony’ builds upon the Indian tradition of wrapping string around Banyan trees for good luck and to make wishes come true. As the strings are wrapped, the colors weave together to form a colorful fabric, an analogy about the hope that by interweaving our cultures, we can create something of beauty instead of destruction.
Feast your eyes and senses on some more examples of beautiful tree wrapping, which include some amazing works of dressing trees in knitting and crochet!
wrapped trees1 
6a0134863096e6970c019aff2000ec970b-320wi Yarn-Bombing-51
Screen shot 2012-01-25 at 11.11.47 PM
knit-wrapped-trees-by-knitta-please-photo-by-shawn-thomas houston Texas
wrapped trees on the South Bank 2009 by Yayoi Kusama Ascension of Polkadots on the Trees, photo by Bill Welch
crochet-tree (1) issa-abou-issa-crochet-tree
Jill Watt and her sister Lorna Watt wrapped this magnolia tree in downtown San Mateo with more than four miles of yarn to create this stunning turquoise squid!
Philippa Lawrence’s project ‘Bound‘ [pictured below] was first conceived for the ‘Explorations’ exhibition at the National Botanic Garden of Wales in 2003. Invited to make a temporary site-responsive public art work for the gardens, it was a defining moment in her practice. The work linked to her interest in, and the aesthetic of Japanese packaging. She found that binding the tree in cloth freed the form, offering it back to the public to see anew.
Bound_Carmarthenshire_2 Bound_Montgomeryshire
Bound_Monmouthshire_3  Bound_Old_Denbighshire_1
On another note, but equally an act of reverence and a reminder of the value of trees, Curtis Killorn “revived” dead trees in Colorado by painting them with beautiful bright colors.

painted_trees_art painted_trees1
I couldn’t close this post without including one more example…a more ‘contemporary‘ take on tree wrapping by New York-based architect and designer Nicholas Croft and Michaela MacLeod.
This installation called ‘Pink Punch’ is made from natural rubber pink latex rope wrapped around each tree at a height of 10 feet, then wound until it reaches the ground. At the ground, the rope then continues to wind around the base of the tree to a radial distance of 3 to 4 feet. It aims to attract visitors by its striking color, off the beaten path, through the shaped garden rooms, and into the forest. The new garden room uses the traditional technique of tree wrapping and the color pink to divide the “wilderness” from the garden, in a non-traditional way.
When a small cluster of trees are wrapped to their bases, the rope then envelopes them all, creating a communal seating area at the base of each tree. Depending on the site, this installation is improvised, yet predetermined by the author’s set of instructions. This installation is meant to be temporary, and re-installed the following year in a different location.
image © 2013 Sylvain Legris
image © 2013 Sylvain Legris
image © 2013 Sylvain Legris
image © 2013 Sylvain Legris
It is clear that the activity of tree wrapping is a lovely way to celebrate our arboreal neighbors but it is more than this— wrapping the trunk or branches of a tree reminds others of the ‘message of the trees’. When we wrap the trunks of our beloved trees, we are subtly advocating a kind of tree awareness which in turn promotes an active stewardship of the trees in our midst.
By wrapping certain trees we are re-establishing a respectful partnership between people and plants. This timely endeavor is not some ‘feel good’ activity but a call to remember the ancient understanding of the power of trees. We will in time see, as noted by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “…we have only to go a little beyond the frontier of sensible appearances in order to see the divine welling up and showing through. ~ Jan Johnson