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The giving tree

A commissioned project takes more work than many may realize, especially if it is a large piece like the Harding Academy donor tree. This tree was created and installed in several steps over the course of several months and involved a multitude of skills in addition to blacksmithing.

This project began with a consultation with Harding Academy to gather ideas. One of the requests on the wish list was the ability to add more donor names over time. A pencil was put to paper to create a rough sketch of the vision. To turn an idea into a drawing, much less a tangible object, takes a special set of skills.

An idea takes shape ... and takes root

There is much inspiration to be found in nature. For Shop Foreman Jim Masterson, that inspiration came from a tree on the grounds of the Metal Museum. A tree represents so many things across many cultures - life, wisdom, courage, endurance. The leaves on a tree represent growth and the cyclical nature of life. For Masterson, a leaf is one of many, representing unity. On the Harding Academy donor tree, each individual leaf contains the name of a donor—one of many.

More than 150 leaves were forged for the tree. Then came time for building the tree and its branches to hold the leaves. This is the point at which structural engineering skills come in handy. The 150 metal leaves needed as sturdy a base as possible. The tree trunk itself, also metal, was hollow in order to slide onto a base and lock with two pins. Names of other donors are affixed to the trunk, becoming its bark.

All in a morning's work

This project, like all Metals Studios projects, isn't complete until the work is installed on site. For this particular project, a telescopic loader was necessary to get the tree to the proper height to then lower it onto the base.

The Smithy 3 - Masterson, Lead Blacksmith Jake Brown, and Blacksmithing Intern Ian Skinner, made the installation look like a stroll in the park.

The finishing touches will come later with landscaping and lighting.

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