Wood Art #10: What a fine artist does with branches

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Gary Fixler posted 05-24-2010 01:32 AM 5412 reads 1 time favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 9: cute use for scrap wood - hanging block shelves Part 10 of Wood Art series Part 11: Making a Jarvi Bench, with Mike Jarvi »

I went to art school, and this kind of work was the domain of the “fine artists,” who make abstract art to express ideas without getting literal about it. I.e. maybe they were inspired by an apple, but there may be no actual representation of an apple anywhere in the piece, and the point was for you to find your own interpretation, which probably wouldn’t contain an apple.

Much of the time, we in the computer animation major, and even those in more closely related majors, like illustration, wouldn’t know what we were looking at, and wouldn’t be moved in any way, but once in awhile something spoke to us across the divide. Some things didn’t make sense, weren’t useful, didn’t depict anything in particular to us, and wouldn’t likely be found in our homes, but we just liked them. They were somehow “really cool.” That’s how I feel about these creations by Japanese artist Naoko Ito, for her “Urban Nature 2009” series:

branch growing through glass jars

It looks like the branch segments are just resting inside, sometimes with smaller jars in the jars to act as support platforms. While there’s no particular ‘reason’ for this – it’s not furniture, organizational help, something you would give as a gift, or any of most of the rest of the kinds of things we make – it’s just really neat to look at. It makes things swirl around in my mind, like that we do actually sell bottles and jars of tree products, often not much more refined than this (powdered bark and roots, e.g., like homeopathic stuff, or even just cinnamon, the sticks of which are curled ‘quills’ of the bark).

branch growing through glass jars

There are a couple more examples here.

Viewing these creations, I seem to like the play of glass and wood together, and even the specific concept of glass jars in wood working. I start pulling it into my world, thinking about organizers (always more organizers!) that would use jars, but could be more natural in their makeup – a ‘tree’ of organization. That starts to take on structure in my mind and I start to think about things like flat-wall cabinetry that can pull out into a tree of pivoting pieces, to organically display the jars and their parts in a beautiful way – something even someone who doesn’t get the fine art aspect would still find themselves stopping to look at and saying “Wow, that is really cool.”

This is why, though even in art school, when many of us (even me sometimes) were saying “I just don’t get that major at all”, I’d still usually be glad it was around. There can be a lot of hidden inspiration in the weird stuff, and in some cases, I don’t know that I would have found it on my own.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

6 comments so far

View degoose's profile


7233 posts in 3352 days

#1 posted 05-24-2010 01:36 AM

Not as nice as a ship in a bottle but definitely different and very artistic to boot.

-- Don't drink and use power tools @

View John Steffen's profile

John Steffen

218 posts in 3053 days

#2 posted 05-24-2010 02:06 AM

I can only describe this as sublime. For using two ordinary and unspectacular mediums there is sure a lot to look at and think about in the pieces. Thanks for sharing.

-- Big John's Woodshed - Farmington, IL

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18269 posts in 3673 days

#3 posted 05-24-2010 02:37 AM

Stuff like this makes me wonder what differentiates an average artist from a great one? :-))

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3574 days

#4 posted 05-24-2010 03:48 AM

Very cool Gary

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18269 posts in 3673 days

#5 posted 05-24-2010 04:21 AM

What do you get from this?

I call it “In the Cat’s eye” :-)

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 3379 days

#6 posted 05-24-2010 06:24 AM

Topamax – It makes me think of something like this. Imagine a 1.5” thick chunk of wood cut in the profile of the cat, then dado it where the blind slats are and slip in thin wooden shelves. They can stick out the sides of the profile to create a straight-line box shape, but the cat’s eyes would look through them, and you’d see its profile through the otherwise standard, square shelving unit. If you have the base of the cat come forward to meet the front of the shelving, like a little base moulding foot, it would stand on its own. Might look cool on an open window sill with no blinds. The backlighting would show the profile very well. The eyes could even just be cut out to reveal the light through them, accentuating them as peering through the shelving. Might be cool to have the cat reaching a bit up to eye level out to one side, so it reads well in silhouette form, like this cat, but still facing toward us, looking mostly forward for the eye thing to work. Then a thimble (or whatever) could be on a shelf in front of the paw like it’s reaching for it.

Anyway, just some thoughts, and what popped into my head when I saw your picture. We had to do this kind of stream-of-consciousness thinking all the time in art school during critiques or brainstorming-for-ideas sessions. We do it in my industry now, too. We just had a big meeting (I wasn’t in it) about things buildings could “wear” (i.e. as though they were people). That fires up a lot of ‘windows are eyes’ and ‘the roof is kind of like a hat’ discussions.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics