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INTERVIEW: Becky Northey and Peter “Pook” Cook on the Tree Shaping Art of Pooktre
INHABITAT: What obstacles did you face in figuring out your design process, and what methods did you try before arriving at Pooktre?
POOKTRE: There are many trees in our valley that have taught us much about tree lore—the reactions and responses that trees have to external forces. The lessons they teach are by example, incorporating their reactions into the design, making the tree’s response a feature of the final outcome. “If I do this, the tree will do that.” Understanding a tree’s behavior makes designing far more diverse.
Our crucial discovery was the shaping zone. The shaping zone is an area of a tree that can be guided into any shape without damaging the tree. We also learned how trees can produce muscle wood to reinforce or change the orientation of their trunks and limbs, especially when they grow along waterways. Trees that grow along rivers are pushed over in floods and have the ability to stand back up, making them less fitting for shaping, especially willow trees.
For example, we were growing chairs a lot like this one. We thought growing the trees in a loop around itself would work as a way to create a junction, but five years on we started to have doubts. We harvested one of the chairs but left the other one growing. This was fortunate, since after another five years, we found that it does work and looks beautiful too. So we are always refining our process. In general though, the process is very straightforward and we can design a piece and know exactly how it will turn out or someone can show us a design and we can tell them its future.
INHABITAT: What kind of reactions do you get when people see your trees for the first time?
POOKTRE: Very few people have seen our trees here in our forest. However when our work was shown in Japan a man danced with delight in front of a people tree.
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