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Having a vision and writing about it for others to read certainly is an important undertaking. But, having a vision and manifesting it in reality is nothing less than revolutionary. Pioneers are visionaries who take the first steps into new territory, unexplored country where the risks are great and the rewards are unknown. A legacy of documentation and/or physical results of their journeys or experiments allows us to begin our own work as if standing on the shoulders of giants.
Three pioneers of arborsculpture lived under widely different circumstances and all became gripped with the idea of shaping live trees. Each man applied this idea according to his own inner directive to become the first known arborsculptors on Earth.
John Krubsack (1858-1941)
“Dammit, one of these days I am going to grow a piece of furniture that will be better and stronger than any human hands can build.”
John Krubsack was a prominent bank president in the small town of Embarrass, Wisconsin, US. (The town got its name from the French word embarras meaning “tangle,” since it was a place where logs floating downstream to the mill would become tangled.) He was also a naturalist who farmed and made cheese, and landscaped his property long before that was a common practice. His house was the first in his whole area to have running water. He also was skilled at piecing together furniture from found branches. He’d scour the local river flats with a yardstick and a saw looking for just the right shaped piece of blue beech, a hardwood tree with a smooth, wavy bark and a beautiful blue color when varnished. John would take his youngest son Hugo with him on these weekend wood-hunting excursions, and it was during one of his trips that the idea first came to him to grow his own chair.
In a letter sent to his nephew Dennis in 1975, Hugo described his father’s announcement of the living chair:
“One day after showing the beech furniture to a friend, a Walter Glen, the president of the F.W.D. Co. at Clintonville, a nearby town, Mr. Glen called the work fantastic. Then here is what I will never forget for [it was] the birth of the grown chair. My father told Glen, “Dammit, one of these days I am going to grow a piece of furniture that will be better and stronger than any human hands can build.” Glen replied, “John, that I have got to see!” a remark I never forgot.”
In his own words:
(As quoted from the Milwaukee Journal January 26, 1927)
The grafting and nursing was an extremely delicate piece of work. Several times some of the trees showed sign of dying. I worked diligently to preserve life in each one. I guarded against winds and storms knowing that one broken tree would destroy my idea of some day having a chair grown by myself.
In ten years I cut all the trees except four (the four legs). The eleventh year I cut the last four, trimmed the trees, put on the final touches and then breathed a sigh of great relief. My long desired hope had come true.
To see the whole chapter, purchase the book Arborsculpture: Solutions for a Small Planet
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