Magazine article American Forests

Gifts from the Trees

Magazine article American Forests

Gifts from the Trees

Article excerpt

Many people admire the beauty of wood and trees through objects they see every day - furniture, decoys, a treasured rocking horse, even the grain of a hardwood floor. Artists who turn wood into aesthetic and utilitarian treasures use a variety of methods, but there is one constant: a respect for the medium and a desire to impart that respect to others.

It's not surprising, then, that AMERICAN FORESTS counts among its members and partners woodworkers, artists, and wood products companies. And their efforts are both directly - and indirectly - helping others understand the importance of planting and caring for trees.

Varied perspectives

Idaho resident Bill Lewis applies modern-day technical know-how to an ancient woodcraft - and in the process imparts a message about the importance of sustainably harvested wood.

A computer-aided design (CAD) manager, Lewis began using a scroll saw, a machine saw with a vertical reciprocating blade, as an escape from his computer, where he spends as much as 12 hours a day. His favorite activity is using a single block of wood to carve a bird with a double-wing span, a European tradition.

"I enjoyed looking at other people's woodworking projects and I was inspired by many of them," he says.

That's when Lewis got the idea to combine his two areas of expertise. Using CAD technology, he designed more than 20 patterns for wooden fan-out birds, including a bald eagle, peregrine falcon, and long-eared owl. Now he markets those designs to other scroll saw users, who receive with their pattern a block of sustainably harvested wood grown in Idaho. Idaho pine, white poplar, and cottonwood are among Lewis' favorite working woods, but regardless of species he buys from a small horselogging and sawmill operation that is Idaho's lone certified supplier of sustainably harvested wood.

"I want to get the word out that I support this. We have to maintain our resources and be careful what we use." Lewis says his customers care where their wood comes from. Using sustainably harvested wood "gives the piece more actual value because it has history."

"Across the country we're finding local innovation is the driving force behind sustainable forestry initiatives," says Maia Enzer, director of AMERICAN FORESTS' community-based forestry program, which works with local partners to ensure that their voices are heard in the national debate over forest policy. "Facilitating change in the way we use forest resources must start from the bottom up, not the other way around."

Although Beverly "Bevy" Williams' environmental sensibility takes a different path, the Virginia Beach, Virginia, carver agrees with Lewis that "we need to see what is out there and what we might lose someday. I see cutting where it shouldn't be done. We need to be more cautious."

Williams, whose federally approved wildlife-handling license allows her to run her own backyard aviary, nurses and studies injured birds. Her work with wildlife was recognized by the group Woodsmen of the World, which named her 1981's Conservationist of the Year. The first woman to receive that award, Williams sees nothing remarkable in her efforts to coalesce an environmental and artistic ethic.

"I had a marsh, I had cages, I had land. I just don't like to see anything injured and just plain left," she says. "And it's helpful to me when I carve different birds - I can carve them closer to life from the start."

Caring for trees is an intrinsic part of carving for many woodworkers for a simple reason: without trees there is no art. …

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