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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Treetop outpost

When I was first contacted about the Treetop Outpost project at Conner Prairie, I invited Brian Mancuso and Cathy Donelly to my shop to discuss the project and brainstorm. Bringing each person’s visualizations in to some coherent idea and plan is always a process. Brian and Cathy looked around and seemed particularly intrigued by a failed cornucopia project that had been languishing for several years. I created it for a floral designer who decided that she did not want it. The creation of this piece used the skills I mastered in the beginning of my career making baskets.

I once entered it into the annual Nickel Plate Arts Fairy house competition as a lark, calling it a fairy "trap".
After a period of exchanges of emails to Brian and Cathy, they invited me to the site of the Treehouse. I did not know what to expect, and I was not prepared for the massive structure that was being built at a lovely spot along the river. After putting on a helmet and safety vest, I was given a tour. I was blown away. They showed me an area where they wanted me to build several whimsical mysterious structures that might stimulate the imaginations of children who would visit.

They told me they wanted two 8-foot spires that would echo the fairy trap. They asked for me to do some drawings and come up with a bid.
This began an extremely stimulating process which I knew would need to be perfect.
A few months earlier, I had trimmed a large corkscrew willow tree in Fishers. I had trimmed this tree several times before. I use the cuttings to make decorative bunches that I sell at shows. I use the larger pieces as trim for my tables. I had not trimmed this particular tree for two years and it had nearly doubled in size and I had a large number of extremely large colorful and beautifully contorted branches that I had no immediate use for but I gathered them anyway, storing them at my shop.
After Brian and Cathy showed me the space, I immediately flashed on using them interlaced with the black willow I use in my furniture. Brian and Cathy liked the idea. We exchanged photos and drawings and finally settled upon a final design.

Originally I thought about creating the work on site, but the construction of the Treehouse was delayed by bad weather and we finally came up with a plan for me to construct everything at the shop so that our deadline could be met and I could maintain hours for customers.
The execution and construction took several months and the citizens of Lapel and my customers became very curious as to what I was doing.

It took a lot of time and labor to complete this challenging project, and I would frequently wake up in the middle of the night pondering how to bring this project to completion on time.
After construction of the Treehouse was completed, I loaded the two spires into my van (one at a time), and delivered them. The center piece is a hemispherical structure similar to a Native American hogan or prehistoric dwelling. This would not fit in my van. My buddy Tom Reichle had a large truck and he volunteered to help me deliver it. After four of us loaded it up, we delivered it and Brian and Stephanie West began the process of a arranging the pieces.

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