Western Hemlock Stump
excellent display piece
finished w/ food-grade Tung & citrus oil
made by Zach LaPerriere
Sitka, Alaska 2018
bowl measures 11 1/2” X 5 1/2”
“Wabi-sabi acknowledges that just as it is important to know when to make choices, it is also important to know when not to make choices: to let things be.” ——Leonard Koren, NYC aesthetics expert
When you encounter a purple cow—don’t paint it white!
In my hometown of Sitka, Alaska there is a long breakwater that protects Crescent Harbor.
We berth our family’s steel sailboat in Crescent, so I frequently take our skiff (a smaller, open boat) past the breakwater on the way to our sailboat. Breakwaters that run parallel to prevailing winds are natural collectors of floating objects, including old stumps.
One stump caught my eye for several years. It was smaller, about the size of a very small car engine, and was really just half a stump. Something, perhaps a remote landslide or a stormy Pacific Ocean beach, had torn it in half.
It took me two years of full-time bowl making to gather the gall to take this stump home, cut it up, dry it for a year, and then put it on the lathe.
Take a look at the bowl. You can imagine how heavy it was when still wet from being in the elements. And you’ll also see that the split edge is missing a piece. Would you feel safe with this piece of wood spinning at 1000 RPMs?
Me neither. It was nerve wracking. I wore protective gear and stood to the side during the shaping of this bowl.
Now, about the unique features. You can see that the rim is curled up on one edge. This is because I turned this bowl when it had been dried slowly outside for a year. After completing the bowl, I dried it slowly for another year inside, which caused the main split to open and the edge to curl. Now that the wood is completely dry, it is completely stable.
If you look at the rim of the bowl, you’ll notice that I left the chainsaw edge on the outer inch of the rim, with the inner rim sanded to a high grit. I hand sanded this surface, but left the chainsaw texture as part of the story. The actual interior of the bowl is of course quite small—a trademark of mine, and my nod to the fact that it’s still a bowl.
You’ll see that the grain has amazing feather-like figure in the rim, and the natural void in the rim goes right through to the side. When my oldest son was quite young, I had a similar piece of stump firewood that he liked to roll marbles through. I’m guessing you’ll want to display this unique piece prominently, but if your children or grandchildren feeling like rolling marble through this, by all means: do! And if you do, let me know…I have some beachcombed marbles I’m happy to send you.
From the side you’ll see two prominent natural voids from the growth of this stump. One of course goes up to the rim and the other reaches in almost six inches to the center of this bowl. In all that I do: I want you to feel, see, and connect with the fact that this isn’t just a piece of wood—it came from a tree. This supported the structure of a good sized tree for well over a human lifespan. And it also held the tree to the ground and carried life-giving nutrients.
I know that pictures are only so good. The real magic in this bowl is seeing it for yourself in person, in touching both the smooth cut and natural edges. You just can’t help but the wonder about the path that led to this stump grounding on the Crescent Harbor breakwater.
This vessel is meant for prominent display on the mantel or table. It isn’t much of a functional bowl, but the interior recess could hold something very special: beach glass from a vacation or a beautifully carved Native silver bracelet.
I stop and think about the journey this bowl has taken so far. It’s been given a second life, and the final leg of the journey is still to be determined—because someone will fall in love with this bowl, and the story of the breakwater stump will continue in their home.