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       DAVID  T.   ARTS    

      Locally I came across a package containing 12 miniature glass bottles with tiny pieces of gemstones inside them.  The bottle that caught my attention most was filled with the mineral 'tiger eye.' Looking through this jar I felt that these pieces represented tree bark from the trunk of a tree, so I brought the assorted box home to examine and test this theory.  While looking online for tree molds, artificial trees and anything else I could apply them to, I came across assembled 'Bonsai driftwood trees' as they call them.  Artists take small pieces of driftwood and then use a medium to arrange them permanently together into the shape of a unique bonsai tree. 

      At first I was only interested in experimenting with the tiger eye, so I ordered a few different similar kinds from different companies in larger quantities.  The varieties I received by mail were not representative enough of tree bark, (to curved, sized bigger, different shades of color) so I felt I had to use the original miniscule bottles to help retain this realistic perspective.  Not wanting to waste the other eleven types of gemstones from the package, I thought that eight of the other 11 minerals could represent flowers, while one of the remaining blue colors would serve as water beneath and around the tree. 

      The bonsai website's largest tree had eight separate branches which was exactly what I needed to utilize the 10 different minerals for this project.  When the tree arrived its mass was very skimpy so I bulked up the trunk and branches to about three times its original size with glue.  This took a week because the glue needed to dry and keep its shape before I could add another coat.  During the gluing process I began separating the tiger eye pieces into a few different categories.  Big sizes I saved for the bottom (underneath) the tree, small pieces for crevices, medium sizes for the upper trunk while larger ones were placed toward the lower trunk.  I used a few different sifting tools before finally using my fingers to separate the sizes and quality piece by piece.  

      After the tree had been shaped to my liking I then started gluing the tiger eye to the tree trunk.  It was delicate work because if I applied to much pressure onto the pieces, it would cause the glue to ooze out.  If I didn't push hard enough into the adhesive, they wouldn't stick properly.  I also had to be aware continuously of not adding enough glue that the pieces wouldn't stick regardless of physical pressure, and adding to much glue which would cause a mess either way.

      For this application process I placed the tree inside a box on top of some crumbled craft paper which was covered by a piece of fabric.  This allowed me to position the tree at any angle as I poured gemstones on top of the glued areas.  The extra pieces that didn't stick would fall below onto the fabric which I would collect after to repeat this technique.

      Winter was approaching and my glue of choice for this project is very toxic.  Continuing inside was not an option and outside the glue would not dry properly in the cold.  Although I finished covering the tree trunk completely in tiger eye, there remained a lot of process left so I traveled to Bali Indonesia where the climate is always hot/warm.  I brought with me the tree, glue and remaining gemstones while renting a studio apartment with a balcony so I could continue the process outside.  This easily took all day for about 5 weeks from the early morning until sunset to finish.  The branches are extremely thin as I had to position the tree and glue in countless angles to cover it completely and compactly 360 degrees.

       Sometimes I poured gemstones through a tiny funnel into a maze of branches hoping it would land exactly onto the branch I had just glued below.  I used long tools that would reach through the limbs to spread glue, position, and then to apply pressure to these gemstones so that they would adhere properly.  I also had to wait at least five minutes for the glue to partially dry before I could adjust the tree's angle which is one of the reasons why this project took so long.  Changing the position to early would result in the pieces falling off from gravity. 

      I wasn't able to glue multiple colored branches of the tree at the same time because the different colors would mix together underneath the tree onto the fabric which would require even more time to separate by hand because of the high quantity of pieces used.  Sometimes I would pour about thirty pieces just to have three successfully stick on the thinnest parts of the branches below. 

      The glues behavior would also change from the varying temperature throughout the day which was challenging yet also exciting.  This is a sturdy piece that can be held and touched all over the trunk and thick branches.  Any damaged, unpolished, clear colored or irregularly colored pieces were not used.  Weight - around 3.5 lbs.  This was originally designed for aquariums as the driftwood is waterproof, so the entire piece can be rinsed under water to clean off dust.  

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