A few weeks ago, I shared a post about how Chardon, Ohio is recovering from a senseless high-school shooting that claimed the lives of 3 students and injured 2 others. Although the community has forever been changed, a sense of acceptance and healing is seeping back into everyday life. Many people are reaching out to other in helpful gestures and donating their time and resources to various fundraisers and projects.
Possibly the most obvious physical change is the huge tree at the corner of the soccer field in front of the high school. Wrapped in red and black crocheted stripes that fiber artist Carol Hummel made with the help of her family and friends, the tree wears Chardon’s colors, and does more than catch eyes and turn heads. It is a visual representation of kindness and beauty – a symbol of healing and moving forward.
As fiber-arts projects go, this one definitely isn’t made from alpaca or any other natural fiber that wouldn’t be able to weather the elements. But, it’s an example of how fiber art can be a part of everyday life. Now, woven into the fabric of Chardon’s community, this tree cozy brings smiles to many. In less than one week, I can’t count how many people I’ve seen stop their cars, get out and touch the crocheted webbing of the tree. People snap photos constantly.
I happened to be driving by the day Carol was putting the finishing touches on the tree. A few men were in a cherry-picker lift, tying the fabric to the high branches. I asked if Carol would be interested in a blog about her and her work. The result is the following:
When did you get the idea to bring your fiber skills to Chardon?
I live in Newbury (about 14 miles south of Chardon), and my family and I were very disturbed by the shootings at the school [Feb. 27, 2012]. Like many, we had the, “How can this happen in OUR county?” moment. My daughter Molly suggested that I crochet a tree (similar to the ones that I’ve created in the US and other countries) as a tribute to the community, and I instantly agreed that it was an excellent idea.
How much yarn did you use? How long did it take you? What kind of fiber / yarn?
I used approximately 50,000 feet of 4mm Bonnie Braid polypropylene craft cord by Pepperell Braiding. My two daughters and I worked 2 weeks crocheting the pieces, and a crew of six installed it over a two-day period with the help of some donated ladders and a hydraulic lift.
Did anyone help you?
My helpers are:
My daughter Molly Sedensky & Baby Luke
My daughter Emily Ellyn
Rich Princic delivered and loaned us use of his ladders
Hambden Grange donated the hydraulic lift and kicked in $200 extra to help pay for the cording
Pepperell Braiding donated the black yarn
What has the reaction been like?
The reaction during the installation was extremely moving. Many people stopped and talked with us about their feelings and experience during the tragedy. Since then, I’ve received numerous emails expressing gratitude for the creation of the tree.
I am from Chardon , Ohio and wanted to Thank You for our amazing tree. Your talent has brought many smiles to people that have been missing since Feb 27th. Thank you for you time and talent! Have a wonderful day!
Another…This one brought tears to our eyes!
I am a Chardon resident and mother of a freshman at the high school. I just want to express my gratitude to you for what you did for the community and our children at the high school. The tree is a beautiful symbol of hope and unity for our children. As they move forward from this tragedy, as best as they can, seeing the symbolic tree you created for them makes them a little stronger each day. I was at the high school on Saturday when you were creating the artwork it was emotional to see but touched my heart deeply. My son was in awe and we hugged and shed some tears for all that has happened along with your generosity.
Thanks so very much! That is an amazing sight and will be a reminder for our community of us coming together and mostly a reminder of the great kindnesses people extended. Also, hopefully, a reminder to us to do that for others.
How many other trees have you done like this one?
I’ve crocheted and wrapped with yarn quite a few trees, primarily in the United States and India. I’ll be going to Norway and Rome in May and June to do projects. In Norway, we are re-inventing/re-invigorating a village with outside artwork (including crocheting a large tree and 20 light posts) with the help of community volunteers.
I also use yarn and craft cord in other sculptural projects. To me, yarn and crochet are very culturally saturated materials. When people see crocheted or knitted material, it takes them to a time a place where life was good and their granny or mom or aunt or someone was knitting beloved objects. People can see and read about my projects on my website at www.carolhummel.com
What gave you the idea to wrap trees in yarn / crochet / knit?
I began working with yarn in 2003 when I unraveled afghans that people had given me and then re-crocheted the tatters into a red carpet, slippers, etc. (See Red Carpet and Stepping Out). Conceptually these pieces symbolized the unraveling of my life (I was going through a painful divorce at the time) and the creation of a new phase of my life.
These pieces led to covering some small trees (see Levels) with bands of yarn symbolizing the different levels of development and covering a large steel crib that I fabricated with yarn addressing the issue of comfort versus confinement (the crib is a safe haven but is also very jail-like)
At about that time, Heights Arts in Cleveland Heights held a public art competition to created pieces of outdoor art. I looked at the site and had my “ah-ha!” moment — envisioning a large tree covered in yarn. I won the competition (along with 8 others, I think) and my daughters, mom and I spent 500 hours creating the piece.
Where else have you done similar projects?
Chicago, Cleveland, Florida, several in India…. space wraps in Prague, India, US… see my website.
The Chardon tree is a reaction to the shooting tragedy. But what about other trees you’ve done? How do you select the areas to bring your work to?
Chardon is the first “tribute” tree. The other trees were created for public art competitions, commissioned pieces or during art residencies. For all my pieces of art, I respond to the particular area and the issues that are important to that area. I try to comment on what is important to the people and culture of the particular areas.
What other media do you work in?
I come up with the ideas first and then choose the materials and methods that will best bring the idea to life. I’ve worked in resin, wood, steel, pins, video, prints, plaster, rubber, panty hose… all sorts of materials.
Would you like to add anything else? Anything to say to the students and residents of Chardon?
It’s been an honor to create this piece of art for the community of Chardon. I think that Chardon responded with strength and courage, love and compassion during the shooting tragedy. The yarn wraps the tree in a warm embrace like the community has lovingly embraced itself.
I hope the tree makes everyone smile and remember that there are positive things in the present and the future.
Sirius Alpacas is a family farm in Chardon, Ohio that raises and boards alpacas for fun, therapy and profit. The farm uses its fleeces in the production of high-quality yarns and felted goods. Sirius Alpacas also imports fair-trade Andean items including socks, scarves, hats, gloves and more from Peru and Bolivia, offering the style and culture of South American goods while helping the farmers, artists and craftsmen of that region. Lori Weber, co-owner of Sirius Alpacas, is the creator and writer of this alpaca blog. You may reach her at Lori@SiriusAlpacas.com.