In July of 2013 a storm swept through Toronto causing much damage across the GTA to trees, homes and property. A rotting tree in Leslieville was one of the victims to fall in the storm. Normally the tree would be hauled to one of several city tree dumps, chipped into mulch and transported North of the city to spread on open land. There was something different about this tree. It was a magnificent maple that took root over a hundred years ago in front of a small cottage. It endured ants, hydro lines, salt, fungus and other threats finally succumbing when the summer storm knocked it down. It was a very large tree and a fine example of the species.
This tree also had another life. While at the cottage Alexander Muir was inspired by the tree and wrote the lyrics to The Maple Leaf Forever. Written for confederation, many Canadians remember the song fondly and it nearly became our National anthem. Because of its historical significance, people from all across the city have donated their energy and resources to change the fate of this fallen giant. Normally such a rotten tree would be worthless as material but this is a great example of the value of the story of its life. The use of this tree illustrates that valuable wood is all around us and it's not always necessary to tap into untouched nature for building material. It is about using what is at hand, what is available.
We we contributed a chandelier, called The Thistle Shamrock Rose Entwined, made from the branches of the tree to the Maple Leaf Forever inaugural show in January of this year at ToDo's off site event in the Junction. The exhibition included pieces by Dystil, The National Design Collective and Paus + Grün. These pieces, along with several others, will be part of a silent auction in the summer to support LEAF, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the protection and improvement of the urban forest, and more specifically for the replanting of the urban wood tree canopy.
This past weekend over 300 people came to the Brickworks in Toronto for the the ceremonial cutting of the trunk of the tree. This tree will be used from root to tip by hundreds of artists and craftspeople to build a range of objects. It will become furniture, lighting, and other objects which will serve their functions and tell the story of the cycle of material.