Hagerman, New Mexico
I had wanted to build with this type of tree for years, the Mesquite tree of the SouthWest desert, bringing images of the Old West, untamed prairies from a time before barbed wire. People used this tree to make wheel spokes and fence posts, as hard as iron.
I'm drawn to trees that grow in desolate areas, scrubby scrappy little bushes that somehow live in areas where water is scarce and the wind blows hard.
I had a few weeks off from my day job, so I took the opportunity to travel to New Mexico and camp out in an area where my research had told me I would find Mesquite trees. But all of my reading did not prepare me for the hardship of camping out in the desert in July.
I had gotten a permit to camp out on public land for two weeks, and I found a spot near a grove of Mesquite trees. With temperatures above 95° F every day, shade was an absolute must.
I had brought along some long poles and plenty of rope to tie up a tarp, which I needed since there were no trees to tie off to. But my 12 inch stakes wouldn't stay in the sandy ground when the wind blew.
A mesquite tree's roots can reach down 200 feet to find water in the barren climates where they live,
pulling life out of lifelessness,
a struggle for existence in a harsh, unfriendly world that yields a type of timeless beauty and hope that
life is worth it.
Conditions were harsh; the ground was rocky, the grasses were full of annoying sticker-balls, the wind was unblocked and powerful, coming from every direction,
and of course, the sun was incessant and hot, with temperatures only coming down to 80° F at night.
I lived in the same conditions these trees did, and they somehow survived, so I knew I could too.
Mesquite was every bit of tough that I had heard. I began to get worried that my saws weren't going to last cutting this incredibly hard wood.
But I loved the twisty way these little scrub trees grew.
The hardness of the wood seemed to fit in every way with the difficult living conditions here.
The trees guide the chair's design,
and I'm compelled to let the chair design itself as the branches dictate.
The "spirit" or feel of this place becomes manifest in the chair.
The sanding and finishing strips away the exterior layers and exposes the gorgeous bright colors underneath.
I had some kind of idea for the upholstery: a bird, but not a picture, a symbol. I tried out an idea while camping. But my vision of the bird was much more than what I had done.
It would be months later after several attempts to approximate my vision that I settled on something I liked.
Thoroughly worn out after two weeks of desert life, I limped home with a new chair.