Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tree Carvings

Early immigrants to Idaho used the bark of the aspen tree as a canvas for their artwork.   Over 100 years ago, immigrants from the Basque country found work as shepherds in the mountains of Idaho. While living alone in the mountains for months at a time, they left their mark on the bark of alpine aspen trees in the form of tree carvings.  These carvings, called arborglyphs, often inlcuded names, dates, hometowns, poetry and  drawings of their homes, family and items they longed for.  Today immigrants from Chile, Peru, Brazil and Mexico also find work as shepherds in Idaho and continue the practice of carving on the bark of the aspen trees.

These photos were taken up near Stanley, Idaho in November, 2008.

If you hike or camp near many of the sheep trails throughout the state, you may have seen some of these wonderful carvings.  Please respect our forests and enjoy the arborglyphs, but reserve the carving of the aspens to the sheepherders.

Students will have an opportunity to try their hand at creating their own arborglyph by carving on sheets of scratch foam this coming week.  After carving the foam, we will roll ink across the surface of the foam and, using a relief printmaking process, students will create their own aspen tree carvings.  By the time the week is over, we should have a beautiful grove of tree carvings!