Sep 4, 2017 | By Tess

Humans and trees have a connection that goes beyond our reliance on them for wood and paper. After all, it is trees that give us the oxygen we need to breathe. Artist Jack Elliott, an associate professor at Cornell University, may have a stronger connection to trees than most, as many of his art pieces are based on the leafy giants.

(Image: ABC Northern Tasmania / Rick Eaves)

Elliott recently embarked on a new artwork at the University of Tasmania’s Cradle Coast campus, where he was an artist in residence. The project, which was inspired by Tasmania’s somewhat controversial forest industry, set out to subvert the paper industry’s process of chopping down trees to produce sheets of paper by creating a tree sculpture out of paper.

In realizing the project, Elliott worked with both 3D scanning and paper 3D printing technologies. More specifically, the artist used photogrammetry (a process where many 2D photos are captured from various angles and stitched together to form a 3D model) to 3D scan a giant blue-gum eucalyptus tree in Burnie, a city that has a significant paper-making industry.

The scanning process was quite labor-intensive, as the tree (which was dead and set to be cut down) needed to be debarked before scanning. It reportedly took Elliott an entire week to remove all the bark from the lower portion of the massive tree before he could scan the tree using photogrammetry and laser scanners mounted on iPads.

(Image: ABC Northern Tasmania / Rick Eaves)

The next step will be to produce the tree sculpture using a full-color paper 3D printing technology developed by Irish 3D printing company Mcor. The process uses layers of paper and a strong adhesive to build up three dimensional objects. Elliott says he plans to scale down the tree model and print a number of miniature versions (about 30 cm tall) of the tree stump.

“What I want to do is scan these trees digitally, create a 3D database, and then manipulate that build scaled-down versions of these trees," he explained.

(Image: Mcor)

"The idea is to inform people about the human-nature relationship, all of which is going pretty badly right now,” he added. “For me, this idea of the tallest trees in the world, being measured after they were cut down and used to make paper—a material that can be made out of almost anything, rags, elephant dung…To be using the world's most majestic trees to make something of so little value seemed really painful to me, and I think it's been painful for a lot of people.”

Elliott’s other projects have involved the production of large-scale sculptures made from trees—such as a five-meter-tall tree sculpture carved from a red oak tree (called “Animus”) which is on display at Cornell University’s campus, and a 3.5 m sculpture of a sugar maple’s complex root structure called “Victus Acernus.”

(Image: Jack Elliott)

For his Tasmanian art project, Elliott also hopes to eventually unearth the roots of the blue gum eucalyptus tree he is working with. "It would be a nice thing to do, to dig out these roots very carefully and move the whole thing to the new campus developing down by the sea here," he said.

And while Elliott hasn't yet 3D printed his small-scale tree sculptures, we are excited to see the final product and to learn where they will be exhibited



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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