Mandala Sanctuary: lighting the madrona tree (2012)


The sculpting, finishing, and lighting of this madrona tree was commissioned by Mandala Sanctuary, a private retreat center nearing completion at the time in Eugene, Oregon. 

The lighting needed to provide a focal point, add substantially to the ambient light level, draw little power while being on for extended periods, and work effectively with light pouring in through the skylight.

Ideally, I’m involved much earlier in a project, but entered this one well under way. It’s hard to pass up a space with richly toned clay walls, live wood edges, curvaceous lines and a passionate natural building crew. Besides, the raw tree practically begged to have its potential released.

The first step was to get the tree right with itself by carving the lopped branch ends into more gestural forms and finishing it with natural oils.

I made the paper for these pieces with a nod to the Vesica Pisces, the eye-like shape in Sacred Geometry symbolizing the opening between duality and oneness. The color play stemmed from the palette of clays and natural materials all around.

The paper needed to be rich in color, yet thin enough to allow for layering while retaining a high degree of translucence. Laying it out on a large light table helps immensely in seeing the variance in color, density and size. (see more here...)

I love the aliveness of a translucent surface when it’s simultaneously radiating light from within and reflecting from an external source. Here, the inner is warm white LED, while the outer is cool sky light.



This gorgeous green cloth-covered wire is one I turn to often for its vine-like look. Paired with hammered and patinated copper wire, it serves well in getting the power to the large shade forms while adding to the sculptural play of the tree.

The hammered wire also suspends the light forms, allowing them to seemingly float in the embrace of the branches.

Intimacy arises from a mix of familiarity and mystery, so there's a wire-cloth "leaf" in the base of the light forms to veil the view up inside.