I stood in the rain last Sunday at the Hollywood Farmers' Market in front of a table of wooden bowls, gawking, when finally a man with artisan hands came up and introduced himself as John Talbot, the artist. Even if I never learned the story behind of these boards, bowls, goblets and utensils, I would have wanted to show them to you, just for their beauty.
Then Talbot told me how they were made to honor the fallen trees of Los Angeles.
I'll let him tell the story:
"It was an experiment at first. I wanted to see if I could honor the trees of Los Angeles by transforming them into beautiful and useful objects. Then I noticed that every kind of tree from every part of the world grows in Los Angeles.
"People grow their favorite tree, whatever that may be, in their yard or in the devil strip in front of their house. Some are huge, having been planted directly after water was first diverted to the area from the Colorado River, about 85 years ago.
It is not unusual to find carob logs 30” in diameter at the dump! There must have been a planting program of carob trees in Hollywood in the early thirties. It turns out carob trees, having provided shade and “Saint John’s bread” — the seed pods — to the city for many years, now prove to be a pest. Their roots heave sidewalks and crack foundations. When a resident files a complaint against a Carob, city workers are dispatched to cut down and dispose of the tree."
The goblets pictured above are what remain of a huge unruly Carob that grew at the intersection of Franklin Avenue and Mariposa Streets in Hollywood.
John literally scavenges for dead wood around Los Angeles, chops up dead tree trunks, loads them into his truck and takes them home. He works in Olive, Poplar, Carob, Black Acacia, California Live Oak, Ash, Walnut, Madrone, Douglas Fir and Eucalyptus.
"Finishing is tree whispering: The wood tells the story of the tree's life."
The end-result are the objects he sells at the Hollywood Farmers' Market on Sundays and on his website.
It's a gorgeous homage to the urban forest of Los Angeles, and a second-life for the less-desired members of that forest.
Prices range from $35 for a small Olive cup to $250 and up for Talbot's exquisite — and in some cases huge — bowls.
• Visit the Hollywood Farmers' Market
• Visit the JCT Woodwork website to learn more about Talbot's process.