On the 7th June 2018 The Hospice in the Weald confirmed the commission of the Memory Tree Panel; one of the three design maquettes I had submitted to them for consideration. Nick Farthing, from the hospice sent me an email asking what the next stages in the design and making process would entail. His message was really a pleasure to read, opening with:
'Everyone here has fallen in love with the memory tree models that you produced for us, there’s been some really interesting discussion about different aspects of each. Lots of different opinions, but the one thing that everyone has agreed on is that all of the models look great.'
The initial models for the work chosen by the hospice can be seen below.
I returned Nick's email confirming that I would like to accept the offer of a site visit to see the chosen location of the panel and to discuss with him some of the details related to the next stages in the process.
I made the site visit on the 14th June and I was able to see where they had chosen to place the panel. We discuss the preferred method of 'fixing' the panel and I left Nick with a few decisions related to the installation to be discussed with his colleagues. The plinth must not be too high so as to make the top of the panel inaccessible to those loved ones attaching the leaves in remembrance of those they have lost. Access to the site also needed to be considered as the finished panel would be heavy.
The length of the panel (determined by the preferred height chosen by the hospice) is to be 4175.76 mm and I suggested water jet cutting should be used for the manufacture of the panel. Below are two alternative illustrations provided for their consideration.
The number of leaves that the hospice wished to hang on the trees was essential information that they had not yet supplied. When Nick informed me that he and Rachael thought that they would like approximately 400 in total, spread across the four trees on the panel it immediately became obvious that the design above would not allow for this, given the size required for the leaves to allow space for inscriptions. I suggested that I scale up the drawing to determine how many leaves of an appropriate size might fit - the result was that a new design for the panel would be necessary, as seen below.
The leaves to be attached to the trees by loved ones will be made in water cut copper. Ideally the copper should be thin enough or soft enough to allow the leaf to be 'bent' so as to make them all individual. The bending, of course, would be done after any engraved inscription was added. The leaves can either be lacquered to prevent patination or left to weather and gradually turn green with a verdigris patination. Giving those who purchase the leaves a choice might make for added variation to the visual effect of the work.
In order that the greatest number of leaves be possible the new design, a single tree with sufficient spaces between branches to allow for approximately 200 leaves to be hung from the 3 millimetre holes along the branches was completed
The completed drawings were used to provide the hospice with an impression of the panel in situ.
The hospice agreed to proceed and the new design was used to enable Mark Taylor, director of Torcal structural engineers, to determine the necessary thickness of the steel required for the panel and surrounding frame. Unfortunately, cost considerations meant that the design needed additional modifications. First considerations have alway been that the panel be suited to its purpose - that being a vehicle for those who have lost loved ones to be able to celebrate and remember them, by hanging an inscribed leaf upon the tree - and so I agreed the necessary modifications.
Diane Webster at the Hospice made contact to inform me that they had elected to use Cranbrook Iron to manufacture the panel, using plasma cutting rather than water cutting, and Mark Taylor supplied them with all of the necessary details needed to ensure the structural integrity of the panel. Diane later informed me that a new site, alongside the summerhouse, had been selected at the hospice for the installation of the panel in order to avoid damage to the trees at their initially chosen site. All in all it meant that almost every aspect of the initial brief had been changed during the process.
On the 13th September 2019 I received an email from Diane with an attachment showing the panel under construction at Cranbrook Iron, which was the first and only time I had seen it (so too late to suggest any alterations). However they had taken a good deal of trouble with the additional reinforcements to the rear of the panel and it was to be installed on Wednesday 18th September.
I was invited to join Rob and Paul from Cranbrook Iron at the installation in order to see the completion of the work. Steve had completed the necessary groundwork and was on hand to assist with the installation. During my visit Diane also provided me with a copper leaf in order for me to test the patination process as well as offering a leaf to be inscribed in memory of my mother and father-in law, Pam and David Copestake.
The Corten Steel will soon patinate and add to the aesthetic appeal of the panel, whilst rendering the steel's appearance more 'organic' and interesting. Diane informed me that she has 50 engraved leaves ready to be hung on the tree and I will be able to take more photographs when I take our leaf to hang on the tree.
I am delighted that the project is completed and has provided the Hospice in the Weald with something they are happy with. My hope now is that it will assist in the grieving process of the community that they serve, brings succour all those who might use or visit the memory tree and enable the hospice to generate additional funds to support their important work.