Scraphappy Cherry Tree branch
This is the story of a very special cherry tree.
Joy Kogawa is a Canadian Author of Japanese descent, who was interned with her family during World War 2. Her books (Obasan, is probably the best known) have helped people understand the trauma of Japanese Canadians who were mistreated during the Second World War. A cherry tree stood in the back garden of her childhood home in Vancouver, and Joy Kogawa talks about her childhood memories of playing under this special tree.
A cherry tree features prominently in several of her stories… “Naomi played with her dolls and had tea parties in the shade of the tree…”
Joy Kogawa’s childhood home has become a place of learning:
Today, the property is a unique live/work space for writers, a space for public events, and an ongoing symbol of the racial discrimination experienced by Japanese Canadians as a consequence of the Second World War.
Quote and photo credit: Historic Joy Kogawa House (click here for a link to their website).
The cherry tree was severely damaged during a fierce storm on January 13, 2021, but artists who work in wood were invited to apply to work with pieces of the broken branches, and so help the tree live on through works of art. I was honoured to be chosen as one of the artists to work with this special wood. I received several sections of wood from the broken branches.
Three separate galleries below show the process of turning the broken tree into a little cherry wood doll: Becoming a doll blank; carving the doll; and finishing the doll.
To view a gallery, click any picture, and then navigate forward and back using the arrows at the sides of the pictures. Click the “x” to get out of the gallery.
Gallery 1- Turning branches into doll blanks:
Thanks so much to wood-turner Barbara Giuliani who took photos of the process as she turned scraps of broken tree into blanks for me. Starting with a blank means there is much less wood to move by hand! I am grateful to her for helping me with this part of the process.
Gallery 2 – Carving the blank into a doll:
The broken legs will not be wasted! I will use them in another doll, though I will have to change the style of hip joint. I will carve a new head, body and arms, and then use either a lot of epoxy on the broken hips, drill new small holes and fit with elastic joints, or perhaps make a different kind of doll altogether (cloth body?) – there are many options but all involve more carving!
Thanks to my doll-carving teachers for teaching me carving skills, mentoring and encouraging me including and telling stories about their own carving mishaps!
Gallery 3 – Finishing the doll:
In Obasan, little Naomi forgets her doll on the train as she is being sent to the internment camp. This doll is not meant to represent Naomi of the stories, nor to replace her lost doll – she is the gift of the tree, and very much her own self!
Thanks so much to Historic Joy Kogawa House for entrusting me with a scrap of wood from the Kogawa House Cherry Tree. I feel grateful for the opportunity to make a doll friend, created from a tree friend. This doll will go live at Kogawa House, where I hope she may help people remember friendships that live on after heartbreak and loss
Young human insisted (and I agreed) that someone should play with the doll before she went to live in the museum, and so took the new girl out for a tea party in the shade of our tree!
Click Here for a link to the Kogawa Tree Artists Call.
That’s an honour but you have made a gorgeous doll from the wood, in turn honouring the project, the tree, the author and all those Canadians of Japanese origin. Everything about this is beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing it and for doing so in such detail.
Thank you – and you are very welcome. I heard about the project on the radio, and applied immediately. I am very lucky to have been chosen to participate, and so glad you liked seeing the process of coaxing this dolly out of the wood.
I loved it. Thank you
This is beautiful, Kjerstin. And I love the idea of Scraphappy itself. The concept of using old and broken bits to make and preserve happiness is beneficial for all of us, and is a form of artistic beauty and happiness.
I have learned so much from you, not just about doll-carving! I love the idea of Scraphappy too – thanks Gun and Kate, it is so much fun to see all the different ways to make use of old and broken bits, and you said it exactly right, Janet, it does preserve happiness!!
Were you able to name her before she went to fulfil her mission at the museum?
I might have a private name for her, but as I explained to the youngest human (who also has a private name for her) she is going to a new home, and her new people may wish to give her a name.
That makes sense. I will think of her as Cherry!
I feel so honoured to have been introduced to this new Hitty and enjoyed our brief visit. You gave her a heart and soul, she is exquisite. Thank you for the detailed photos, it makes her even more special to see the work that went into creating her.
Ah, Onesmallstitch, you are a kind person and a great encourager, Thank you. Little Cherry girl was pleased to visit with you, sit on your porch on the hot summer afternoon, and contemplate life. She is glad to be accumulating some good memories to take with her to the new home at the Historic Joy Kogawa House.
Thanks so much for sharing this story and process with all of us. It is a wonderful project and a lovely doll has emerged from the broken branch, thanks to your skill and vision. She will be a very special addition to the museum at .Kogawa House, and a treasure for many years to come.
Thank you, Blue. I was so sorry to hear about the broken tree, but so captivated by the idea of wood artists helping to keep the memories of the tree alive through art. I am glad to have been able to make this dolly from the wounded tree – glad I have been taught to carve by encouraging people and glad the project came to be when I had the ability to do it justice.
This story brought tears to my eyes. Trees are such special lifeforms. Our Ash trees were decimated by the emerald ash borer a few years ago. My spouse and I used to walk along a long Ash Tree trail and all of them were being taken down. We walked along watching them being felled in such sorrow. I collected a round of the Ash wood and brought it to my sister. I asked her to carve a wooden Hitty if possible. She did, she carved a little being with a pouch on her back and put in it, a little nest with blue eggs. We named her “The Ashling” Our Hittys tell us that all of the energy in all of the Ash Trees are lovingly inside of “The Ashling”.
I just finished reading a book called “The hidden life of trees by Peter Wohlleben” It shows how trees communicate with one another and how special they are. I think that is one reason why I love sharing my home with Hitty’s. Knowing they come from trees…I must have a strong inner child influence because I sincerely believe they bring peace, and love to their humans.
P.S. Youngest human gets more and more adorable every year…if that is possible.
Wood is precious! I love the story of your Ashling…what a special doll to be carved by your sister, and to hold those energies too, she is a lucky little doll to be so loved and appreciated!
The Hitty you released from the Cherry Tree looks so happy to start her new life. Your Hitty’s are all so unique and precious.
Thank you so much, this wood was so special, I wasn’t exactly nervous, but hopeful that a dear little wooden girl would come. She will be a lovely thing to have – helping to hold memories of the tree, and yet being her own self.
Wonderful story ❤️
Thank you so much Bodana, I am glad to have a friend like you!
I loved the story and love the doll; she has a really pretty face. Of course she had to be played with at least once. I followed all the links and wish I’d known about the house when I visited Vancouver. Perhaps another time. The books are now on my to-read list.
Thank you very much, knitnkwilt, I am glad you enjoyed reading about the doll-making process…and glad you agree she needs to be played with at least once! She will be happier taking some good childhood memories into her new home…Perhaps another time you will visit the house and say hi to the doll!
What an act of generosity to carve this very special doll. And what an honor to you as an artist with vision and compassion. thank you for sharing her journey with us.
I am very glad that you followed along on the journey from broken tree to dear little doll…I was glad to have been chosen to participate in the project, it was a true gift to me!
This is a beautiful way to honor the tree and its meaning. I loved being able to see all the steps that went into the doll’s creation. Thank you for a beautiful post!
Thank You! I was glad to share the process and the work. I know there are other artists working on other pieces of wood too – I would love to see what they make, and when we are able, perhaps we will all meet and talk about how the wood spoke to us!
As everybody else has already said, this was a lovely story to read and a joy to watch the beautiful doll emerge from the cherry tree. Thank you.
You are welcome…it was a lovely project to be part of, and I am glad I could share it with you. Carving little dolls from this meaningful tree was very special, and I think the doll feels it!
This is a beautiful story and I´m so glad you posted all the photos in making this doll! Thank you!
Thank you very much. Sometimes I get more involved in the carving than in the documentation, so I am glad this time I got some good images to share.
With the broken hips… why not make another disabled doll. Having been born with a congenital hip for which I was required to wear steel leg braces for many years …along with saddle oxford or maryjane style shoes that they attached to. I’ve never seen a doll made with braces that span the hips and go down to the ankle. I think that would be really cool. And could be used as a teaching tool about persons with “special abilities”.
For now the legs are in my “extra bits” container, along with some more cherry that might become a doll. Dolls can be very helpful teachers, can’t they?
yes, they can. I look at my dolls and think that I’ve missed out on something as I have no clue how to “play” with them. Dolls just didn’t exist much in my childhood, nor did play.
You are very talented
Thank you! I have had excellent teachers, and encouragers and experience – all of which helps so much!
Loved the story about the cherry tree! Your little grand is an exquisite and lovely child!
Am kind of just watching and enjoying these days and my Hittys are sitting on a shelf watching life go by!
So enjoy the adventures of your Hitty community and your amazing creativity.
I am sorry I missed your comment until now. Thanks so much for your very kind comments about young human and the process of making this doll. Hittys think watching life go past is a very important job!
so many beautiful points there are in here, and I am impressed so much. So beautiful dear Hitty Lady, Blessing and Happiness to you all, Thank you, Love, nia
Nia, thank you so much, and I am sorry I didn’t see this comment until now…we try to make small positive things, and appreciate blessings from you and other people that make small positive changes in this hard world…thanks to you!
You are welcome dear, no problem, be sure, Thank you, Love, nia