When Life Gives You a Hurricane – Make a Birdhouse!

 “The hurricane devastated our wooded lot; we’re still in clean-up mode. I was determined to create something that would symbolize the positive energy of new life that can grow up out of death and destruction – the hope of birds nesting and laying their eggs in a house made from the wreckage of Hurricane Sandy.”                      .....Dan Freed, Wood Artist

I know this may sound trivial compared to what has happened to folks at the shore, but most of our trees are more than 60-feet tall. Hurricane Sandy seemed to hover over us for hours and the sounds of the trees creaking, crackling, and collapsing was horrible. Anything more than a light breeze still puts me on high alert.

Best in Show
The Undergardener has put his demons behind him, though. A wood artist, he exacted the ultimate revenge by using pieces of those shattered trees to create a work of art that is also a birdhouse. He calls it “Hurricane Sandy – Brought to Justice.” What made that revenge extra-sweet was that the birdhouse was awarded Best in Show at the Skylands Juried Art Exhibit in May.

Since then, Sandy has been making her way around Sussex County. She was on display at the county administration building during June and will show up at the Sussex-Wantage branch of the Sussex County Library in September, where Dan will be giving a talk on woodworking for families and kids on September 27th at 1:00pm.

The Inspiration
In the spirit and philosophy of the Arts and Crafts Movement, from which he takes inspiration, Dan says, “Nature has an equal power of renewal, which was the seed of my intention to transform that torn root ball into something to help heal the pain,” The central piece is actually a birdhouse constructed of cherry, walnut, and maple. Sandy’s wild and wooly hair is made from the roots of a 100-year-old ash tree that had been the focal point of the back yard and a black cherry that was also blown down. Sandy’s head is mounted like a trophy. A placard reminiscent of a mug shot, showing her arrival date as the ID number hangs from her neck.


“Think Bride of Frankenstein. I wanted to depict all of Sandy’s horror and ugliness, yet show respect for her power,” he said. “I pretty much worked out all of my hostilities about the hurricane through that piece. It restored balance to my life and I hope that, in a small way, it can do the same for others.”

An artist and self-taught woodworker, Dan developed his skills over a lifetime of experimenting. His interest in wood as a primary medium was kindled by a boyhood friend who became a professional cabinet maker. “The simple aesthetic pleasures of touching a finely finished piece of custom furniture always had a special appeal to me,” he said.

Dan began his explorations of sculpting wood in the early 1990s making custom walking sticks, which he sold at the Peter’s Valley Craft Show for several years. Since then, his focus has shifted to furniture and garden projects here at home.

Help us put the Sandy birdhouse on tour.
He’d love to have “Hurricane Sandy -- Brought to Justice” tour all of New Jersey’s 21 counties. If you can help us find a location for her in your town at a public venue, such as a museum, library, administration building, arts council, etc., send me an email at loisj7(at)gmail(dot)com.

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