Bonsai Tree created by twisting together scrap telephone cable

[1] Bonsai Tree created by twisting together scrap telephone cable

 

Inspired by some videos I had seen circulating online, I decided to craft a Bonsai Tree using recycled telephone cable. This process started by sorting the tangled nest of telephone cable I purchased from Art Parts into manageable braids that I could twist together. To maintain their structural integrity while twisting them, I created a “jig” from scrap MDF, drilling holes for each of the braids to be threaded through. When I first twisted the shape of the trunk, I discovered the wires were so heavy, they could not support their own weight. To combat this problem, I added a piece of 36′ x 3/16” round bar stock through the center of the trunk, adding much needed structural integrity. I also incorporated zip ties to keep the cables in place while I separated each braid into the shape of branches. I then took each individual wire, folding it in on itself in an accordion style, before clumping those wires together to create groups of leaves. I had no particular reference image in mind when I was shaping the branches and leaves. Instead, I went with what positioning felt the most natural, and created the most organic flow between the leaves. On a side note: I’ve often gotten the remark that these wire leaves remind people of the clouds from Spongebob, and while this was unintentional, I find it to be a fun hidden reference!

Initial twist of the telephone cable into the shape of a trunk. It was unstable and needed a supporting rod in the center

[2] Initial twist of the telephone cable into the shape of a trunk. It was unstable and needed a supporting rod in the center

 

Shape of the bonsai tree before the branches were separated and organized. Held together with zip ties

[3] Shape of the bonsai tree before the branches were separated and organized. Held together with zip ties

 

Partially finished tree, about 1/3 of the way complete

[4] Partially finished tree, about 1/3 of the way completed

 

Closer look at the bunches of leaves created from folding individual strands of wire

[5] Closer look at the bunches of leaves created from folding individual strands of wire

 

The process of twisting all the wire leaves was quite time consuming, and in total, the project took me around 25 hours. My experience while creating this tree often reminded me of the traditional Zen aesthetic, akin to the process of tending to a real Bonsai tree. The Zen aesthetic has two primary tenets, the first of which is “impermanence”. This is a concept that is heavily countered by my creation of a tree made from copper and rubber instead of wood and leaves. However, I experienced impermanence when entering and exiting a flow state due to the tedium of mindlessly folding wires into the shape of leaves. Quite often, I reached a Zen state where the minutes seamlessly transformed into hours, and the tree seemingly completed itself. The other main component of the Zen aesthetic is “beauty in imperfection”, which I utilized to keep my perfectionist tendencies in check. It was easy to get fixated on a singular wire, trying to align it perfectly amongst its brethren. But I was able to step back and keep in perspective the grand scale of the tree, allowing me to look past the occasional wiry flaw in favor of the whole scenery.

[6] Alternative view of the completed Bonsai tree

 

[7] Another alternative view of the completed Bonsai tree

 

[8] Bonsai tree before the strengthening zip ties were removed… luckily it did not collapse!

 

The finished Bonsai tree is quite the sight to behold. It stands unique through its colorful wires, and definitively maintains the “surrealist” art style that I strive for. In total, the tree measures just over 23” tall and 18” across, and it captures a room at first glance. I’ve taken some pictures with it placed amongst a flagstone landscape I had previously created. While it’s not in its final position yet, I think the concept is well conveyed. I plan on keeping this project on display on my desk at the BTU Lab located in the ATLAS building, and I would love for anyone who’s interested to drop by and take a look! Thank you for joining me on the long, arduous, and delightful journey of creating an everlasting Bonsai tree from nothing but scrap.

Completed Bonsai tree placed amongst a flagstone landscape, creating a surreal Zen garden scene

[9] Bonsai tree placed amongst a flagstone landscape, at home in a surreal Zen garden scene

 

[10] Showcase video of the Bonsai Tree

 

[11] Project presentation hosted on Zoom

 

Previous Post
Upcycled Wine Bottles
Next Post
Eldritch Upcycling Report

8 Comments. Leave new

  • Elvin Chateauvert
    February 26, 2023 3:48 pm

    This one of the most interesting and aesthetically unique projects that I have seen! The use of the bundles of multi colored wires makes for an incredibly textured and organic. I really enjoy the variation of the roots with respect to the trunk and branches. Great work!

    Reply
    • Thanks Elvin! The roots are the only “unfinished” part of the project, because I haven’t neatly sorted and organized the wires. I opted to bend them in such a way that when I bury them in sand, only the tops of the roots will be visible, while still maintaining their uniqueness from the branches.

      Reply
  • Cameron Sprenger
    February 25, 2023 9:55 pm

    This project came out absolutely amazing! The final product is exactly what I would imagine when I think of professional wire art that would be in a gallery.
    The fact that you were able to pull off not only an amazing piece of wire art, but also make a beautiful bonsai sculpture is beyond me. Getting the shape of a bonsai to look “perfectly imperfect” is very hard to do, but you managed to nail it.

    Reply
  • Incredible work man. The final product really displays the amount of detail-oriented hard work you put into the project. I have seen these handmade wire bonsai trees before but never in this unique rainbow-colored wire form. Great job overcoming the challenges of keeping the tree upright with the wireframe and zip ties. There is a weird genre on Instagram of different mood board archive pages that I know would love this project due to their obsession with the bonsai tree aesthetic and I could see it gaining some traction online if you were to post it.

    Reply
    • Thanks Rishi! I didn’t expect the weight of the wires to be such a dilemma, but it was a fun challenge to tackle. I would love it if you could provide a link to some of those Instagram pages, I’m keen on getting this project some social media exposure!

      Reply
  • This is amazing! Your hard work definitely shows. I’m curious what you think the artistic ramifications of a telephone wire bonsai tree are. They’re certainly a lot more permanent (and unchanging) that an actual bonsai tree. How do they fit into the philosophy of Zen?

    Reply
    • Thanks Anna! I’ve decided to call this project “Everlasting Zen” as a nod to that contradiction with the Zen philosophy. While it seems that this tree will never age or change, eventually, the materials I created it from will degrade and corrode, and this tree will fall apart. There’s a poetic irony in the fact that there is no such thing as everlasting Zen, because nothing is truly eternal.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.