The following was written by Connie Barnes, Artisan Gallery Manager, in celebration of Earth Day.

The Tree

With subtle beauty, Spring arrives in the Northern hemisphere and at our home here in the Southern Tier.

Longer days, the higher sun and April showers bring forth lush buds, ready to burst forth into glorious flowers.

A maple tree’s flowers are exquisite bursts of bright greens (Sugar and Norway maples), deep pinks (Red maples) and brilliant yellows (Silver maples).  Signaling new life, new growth – it’s all happening now.  

Norway Maple

Ash Tree

The story of a maple begins with this new life.  It grows for years, this hardworking tree – providing cool shade on hot summer days and an essential of life for all living things on our planet – oxygen.  And proceeds to remove harmful gases like carbon dioxide – making the air we breathe healthier.  In one year, a mature maple tree will absorb more than 48 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen in exchange.

A tree spends decades doing its work.  Finally tired, possibly becoming brittle or diseased, a tree may fall or have to be felled.  But in the hands of a craftsman like Sam Russo, a tree can continue to serve and provide.  Sam Russo’s creations are always produced from trees who have lived their lives and have been felled for health and safety reasons. 

Here he speaks of his process:

“Here is a block of Maple from a tree a friend had to take down because it had become infected and was a danger.”


“From the block I will get two bowl blanks like this. It’s been cut from the block, leaving the pith for the wood stove. As you can see the corners have been cut off making it easier to mount and turn on the lathe.”

“I have turned the bowl blank to this rough shape. The size and shape are determined by what you discover while turning, some blocks are full of surprises, large knots, worm holes, the occasional large nail. This rough bowl will be set aside to dry, typically ten to twelve months. I will then bring it back to the lathe to finish turning and refine it. Then my favorite part – applying the oil finish, which really shows off the beauty of the wood.”

“Also from that block I will get two pieces of quarter sawn, which is the most stable part of the block due to the straight grain pattern. These are also set to dry, awaiting some inspiration on my part. I have made rolling pins, candle holders, vases, and also cut them into segments for segmented turning. I should also mention I have a friend who heats his home with wood and takes any scraps I produce. It’s all a perfect circle.”


Some of Sam Russo’s beautiful creations from a Maple tree:

Maple Bowl                                   

  Maple Rolling Pin                  

Cutting Board with Maple Edges


Thank you to Liam Axton for his Spring photos and to Sam Russo for his beautiful creations and additions to the story of the maple tree. Sam Russo’s work is available at Artisan Gallery and online.