The Making of The Hope Tree

As you have read about under “The Meaning of The Hope Tree,” once I had chosen a bonsai as the perfect vehicle for our message and the basic structure for our sculpture, things moved pretty quickly. Within a day that concept was pretty much complete in my mind and sketched out on paper. I never lost sight of that initial vision and meaning. Nurturing it deliberately, I would often spend hours on end just looking at my simple sketches – picturing how this part would be made, where what challenges would lie, what would be the most fun, how in the heck would I make the leaves, what terrified me the most – planning it all out in my head like a complex chess game. I kept sketches taped up all over the house: looking at it as I brushed my teeth, fixed coffee, glanced up from the computer monitor or sat in the bathroom.

No one is more astounded than I am that The Hope Tree looks so much like the initial concept. With large works like this that take many months – often years to complete, it is the norm for the concept to evolve. We are none of us the same people we awoke as yesterday and happy accidents abound without looking for them. Improvement is one thing – but the trick is to not let a great concept get diluted or even lost along the way. If this spark of inspiration is not protected like the tiny, delicate seedling that it is, it can easily morph into something unrecognizable from the initial concept. This depends on many factors: how much guidance the client gives, the import of other’s opinions, the group of artisans you hire to help you in your quest, your own personal growth and experiences over the months of fabrication, “shop dynamics,” engineering concerns that can drastically change the structure or fabrication style, deadlines, budget issues and countless other interferences. The list of potential influences – good and bad – is truly endless.

Your days are filled with a million decisions all measured by the question: “Will this support and enhance the concept or diminish it?” And there are days that you stand alone like Dumbo in the middle of a packed-house circus tent filled with people shouting: “Whatever made you think you could do this??!!??” And all you can do is humbly whisper, head down: “But I have this vision.”

So for better or for worse – whether you are inspired by it or not – I take full responsibility for this work. It was my vision and I saw to it that this seedling grew into a magnificent tree to the best of my ability. It is my deepest hope that you will find some comfort in this story and relate it to your own struggle with cancer now – never letting go of your own vision for wellness – in whatever form that takes.

– Carol Jeanotilla


The Creative Process

People find The Hope Tree endlessly fascinating in so many ways. In addition to questions about what it all means, we are asked everything from “How the heck did you dream that up?” to “What’s it made from?” And “How did you ever get it through the door?”

For those of you intrigued by this mysterious process, here is the inside scoop. We show you blooper shots as well as some very bad ideas that – thankfully – never made it into the final sculpture. We have outlined the whole process for you below – gorgeous and ingenious – goobers and all.

Click on the process that peaks your interest and view a gallery of photos showing how we did that portion of the project. Enjoy your soup-to-nuts tour and come join the crew for the next one!

Click the thumbnails below to see a larger image.

Our Team

Early Concept


Steel Armature

Clay Sculpting

Metal Cladding

Shipping Day


Copper Leaves

Food For Thought

You have to go to the edge to figure out what’s in me. What can I do. And then that’s what you do.

- by Emily Miner

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Hope Tree Facts

Height: 13 Feet
Length: 13 Feet
Width: 8 Feet
Number of Symbols: 48
Number of Leaves: 624
Start to Finish Process: 447 days
Fabrication Manhours: 14,775
Steel: 1,800 lbs
Clay: 1,000 lbs
Metal Cladding: 300 lbs
Copper Leaves: 208 lbs
Total Estimated Weight: 3,310 lbs
Floor Anchor Bolts: 20
Copper Wire: 1,286 Feet
Tree Traveled: 1,242 miles
Travel Time: 29 hours 44 minutes
Installation Time: 12 days
Project Team Members: 68