The prettiest woodpile I've ever seen


My dad emailed me this photo today. I think it's just lovely. In fact, I'm not sure I'd have the heart to take the sculpture apart, even if I did need the firewood.

Dad didn't know where the photo came from. Do any of you? I'd love to know whether it's the work of an artist, a creative cabin owner with a lot of free time—or even just a nice Photoshop job. Whichever it is, I like it.

UPDATE: Solved! In, like, two seconds. You guys are amazing. The artist is Alastair Heseltine.

Also, I just want to take a quick moment to clarify that, when I wrote "creative cabin owner with a lot of free time", I did not mean that as an insult. My apologies for crappy wording. I meant that more to distinguish professional artists from people who don't consider themselves capital-A Artists, or who have other jobs, but who make the time to pursue artistic hobbies that they love. Something like this couldn't have been thrown together in an afternoon on a whim. It was something somebody had to have taken a lot of time to do. That's what I meant. I just worded it really poorly.


  1. It appears in “Builders of the Pacific Coast”, by Lloyd Kahn, p. 170, credited to Alastair Heseltine.

  2. On a related note….

    Ron Fahey of Sackville said Monday he was granted permission in August from Mount Allison University to take the logs stacked in an area behind the president’s residence alongside a waterfowl park in the town. “I got the okay to just take the wood and, to me, it was just a pile of wood,” he said. “If that’s art then I’m in the wrong racket. I guess I’m not cultured.”

    He had started to haul some of the wood away on Saturday when the town manager came rushing over to ask if he had permission to touch it. The three-year-old art work is by local sculptor Paul Griffin and is displayed on a town website that advertises the community as the cultural capital of Canada.

    Mr. Griffin says the town commissioned the work for $5,000 . He said he plans to put the sculpture back together. “I think I’ll have to have a sign put up” he said.

  3. Two things Maggie- when someone makes someone like this, they are an artist. Cabin owner, or not. No special license needed to be an artist.

    Second, being accused of “having a lot of free time” is a good way of pissing off someone who created something. This person used their time to create something (if it isn’t photoshopped) instead of using it to play a video game or laughing at lol cat videos.

    1. Thanks, you beat me to it. I was going to say the exact same thing, though much less elegantly.

      As a non “licensed” “artist” myself, it used to be the ultimate insult when someone would say “you must have a lot of free time on your hands”. And though I think they definitely mean it as an insult, I now take it as a compliment, since it takes a lot of work to have a lot of free time on your hands.

  4. This person used their time to create something (if it isn’t photoshopped)

    Creating something for real, and with Photoshop takes time. The only thing that makes the real one cooler is the extra effort required to put it all together. Would the end result be any different if it were a ‘shoop? Isn’t forming the idea itself what makes the job of an artist challenging?

    1. You’re right. But I would think it would be cooler if it really existed at some point.
      You said that “if it’s real, I take my hat off”. If it’s shopped, do you still take your hat off? No matter though, great concept.

  5. For God’s sake, if you haven’t followed the link from YarbroughFair above that links to the website of the artist that created it, don’t idly speculate on whether it’s ‘real’ or not.

  6. i’ve seen that before and it never fails to make me smile.

    there’s a nice example of an elegant wood pile spotted in Switzerland here:
    it’s functional (the sheet metal ‘roof’ keeps off moisture from rain or snow), and it’s also surprisingly beautiful. though it’s a real wood pile on a real farm it wouldn’t look out of place in a gallery.

    “While visiting a Swiss farm I couldn’t help but notice with what diligence, care and thoroughness this farmer piled his fireplace wood. Do you see how much love went into this stack of wood? How he built a roof to protect it? There were about 5 of these on his property. Each one of them a work of art.”

  7. #15 Re: Isn’t forming the idea itself what makes the job of an artist challenging?

    Well, the idea is part of it. Maybe the most important part. . .but the doing is all.

    Ideas can come easy. Maybe they are not ~good~ ideas, but the thinking part is merely one aspect. Ideas without action are ephemeral imaginings, succor only to the dreamer.

    I give as much credit to the person that stacked that wood (almost) as much as the person who came up with the idea.

    Action speaks louder than etc etc

    1. I agree: the capable hands, that is to say, the skill to physically make, or technically execute the act of creating, the objet d’art itself, is what REALLY counts.

      The object’s existence allows the observer (you?) to “reverse-engineer” the “idea” of it, from it: but if there were no object, there would be no idea to be found: that is to say, that there would not be that art – at all.

      Like those hoary old Sex Pistols once warbled: you need hands….

      …especially so, if you wish to be an artist.

  8. wrybread and Bender,

    Definitely not meant as an insult. My apologies. I’m thinking of it more as wrybread does. Having the free time to put something like this together means you’re making that free time to do something you love … That this kind of artistic expression couldn’t just be thrown together by somebody in an afternoon.

  9. Ok you have to be a pretty sensitive artist to take “a lot of free time” as an insult. I’m an artist and yes I do have a lot of free time…free time to create, to think. It’s the best…and Maggie, your post and picture made my day…reminded me of the woodpile out back of our place in the Texas Big Thicket, though my dad and I never got creative with it like this! If he were still alive I’d love to show him this picture. Made me smile that your dad sent it to you :)

    Keith in Rainy Los Angeles

    1. Keith, I guess I know a helluva lot of sensitive artists then. Kudos to you. When people (me and many of my friends) show their work to others and hear “looks like you have a lot of time on your hands”, the meaning that is conveyed is “I guess you had nothing better to do”.

      I know that Maggie didn’t mean this as an insult, just as most people don’t. I probably said it myself when I was younger, just consider this a heads up about how it comes across, that’s all. If that paints me as sensitive, then excuse me as I untangle my panties and go on about your business.

  10. Two responses:

    1) It reminds me very much of Peter von Tiesenhausen’s landscape art.

    2) Apparently, the ‘Tree made of wood’ is by Alastair Heseltine.

    /you people give up too easily…

  11. If someone isn’t making art for their living and for their job, aren’t they just making it in their free or spare time? It’s their time not spent at work, their free or spare time. Unless art is your profession, I don’t understand how that could be offensive.

    On another note, this is beautiful! Wish I had thought of doing it!

  12. Maggie, absolutely no need to apologize. Some people apparently have so much free time on their hands they’ve got nothing better to do than piss and moan about other people observing that something must have taken a lot of time.

  13. Maggie, putting “woodpile sculpture” into Google Images gives the picture with the artist’s name in the filename, in seconds. Boing Boing readers are frequently amazing, but finding this piece of information isn’t the reason.

  14. The bit about the cabin owner didn’t really merit an apology. If you think it did, you’re too sensitive. Stop getting contentious over the benign. It’s an ugly habit.

  15. Not worded poorly, certainly not ‘really poorly’.
    I’d love to be a cabin owner with plenty of free time on my hands.
    Wonderful piece of work.
    Very glad you put it up Maggie.

  16. Sigh. Maggie, great post (yours always are). And there was absolutely nothing wrong with your original wording.

  17. i came across this very same picture two days ago while trying to research the wood i’d just salvaged. (turns out it was slippery elm, which smells funny and is difficult to split).

  18. I totally agree that “having too much free time on your hands” is an insult — and thank you, Maggie, for your clarification.

    “You have too much free time” feels insulting because it really means “I think you’ve wasted your time. The thing you’ve made is meaningless.” But the real irony is that this criticism often comes from someone who spends a lot of their free time passively watching television or mindlessly surfing the web. The doers and makers should be telling the television-watchers that they have way too much time on their hands, not the other way around.

    The world is an interesting place because of all of the interesting things people do. Of course, we all need time to unplug, relax, and do nothing from time to time. But over the long term, virtually any creative enterprise that engages your brain is a better way to spend time than sitting around doing nothing — whether it’s building a crazy model airplane, sewing an unusual outfit, developing a whimsical computer program, standing in a public place with a “Free Hugs” sign, writing reviews of every elm tree in the neighborhood, or modifying your car to look like the one in Knight Rider.

    People with passions should be nurtured, not shamed into being passive. So the next time you’re tempted to tell someone they have too much time on their hands — stop and think, how did I spend my free time this week? Thank them for making the world a more interesting place instead!

    There’s a facebook group devoted to this cause:

  19. I’m surprised people could consider “creative cabin owner with a lot of free time” to be an insult.

    I for one would love to own a cabin and have more free time.

  20. Using the phrase “alot of free time” is not the same as saying “too much free time”. The first is a description, while the second is an accusation. The author first asked if it was the work of an artist before asking if it was the work of a creative cabin owner. In no way should that be interpreted as saying that artists waste their time on their work. The author has nothing to apologize for. That visual artists would slam a literary one for their own misinterpretation reeks of hubris.

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