Naperville tree preservation project offers wood for artists
Creative types who want to join the ranks of the woodworkers, furniture producers, guitar makers and brewers who are carrying on the legacy of a 250-year-old tree can get a piece of it on Saturday.
The Naperville Parks Foundation, which is leading an art-based preservation project featuring the former Hobson Oak, is offering kiln-dried wood from the tree from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at 224 N. Washington St. in Naperville.
Artists who commit to create pieces of art or furniture for charity auctions beginning this fall can pick up their raw material for free during Saturday's event.
The wood is part of the second batch to be kiln-dried after the tree was cut down in November 2016, said Mary Lou Wehrli, a Naperville Parks Foundation board member.
The Hobson Oak stood on the north side of Hobson Road east of Greene Road near Naperville and Woodridge for 250 years, officials estimate, before it was deemed a safety risk because of a decaying trunk and drooping limbs.
Instead of letting the tree fade into history, the foundation began to connect with artists so its wood could take on new forms. The plan is to give each table, guitar, bowl or necklace made from the tree to a nonprofit organization, which can raffle off the art to support its mission, said Troy Cooper, president of the parks foundation.
A year into the project, Wehrli said organizers wanted to expand the reach of the wood to more artists. Another distribution may be available in the future to give pieces more suitable for jewelry or smaller works.
The giveaway comes as brewers from Solemn Oath Brewery in Naperville, Miskatonic Brewing Company in Darien and Hop Butcher for the World, which brews out of Miskatonic's location in Darien, are working to create two beers using Hobson Oak chips. One will be an India pale ale and the other an imperial milk stout.
Jeremiah Zimmer with Hop Butcher for the World said the IPA is likely to be finished in a month. The milk stout will be aged for roughly six months in barrels filled with Hobson Oak chips, which he said will impart dryness and hints of vanilla flavor.
"Oak is used in brewing of beer a lot. Usually it's in the form of a barrel that was previously used for bourbon," Zimmer said. "It's just putting beer in contact with the wood and trying to get a certain character."