Wood from the rosemary plant
Art forms are all around us, but I never expected to find materials in the dead shrubs of
a garden. An old rosemary plant had to be dug up, and there I noticed unique and
fascinating shapes in the wood, the skeleton of the rosemary herb. With a little snipping
and cleaning, the wood became the basis for several bejeweled art projects. Here's a
look at some of the ways to combine the wood with semi-precious gemstones and quartz
Twists, nooks and channels
Rosemary wood is rich in nooks, channels, and twists that enable unique combinations
with other media, such as gems, wire, and beads. The creative artist can implant
other objects in a way that takes advantage of the natural
contours of the wood, making it appear the vine actually grew
around, or gave birth to the cradled object. I've used
bare copper wire, colored wire, jewelry stones, crystals, and polished rock.
My personal interest has been quartz crystals and gemstones. The rosemary wood works
nicely as a support for long, unfinished crystals, while crevices and indentations provide
natural sockets for the gemstones (Figure 1). Depending how you cut it, you can use the wood for
simple handles, wands, frames, or even miniature trees with many branches.
Figure 1. Select stones to fit the natural contours of the rosemary wood.
Find and harvest the wood
The rosemary plant, fortunately, grows in almost all climates; zones 4 to 24 in the Sunset
Western Gardening book. The best wood comes from plants that have recently died or
gone over the hill. These yield thick stems with many twists and branches to work with.
Look for plants with stems at least 1/2 inch in thickness. This reduces the chances of
breakage, and makes a nice grip for a hand-held object. The wood is relatively hard, so
pests and rot are rarely a problem.
If you don't have plants on your own property, look around the neighborhood for brown or
dead bushes. Every gardener that I've ever approached has been more than happy to
have this strange man dig up and haul away the dead plants in his yard. You'll need a
good set of rose clippers, a pair of branch loppers, and maybe a small hand saw to
retrieve the wood.
Scraping and shaping
The raw rosemary wood is covered with a loose, flaky bark that is readily removed with a
wire brush and sandpaper. This dark outer layer clings deep inside the crevices and
crannies, so you'll need to decide if you want to remove most of it with a blade, or leave
some in the deeper pockets and seal it with a finish, such as shellac. Leaving the gullies
darker is just fine, as it contrasts nicely with the lighter, pine-colored wood. If you
plan to imbed stones or gems into the crevices, however, be sure to expose an area of
heartwood, so the glue will make a secure anchor into the wood.
You'll need to trim the smaller branches, and smooth off the
ends. Handheld rotary tools, such as
Dremel, do a good job here, as they have different
attachments for cutting, sanding, and polishing the wood. A decent set of hand carving
tools is also recommended. Figure 2 shows the appearance of a typical project from raw
wood, to debarking, and final stone setting.
Figure 2. Steps in the process of making the wand. Top: Raw wood. Middle: Trimmed and
sanded. Bottom: Stones placed and wood finish applied.
The creative process
Next is the fun part, where you figure out what kind of design you are interested in
creating. Actually, you might have more success with Michelangelo's method, where you
just study the wood piece and let it tell you what lies inside. One specimen, for example,
might have a long furrow running the full length of the stick. Maybe a bare copper wire
would fit in there, reflecting the flow of life-giving nutrients to the leaves of a tree. Or
another might have a string of pockets that would hold matching gemstones.
Use your powers of intuition and creative abilities.
Figure 3. Healing wand with imbedded stones.
I'm fortunate to have a decent-sized inventory of different colored rocks, gems, and
jewelry, so one of the methods I use is to examine the indentations and see which stones
fit snugly into the opening. There's a certain beauty to allowing the stones to find their
own correct positioning in the wood, as opposed to extensive carving and drilling to force
a fit. For those interested in the metaphysical properties of semi-precious stones,
consider selecting those that correspond to the colors of the seven charkas.
These make beautiful Native American medicine sticks or Reiki healing wands (Figure 3).
An alternative is to select stones of a specific color or matching palate to create a theme.
For example, I created a 'tree' with turquoise chips as the leaves (Figure 4).
Figure 4. Rosemary wood forms the basis of a tree with turquoise leaves.
There are many ways to finish the wood. These range from doing nothing, and letting the
oils from the owner's hands supply a soft patina, to fully staining, sealing, or shellacking
the finished project. Since the objects I enjoy feature native, or primitive designs, I like to
keep that theme going by leaving the wood in a mostly unfinished state. I generally add
just one coat of linseed or tung oil as a finish. You might choose to apply a stain, a
sealer, and varnish to create a more polished look. For wands, a frame or stand allows
you to display the creation as a piece or artwork. Try variations using feathers, leather
string, and oil painting right on the wood.
To sum up . . .think outside the box when you plan your artwork. Here I thought I was
throwing away garden waste, when I realized that wood from the shrubbery provided a
unique medium for creative design. Rosemary wood, with its indentations and sinuous
curves, matches nicely with other materials, such as jewelry and stones. So, what will