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The oneoak blog is part of the SYLVA Foundation blog which contains news about the organisation and all our initiatives.

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Craftsman Jeff Soan, of Wooden Creatures, has made a beautiful articulated red deer from the OneOak timber, which has a remarkable lifelike movement. Jeff Soan is best known for his articulating wooden creatures which he has been creating since 1987.

Talking about his work in the OneOak project Jeff said:

My aim from the beginning of this project was to make animals that would be found on and around the oak tree. The main piece is a red deer. I had hoped to form the antlers with branches from the tree but in practice this doesn’t work, the branches don’t have the right form. I have also enough timber to make a badger which will give me a chance to use my favourite stain, a mixture of vinegar and steel wool which blackens the oak beautifully.
From the offcuts I will make wrens which are the soul of the oak and king of all the birds.
The Oneoak project has been an enjoyable experience for me. I am never happier than when I am using my own off cuts and maximising the use of all possible parts of the tree and knowing that others are doing the same thing with the same tree makes it even better.

Jeff studied Art and Design at Goldsmith’s College in the late 60’s, taught for a few years, travelled for a while, married, started a family and a building business during the 70’s. He gave up building in the mid 80’s and a chance encounter with a wobbly rat from Chile changed his life. He was so inspired by this articulating folk toy that he joined a course in toy making at the London College of Furniture, successfully completing the City and Guilds course. He set up his garden workshop in 1987, making toys which were sold at the local craft market in Greenwich. After a year of selling many new designs he eventually  returned to the articulating creatures that had so fascinated him. A batch of wobbly fish being snapped up by eager customers caught the eye of a passing TV producer and he was invited to take part in a BBC programme called  ‘Handmade’. Sales really took off and he started developing many different creatures incorporating the technique. Jeff joined the British Toymakers Guild in 1989. His distinctive talent was quickly recognised and he was awarded the Polka Prize in 1989, the coveted title ” Toymaker of the Year” in 1995 and 2000 and the Guild cup in 1990, 1993,1994,1995 and 1999.

Visit Jeff Soan’s website

In the final act of the OneOak project, today we returned the OneOak memorial sculpture to its rightful home; to the woodland at Blenheim Palace.

The end of the OneOak project

The end of the OneOak project: the forestry team at Blenheim Palace gather with sculptor Simon Clements (right) and Sylva’s Gabriel Hemery (left)

The sculpture, designed and made by Simon Clements, toured around all the OneOak exhibition venues during 2011 and 2012 but it was always destined to rest on top of the stump of the OneOak tree that provided the inspiration and material for the three year project. The sculpture will now remain in the woodland to weather and grow a natural patina of mosses and lichens, surrounded by a small forest of 250 oak trees.

One of the 250 oak trees planted by school children

One of the 250 oak trees planted by school children emerges from its treeshelter near the OneOak memorial sculpture

Installing the OneOak memorial sculpture

Installing the OneOak memorial sculpture and repairing a few tree stakes damaged by browsing deer

Simon Clements installs the OneOak memorial sculpture

Simon Clements installs the OneOak memorial sculpture on the tree stump

The OneOak sculpture returns

The OneOak sculpture returns fresh from its journeys around Britain – last seen in Edinburgh!

Our thanks to Simon Clements and the forestry team at Blenheim Palace.

A unique project following the full life story of a single oak tree reaches a finale this week, with the first of a series of manor exhibitions at Art in Action, where all the items made from the tree are being brought together for the first time. The products range from the waste sawdust used by legendary chef Raymond Blanc to smoke salmon, to a throne chair worth £6000, and dozens of other items including charcoal, wood block prints, tables, benches, door, house, boat, and woodchip for bioenergy.

  • The OneOak project is an environmental project of the Sylva Foundation, following the full life story of one oak tree.
  • The aim of the project is to bring people closer to the importance of our woodlands and of wood in modern society.
  • The 222 year old OneOak tree was felled on the Blenheim Estate in January 2010, witnessed by 250 school children. It had been grown in a plantation for its timber, having been planted in 1788; the same year that The Times was first published and when the French Revolution was just beginning to stir.
  • The OneOak tree is now the most studied oak tree in Britain: it has been weighed, measured with lasers to create a 3D model, studied by a dendrochronologist, and had its carbon content estimated.
  • It has been featured by dozens of artists, sculptors and photographers.
  • Many of Britain’s leading designer-makers have made items using the wood of the OneOak tree. These total over 40 different products, and counting.
  • The 250 children who witnessed the felling each planted a young oak tree in January 2011, one year after the tree was felled, to fulfil the cycle in sustainable forest management.
  • The first exhibition is at Art in Action, followed by six weeks at Blenheim Palace, then six weeks at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.


Chief Executive of the Sylva Foundation and project co-ordinator Dr Gabriel Hemery said “this has been an amazing project that has inspired both the public and those who make a living working with wood and caring for our woodlands. Everyone has given their time to the project in so many different ways because they have been inspired by the concept:- the realisation that trees and wood are still vital to life even in modern society.”

Dr Hemery continued “after three years of hard work it is immensely exciting to be bringing together all the various elements of the OneOak project for our exhibitions during the Summer and Autumn. We will be able to show the public the stunning artwork, spell-binding films, earth-shattering science, and the myriad of truly amazing wood-based products. The only products that we won’t be able include in real life in the exhibitions will be the house and the boat!”

The OneOak exhibition at Art in Action is replacing the usual ‘Woodworking’ section; the marquee will be filled uniquely with all the products of the OneOak tree. Artists, musicians, sculptors and designer-makers will be on-hand to talk and demonstrate about their work in the OneOak project. Some 25,000 people are expected to attend over the four days, and where special measures have been put in place to cope with the soggy ground.  See note from Art in Action

The following have been made to date: firewood, woodchip (to heat a house for 6 weeks), sawdust for smoking food by Raymond Blanc, charcoal, bracing beams for a house, transom beam in a boat rowed in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Flotilla, door and frame, chest, pedestal table, coffee table, throne chair, clock, lantern, moebius sculpture, jewellery, acorn oakbot sculpture from waste slabwood, memorial sculpture, carved bowls, carved spoons, turned bowls, carvings, automata, commemorative garden bench by disabled workers, five benches for primary schools including the spider bench, contemplation bench, MakeIT! bench national school design competition, nesting tables, fine furniture competition winners pieces, small craft items, deer, viola chin rest, printing blocks, relief carving, sounding bowl.

Details of the OneOak products along with the stories of their making can be found here:

The project website is

Exhibition dates:

Art in Action, Waterperry                             19th – 22nd July 2012                      Art in Action

Blenheim Palace                                               25th July – 4th October                  OneOak at Blenheim Palace

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh               12th October – 2nd December    Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

More information

download the full News Release

download the full News Release

Download the full News Release


end of News Release

OneOak website

OneOak website

Over the last two and a half years, ever since the OneOak tree was felled in January 2010, we have been endeavoring to make as many and as varied items as possible from the tree to demonstrate how important trees and wood are to us in modern life.

Now that the first of our finale exhibitions is about to open (Art in Action July 19-22), we can list for the first time the number and variety of items made from the OneOak tree.

Here is a list of items made so far that exceeds 30 in number, while for some items there have been multiple versions (e.g. benches for five different schools) – the links point to stories on the OneOak blog over the last two and half years. See also our Products page on the OneOak website

  1. firewood from branchwood
  2. woodchip, from branchwood, for heating a house
  3. sawdust for smoking food, waste from processing other items
  4. charcoal
  5. bracing beams for a house
  6. transom beam in a boat, rowed in the Queens’ Diamond Jubilee Flotilla
  7. door and frame
  8. chest
  9. pedestal table
  10. coffee table
  11. throne chair
  12. clock
  13. lantern
  14. moebius sculpture
  15. jewellery
  16. acorn oakbot sculpture, from waste slabwood
  17. memorial sculpture, from branchwood
  18. carved bowls
  19. carved spoons
  20. turned bowls
  21. carvings
  22. automata
  23. Commemorative garden bench
  24. five benches for primary schools, including the spider bench
  25. contemplation bench
  26. MakeIT! bench, national school design competition
  27. nesting tables, fine furniture competition winner
  28. small craft items
  29. deer
  30. viola chin rest
  31. printing blocks
  32. relief carving
  33. sounding bowl

We will update this list in the future and include information on some of the items that so far have not been featured in the OneOak blog.

We hope to see at one of our exhibitions during 2012



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