Jayson Fann constructs complex nests for human use out of Eucalyptus
After reading a book about legendary Sioux medicine man Black Elk at the age of thirteen, Jayson Fann was inspired to take action. Six months later he had left his home in Omaha, Nebraska to travel to the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota and was sitting shoulder to shoulder with Fools Crow and Dawson Has No Horses, learning the ancient Native American traditions of Sacred Hoops.
Skip forward twenty-six years and Fann is an established designer and artist in Big Sur, California, inspiring others with his large-scale architectural installations. After his first trip to South Dakota back in 1987, Fann returned home and constructed a miniature Sacred Hoop tied with a thin strip of ribbon after his brief education from the Sioux people.
This early tradition of forming rings from woven branches arose from the story of medicine man Black Elk, who at the age of nine had his first vision which told of ‘the four major races of humanity [living] together in peace’. Fann has taken inspiration from this and launched his own programme to educate on the values of cross cultural understanding, reconciliation and healing: The Sacred Hoop Initiative.
The Sacred Hoop Initiative brings together groups of different ethnicities with artists, spiritual leaders, activists and educators to encourage people to call an end to interracial violence and gender inequality, enhance Native American sacred land protection, and foster respect for their fellow man. Alongside the interactive cultural offerings the initiative presents, there is the construction of a giant Sacred Hoop as a symbol of understanding, reconciliation and healing (see left for photos).
This is not the only vernacular architecture that Fann indulges in. He has also made a name for himself with his wonderful Spirit Nests which can be found at a range of locations across America. One of the most recent places to be graced with a human-sized nest is Marin Country Day School in Corte Madera an independent K-8 co-ed school in a generous 35-acre green expanse in California.
Last year, Fann met with children from the school to incorporate them into his Spirit Nest project. The children were invited to help Fann construct a large nest on a hilltop above one of their playing fields which would be used for play and as an educational tool. The structure consists of a spiralling wheel of branches which form a cosy hideaway lined with pillows and mats for comfort. This nest is elevated upon a platform made of thick branches and accessed via a timber ladder or wooden bridge.
Fann makes every effort to achieve a sustainable result, using branches sourced from sustainable forests, private residences and driftwood washed up on the shore. These natural materials are then stripped of their leaves using a machete before being transported back to Fann’s workshop base, The Big Sur Spirit Garden. The favoured wood for constructing Spirit Nests and Sacred Hoops is Eucalyptus due to its strength and durable properties although Fann is equally flexible in his selection of materials.
Using either wet freshly cut wood or dry branches, the artist begins to weave the basic nest form, usually at his workshop before transportation to the site but in particularly difficult situations this is completed onsite. Once the last branch has been twisted into formation, work begins at the final location. The nest base is bolted together for stability and usually placed on gravel or flagstone for drainage before the actual nest capsule is lowered into place by crane. Fann and his team the spend the next few days joining the two sections by weaving additional branches into place to conceal the point where they meet and constructing a sturdy ladder for the entranceway.
These warm and secluded retreats are a stunning example of vernacular architecture and the power behind Fann’s inspiration. A quote from Black Elk, the Native American medicine man who inspired the Sacred Hoop, is replicated on Fann’s website and provides a little insight into the source of these spiralling structures: “Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle. The sky is round and I have heard that the Earth is round like a ball and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours.”