Stonington – The first thing Westerly artist Kristin Shaffer thought was, “I have to do this.”
Shaffer said it was her first reaction when Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce President Lisa Konicki first showed her a photo of what she wanted to build at Town Dock this Christmas season.
Shaffer is among 55 artists whose work will be on display Saturday at 4:30 p.m., when the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce officially unveils a 25-foot-tall tree made from 330 green lobster traps and decorated with thousands of lights. multicolored and 330 buoys painted by a large group of artists. On Wednesday afternoon, the teams finished assembling the tree, which is large enough to walk inside.
Konicki originally came up with the idea for the tree in December 2019, when she saw others in other commercial fishing communities such as Gloucester, Mass., Used to boost tourism. She started working on the project last spring as she brought together and coordinated artists, sponsors, equipment and volunteers. These include AB Powell Woodworks, who built the entrance; Mystic Knotworks, which provides a rope for entry; and JR Sheetmetal of Westerly, who created the sign.
“I’m like a kid before Christmas. I’m so excited about it,” Konicki said of the completion of the $ 36,000 project, which she says is already one of the biggest lobster traps. existing.
The tree will be lit up every evening from 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and is expected to attract thousands of people during the holiday season.
“We want to use it as a landmark to attract people to the borough to eat and shop. It’s a way to support local businesses during the winter,” Konicki said. The tree will become an annual tradition, she said, with new buoys added each year.
The first woman chosen, Danielle Chesebrough, called the tree a “very cool new tradition” for the city.
Among the buoys are three to commemorate the deceased, two memorials for the dogs, two wedding ceremonies and one depicting a family’s journey from Africa to their new home in Westerly. Others describe various scenic spots in the area, while others show the companies and organizations that sponsored them. While most are painted, some have mosaic tiles, sea glass, beads, or recycled materials.
One called “Sea Odyssey” by Alan Jones and Ysela Caceres of Westerly shows an octopus made from clay grabbing a ship at sea. Another called “The Lobster Catcher” by Tim Love is made of marbles. reflective glass used on roads and should glow in the dark.
Some of the buoys will be auctioned on February 4, 2022, while others will be returned to the companies, organizations and individuals who sponsored them. In addition to the artists, 44 students from Stonington painted buoys in two workshops this fall.
Shaffer said she asked if she could do more when Konicki retrieved the first buoy she painted.
This led to 10 more, including those for the Gray Sail Brewery and Westerly Sun and another representative Susette Tibus, the winner of the Athena Chamber Prize this year. His favorite was commissioned by the family of a man who died last summer and asked him to include depictions of firefighters, angel wings and a cross.
“I hope to meet them on Saturday,” she said.
Self-described artist Susan Pfeifer Scala has painted the most buoys of any artist – over 35 in the past two months. Tuesday, she finished the last.
“There were a lot of stories to tell,” she said.
With his buoys representing companies ranging from Valenti Motors to Westerly Hospital and various nonprofits, one of his favorites is that of a fisherman from Noank who built his own boat.
“A man who built his own boat touches your heart,” she said, adding that the project has allowed her to get out and meet so many people.
“The joy you’ll have when you see them, that’s what it’s all about,” she said of the tree. “It’s going to bring people together at a time when we’ve been through a lot.”
More information about the tree, including a photo gallery of all the buoys, a list of sponsors and more, can be found at Lobstertraptree.com.