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The Ultimate Arborist: Evan Shively in West Marin


The Ultimate Arborist: Evan Shively in West Marin

July 6, 2016

Walking past the stacks of wood at Arborica with owner Evan Shively, I am reminded of the first time I went to a cherry blossom viewing in Japan; when I looked up at the canopy of pretty pink petals, I knew I was seeing only a fraction of what everyone else saw. History, knowledge, and experience were required to see deeper. It was the same feeling at Arborica.

Wedged into a rolling West Marin landscape not far from Tomales Bay is a road lined with salvaged trunks and stacks of wood piled high. Arborica is Shively’s lumber yard, mill, and showroom, which has become a prized resource for craftsmen and designers alike. Shively’s own foray into wood was a circuitous one. The Harvard grad worked as a chef for many years (at Postrio, Enrico’s, and Manka’s), but sees his “work with wood is a continuation of what I learned in the kitchen: being grateful for one another.” Frustrated at not being able to find wood for his own creations, he resorted to sourcing it, and unwittingly found himself presiding over a wood salvage business. Despite the burly nature of the trade, Shively’s humility and deference to his craft are evident when he says, “You need the wisdom to try to minimize your own preconceptions and your own sense of entitlement and appreciate what things actually are.” For more information, go to Arborica.

Photography by Mimi Giboin.


Above: Shively describes his business as “big, gnarly, loud, and dangerous,” but adds that when cutting wood, “the goal is to have the same regard and tenderness that you have for making furniture.”


Above: When you saw a tree, “it dictates where it wants to be cut.”


Above: Wood stacked along the road.


Above: A relatively small percentage of salvaged wood is good for lumber, and Shively has created a system for using the whole tree. Eucalyptus and fir do not work well for scale but can be used for sculptural work or cabinet stock and flooring.


Above: A detail of a cross section of wood.


Above L: Shively at work. Above R: “It is easy to project expectations but the trees owe me nothing,” Shively say. “There are astonishing moments because the wood so often exceeds expectations of how beautiful it can be.”


Above: Inventory in the showroom, with a sculpture of Shively’s in the foreground.


Above: Bay laurel, redwood, and California nutmeg are some of the woods on display.

N.B.: If you want to see Shively’s work in situ, see Steal This Look: A Garden Courtyard at Shed in Healdsburg. And The Coal and Feed is his rental house that sits on Tomales Bay.

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