The Making of a Whimsical Wisdom Tree

Inspiration Playground Wisdom Tree Bellevue Washington inclusive play playground custom art sculpture 

It’s big, fantastical, otherworldly and whimsical!  And it’s designed to be the grand centerpiece in the imaginary fairytale-like setting of Inspiration Playground in Bellevue, Washington.  

This majestic fantasy-like tree is meticulously designed and meticulously fabricated collaboratively in the studios and workshops of Design Concepts and IDSculpture.

Loosely modeled from a giant cedar, the tree takes shape rising 24 feet tall high, with 10 and 12-foot spiraling gold branches, dotted with randomly placed light accents.

A Wise Old Face

Carving art and faces into trees is commonplace but always a great find when stumbled upon.  At Inspiration Playground, the face in the tree is artistically hand chiseled and carved. The face in the tree trunk is detailed and textured to look just like a subtly carved wood grain work of art, in this case, a wise old face.


What’s a whimsical tree without dramatic detail using fanciful lighting?! 10 strings of 204 ‘live node’ lights wind and weave around the branches to create a sensational visual appeal. The LED lights are programmable with variable colors, pulsing and contrast intensity.  A light show can be programmed to complement events, holidays, theme or season. At night, it will glow and pulse creating a whimsical sculpture cutting through a dark sky.

Meticulous Detail

From initial sketches and concepts that were imagined and created in the design studio of Design Concepts, the innovators and fabricators at IDSculpture were able to turn a concept into a constructible reality.  Every detail of the tree has an artistic touch. From the tip of a spiral to the nose on the wise old face, both conceptualizer and fabricator alike took great care in each of the smallest of detail.


In the shop, the artists, craftsmen and fabricators of IDSculpture brought to life from the fantasy world of creative design and imagination.  The tree is made of a propriety mix of concrete, PVC, rebar and steel.  Solid cast concrete is topped with a hand sculpted topcoat layer—this is the medium to create the design texture and features of a realistic tree.  Its base is anchored over 5 feet deep into the ground with reinforced concrete.

In the end, from idea, detail, artist or master craftsman, every part of the design and fabrication process highlights great innovators, idea-generators and collaborators.  And this was only possible in the beginning when a great collaboration between the City of Bellevue and Rotary Club of Bellevue came to be.

All in all, the great majestic Whimsical Wisdom Tree comes to life today!

BTD at Inspiration Playground: Canyon Boulders in a Playground!

“Hey friends . . . We had a soggy and successful week up in Bellevue,” said Andy Dufford as he oversees the installation of the Canyon Boulders at Inspiration Playground.  Yes, it’s another piece of the play + art story that includes the Canyon Waterfall that will lightly sprinkle water between two pieces of a granite boulder.  Once a single form, the 5’ x 10’ boulder was sliced into large pieces—these are the canyon walls.  Inside the playground, children will walk or wheel between the canyon walls with water cascading down. Working with us on this piece of play art located within the interactive water play area, Chevo Studios conceptualized the canyon concept.  Fabrication required slicing the boulder in half lengthwise with a diamond wire saw, cutting 2.5’ of the end creating the flat base for the boulder to stand vertically.  Then the boulder’s halves were cut into quarters to form the sides of the waterfall element, with the remaining half forming the dry side of the canyon wall. Cutting of the boulders took place on an open workshop site, and are currently being installed on site as the playground takes shape on these wet winter days in Bellevue.


BTD-Inspiration Playground: Artists at Work

Design Concepts Behind the Design

The collaboration between landscape architect and master artist is the storyline of this video.  In this Behind the Design story at Bellevue’s Inspiration Playground, we’re celebrating the artistry and master craftsmanship happening in an eclectic back alley of Denver’s National Western Complex neighborhood.  Here, in the emerging Rhino Art District, tucked among historic buildings, restaurants, studios, railyards, storage yards and stockyards, is the workshop of Chevo Studios.  Master stone artist and maestro of art that lives beautifully in its surroundings, Andy Dufford and his team are skillfully carving, cutting, grinding, hammering and fabricating massive boulders of sandstone and granite, soon-to-become the Water Play Table and Canyon Waterfall Boulders at Inspiration Playground.

Flying spots, spiraling lollipops and polka dotted plants

Artistic rendering of sandblasted artwork imagery at Bellevue Inspirations Playground

There’s some seriously fun etching happening on the construction site for Inspiration Playground at Bellevue’s Downtown Park. Flying spots, spiraling lollipops, and polka dots are some of the small fun artistic details soon to be found embedded in the concrete to enhance seats and walls.

Artistic imagery sandblasted into concrete seatwalls at Bellevue Inspirations Playground

Along the arching “Tactile Walk” is a patterned colored concrete path interspersed with bands of colorful tumbled glass in red, blue, yellow and green, sections inset with pebbles and cobbles, and areas with impressions of leaves.  Curved seat walls are super-special design features constructed in concrete with sandblasted etchings and colored with Lithichrome stone paints. 

The Wisdom Tree Plaza and Rockin’ Music Plaza have seat walls with donor’s inscriptions. Surrounding the inscriptions are fun whimsical flower, insect and grass images. Ladybugs, flying dragonflies and butterflies with trailing flight dots, green grasses and leaves, polka dotted mushrooms, red spiraling lollipop flowers, yellow daisies, violet tulips are etched in concrete and colored with stone paints.

On-site testing on sample walls looked at varying textures and finishes to determine the perfect level and intensity of texture and depth.