This Ash Lives: Artist Mic Mead finds inspiration from fallen tree to create award-winning work

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    Mic Mead sands a table in his workshop. (Photo by Theresa Skutt)
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    Mic Mead is working on a piece that will be a stag chandelier.
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    Mic Mead rests beneath an owl sculpture at his home.
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    “This Ash Lives” won best three-dimensional work at the Hoosier Salon show. (Photos by Theresa Skutt)

By Renee Larr

Many talented artists are said to find inspiration in nature. Walking among the trees, leaves and the scenery along his 40 acres of property is where Mic Mead found his spark for an award-winning piece of art in the form of a fallen ash tree.

Mead, 82, walks his property daily and would often find himself taking a break on the log.

“One day I looked at the stump. The stump was about 6 feet tall and split off at an angle. I noticed it was completely hollow,” Mead said. “As I got closer to it, I thought, ‘I’m going to do something with that tree,’ So, I cut it off. It was full of what looked like used mulch. Apparently the carpenter ants had hallowed it over the years.”

What Mead did with that tree was spend three years turning it into a one-of-a-kind craftsman-style table.

“I cut the stump off, got it sheltered where it could dry and power washed it. I had to dry it and think about what I wanted to do,” said Mead, who has a Carmel address but lives in Westfield.

Once the table was finished, Mead set about figuring out what to do with the large piece of art. While he enjoyed having it in his home, he thought he could find a better use for it. He did his research and found the Hoosier Salon in Carmel.

“The Hoosier Salon is a great organization in its 92nd year,” Mead said. “It was founded by T.C. Steele who was a painter down in Brown County. (Its) goal is to build better relationships between Indiana’s artists and to showcase their work.”

After joining the organization, his table, named “This Ash Lives,” was picked to represent three dimensional art in the show. The gallery director thought it might be nice to have a second piece of art from Mead, so he also entered a sculpture. Mead was surprised to find both of his pieces were chosen for the show.

“About 174 pieces were accepted into the show,” Mead said. “About a dozen of us got two pieces in. So, I was pretty proud.”

Juried artists are hired each year to choose items for the show.

“Two artists came in and chose all the work that got into the annual exhibition,” said Jim May, executive director of Hoosier Salon. “I think what they saw in his furniture piece was a pretty high level of refinement as far as craftsmanship skills. The finishes were very well done. Beyond that, I think his conception of the piece was original. It’s interesting because he didn’t do the craftsmanship on the base. That’s all sort of done by nature, but he’s the one who combined that natural element with the more industrial components.”

Mead won $1,000 and first place in the three dimensional category for “This Ash Lives” in the Hoosier Salon exhibit. This was the first year Mead exhibited work in the elite show.

The life of a craftsman

Born in Indianapolis, Mead attended Purdue University and spent two years in the Navy and eight years in the reserves before starting a career that included building houses, beginning a carving company and selling backpacking equipment. He employed up to 250 people at seven stores before turning the business over to the employees in 1995. That’s when he returned to the area.

“My wife’s folks had built here where we live now,” Mead said. “They built the first day camp in America on their property starting in 1933. That grew into a camp that 15,000 (campers from the) north side of Indianapolis came to, but when they couldn’t manage it anymore and needed to sell it, we tried to help them and instead ended up buying it.”

Mead has been a craftsman for all of his adult life, but art is his hobby. He has created sculptures and recently started painting. He began work on a second table from another tree on his property.

“The wood was pretty wet when I got it,” Mead said. “I have to make sure it’s really dry before I fit the pieces together and come to a final shape. It’s going to be pretty artsy when it’s done. I’ll bet I spend another year or two on it.”

After a piece is done, he immediately begins thinking about the next piece and what he plans to do. Perhaps first, he’ll start with a walk.

Meet Mic Mead

Favorite local restaurant: At mealtime I am an exceedingly well kept man at home.

Favorite color: Earthtones

Birthplace: Indianapolis

Favorite vacation spot: My brother’s remote rustic cabin, Sawtooth Mountains Wilderness Area, Idaho

Family: Wife Jill Sweet Mead, five children and stepchildren and six grandchildren

Place of work: ACORN FARM

Vehicle: 1986 Grand Wagoneer Jeep

Favorite quote: It is a great art to saunter (Henry David Thoreau)

Motto to live by: God give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other. (Reinhold Niebuhr)

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