Ironwood of The Sonoran Desert
For centuries native peoples have been creating amazing works of art from one of nature’s strangest and beautiful hardwoods.
The Ironwood Tree
Ironwood (Oleyna Tesota) is found in abundance in the Southwestern US and Northern Mexico almost exclusively in the Sonoran Desert. In fact, Southern Arizona has America’s largest concentration of ironwood trees. The Ironwood Forest National Monument located northwest of Tucson was created to preserve the lands that this amazing plant calls home.
Oleyna Tesota, or what natives call “Comitin” is a flowering bush or tree that grows to approximately 30 feet tall at maturity with a trunk that measures about two feet across. It produces pink or purple flowers during the early summer months when the desert is warm during the day and still cool at night.
The wood from Oleyna Tesota has very unusual characteristics. It is extremely hard and heavy and being much denser than most other wood, it does not float. These characteristics are why it is called “Ironwood”.
The art of ironwood carving originated with the Seri people of Sonora, Mexico many years ago and continues today. They use only naturally fallen branches that are cured for at least three years. Live Ironwood is never harvested for this purpose.
The wood is almost impossibly hard to work and takes special tools and a great deal of patience to carve. Each finished piece is more of a sculpture than a carving. After crude shapes are chiseled out, the artist brings the piece to life by carefully shaping and adding detail with special blades. The figures are then sanded, buffed, and polished to an amazingly smooth finish that lets the intricate grains and subtle color variances show through.
The deep glow of the wood is achieved without lacquer or varnish. The natural shine comes from the remarkable density and natural oils in the wood. These works of art will display this fantastic clarity and shine with occasional application of paste shoe polish and a buff with a soft cloth.
Sunland Artisans is honored to be an exclusive retailer of authentic North American ironwood carvings, and we are proud to be able to share this unique artwork with the world. More than just statues and figurines, these amazing carvings are available in other décor items and household accessories. You can shop the complete line of genuine ironwood product such as bookends, lamps, finials, paper towel holders, napkin dispensers, candle holders, and much more.