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Interweaving Architecture and Spirit

By Nora Heston Tarte | Photos by Manny Espinoza

Jayson Fann built his first nest, a large, interactive sculpture, at his childhood home in Omaha Nebraska at age eight. He constructed the piece out of driftwood gathered from a nearby river, dragging the large chunks into his house to create a meditation space in his bedroom. The structure became the inspiration for Fann’s most recognizable works, which are made from eucalyptus branches and sometimes from driftwood, vibrating messages of sustainability and connectedness to nature and others.

Because Fann started working with spatial concepts and design at a young age, he has considerable experience building large-scale pieces. He currently has works on display throughout the Central Coast, including the Tannery Arts Center in Santa Cruz and the Post Ranch Inn and Treebones Resort in Big Sur. He is constructing a memorial piece for a girl who attended the River School in Carmel, working with nearly 100 of her classmates to sand down beautiful pieces of repurposed redwood.

Fann’s artwork varies in size. The largest nest piece Fann has ever built, when completed, will be 150 feet long, 25 feet tall, and created from over 100,000 pounds of repurposed wood. It will take eight months to complete.

Fann sources his materials from Big Sur and surrounding communities, choosing woods that are overly abundant, even invasive. As a result, his pieces do not adversely affect the environment. Most of what he uses would otherwise end up in a landfill, as the city of Santa Cruz alone puts over 100,000 pounds of driftwood into its landfill annually. A piece he built at the San Rafael Civic Center was made in partnership with local state parks, where officials were looking to remove much of the invasive eucalyptus to reduce fire threat. “

A lot of the influence of the nest has to do with the language of nature and the patterns of nature,” says Fann. He chooses eucalyptus—his most used material for his oversized endeavors—which is rarely used in California, because of its pliability, availability, and role as a sustainable resource. “It’s also a very beautiful wood; it’s very sculptural,” he says. “I started to notice, in the branches and in the limbs, [that] eucalyptus has its own language.” By using sustainable materials, Fann hopes others will see their potential and integrate them into home design and residential and commercial building.

Nests are just one of Fann’s artistic efforts. The interdisciplinary artist and designer teaches throughout Monterey County, through the Artists in Schools program, and has been featured at numerous arts and cultural centers around the world. He’s appeared in several documentary films, hosted art and music festivals, performed around the world as a musician, and built a sculpture garden in Big Sur, the Big Sur Spirit Garden, where he’s curated over 400 concerts.

Much of Fann’s work is influenced by his time spent in Africa. He attended the University of Ghana and studied indigenous architecture, focusing on how different people create spaces with what they have on hand. One of his most important influences was Nigerian musician Babatunde Olatunji, who inspired Fann artistically and musically. Over the years, Fann has toured as a visual and musical director with playwright and actress Akuyoe Graham, performed with composer John Wineglass as a soloist in his composition Big Sur the Night Sun, and toured over 30 countries with Nigerian singer and poet Iyeoka Ivie Okoawo.

For Fann, whose first form of creative expression was dance, it’s all connected. “The movement of those branches reminded me a lot of movement in dance,” he says. “I’m not trying to force the material or bend the material into a particular shape; I’m focused on what already exists in the medium.” For more information, visit


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