Atascadero Library’s Radiant Reading Oak

felted tree sculptureThe Children’s Area at the Atascadero Library is one of our favorite places to be. It has wooden puzzles, the cutest puppet station, computer games and coloring. It’s also home to a beautiful felted sculpture called the “Radiant Reading Oak” by Atascadero artist Lauren Birkhahn.


Read on to learn the story behind that lovely tree.

As my kiddos tried to shove stuffed animals behind the faux oak tree in the kids corner, I was like “Duuuude. Let’s be GENTLE with the tree. It’s a sculpture and it’s special.”

I mean, that’s obvi just by looking at its delicate swaths of colorful felt fabric. But it’s special-ness is ingrained in my brain because I watched little hands create its felted leaves. I interviewed the artist when I was news reporter a few years ago, and I felt how her love of books transform into art firsthand.

Here’s a look at my 2015 Tribune article on the making of this tree sculpture:

“Little hands pulled long tufts of colorful, wispy fibers from long stretches of wool as children chattered and Atascadero artist Lauren Birkhahn demonstrated her craft.

Birkhahn was commissioned to create a tree sculpture for the Captain’s Family Corner at the new location of the Atascadero Martin Polin Regional Library, and she’s inviting the community to her downtown art studio to help create felted leaves for its elaborate treetop.

‘As a child, I often had a picture in my mind of the ideal place to read being under a tree. It inspires a calming place for children to read or be read to,’ Birkhahn said. ‘That was my goal. It is so special.’

The overall tree sculpture is made of felt, foam and lightweight balsa wood and features a hand-dyed trunk that fades in the color spectrum from purple to turquoise in a pattern inspired by valley oak bark. The branches also have hand-sewn elements. The felted leaves are grouped to shift in color through magenta, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. The tree took more than 60 hours to create, which roughly spanned over six months.”

Sixty hours. … isn’t that insane?! The amount of work and love put into this one tree? I thought so, at least. These days, as the years pass further from when I was a reporter, I feel thankful to have these background stories of seemingly everyday things stored in this crazy brain of mine.

To have been told these stories and to have experienced them at their origins. And I hope that I’m honoring them in some way. And now, by sharing these places and experiences with my children.

If you like art, read my: Kid-Friendly Art Walk to the Circle of Life Sculpture in Paso Robles 

About Tonya Strickland

Tonya Strickland is a journalist and Instagram influencer in the family and travel niche. A former newspaper reporter, Tonya shares unfiltered #momlife content about places to go with kids. Her family moved from California's Central Coast to Washington state in August 2020. Their adventures now continue in the Pacific Northwest.

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