Alumni Profile: Nick Araya ’01

arayatopArborist branches out to new sideline of creating bowls

Nick Araya ’01 of Inglewood, Calif., feels an emotional attachment to trees. So much so that he has become a certified arborist and is owner of the tree-care company TreeCareLA in Los Angeles.

When a recent client, Karine, was faced with the emotional decision to remove her beloved lemon tree to make room for an expansion to their house, Araya felt her pain.

“They were throwing around ideas about how they might be able to preserve the tree,” explains Araya. But all the options were prohibitively expensive, and Araya and the homeowners mutually decided the tree would have to come down.

Araya’s reaction: “Ah, bummer, we’re cutting down a tree.” He says the company is not a run-of-the-mill tree service, but specializes in tree preservation and assists in tree emergencies.

“A lot of times, we’re able to work downright miracles,” he says. “This time, this wasn’t an option. When I walked to her backyard with my chain saw, I noticed her inside behind the sliding glass window. She was crying. Her kids had picked lemons off this tree. It was a part of their life and the culture in their home.”

Araya had been thinking for a while about buying a lathe, a piece of equipment that helps in creating woodworking projects. He hadn’t done this type of woodworking before, but Karine’s reaction prompted him to action – he bought a lathe on Craigslist.com and set out to learn how to use it.

Because Karine’s “emotional connection to her tree was genuine and obvious,” when Araya had developed his woodworking skills enough, he created a bowl for Karine out of the wood from her lemon tree.

The next time he was in her area, he went and knocked on her door, “‘Hey, I got you something,’” Araya motioned, presenting her with the bowl. “‘I made it. That’s your tree.’”

Araya explains, “She got teary-eyed. At that point, I knew it was a home run. It was a touching moment for that tree, for her and for our company, too.”

Lemon Tree Before Removal

Lemon Tree Before Removal

The Lemon Tree Bowl

The Lemon Tree Bowl

Araya’s love for trees began with an outdoor club at Ripon College and work at a summer camp in Maine. “Throughout my time at Ripon, my love for climbing transitioned from climbing rocks to climbing trees,” he says.

After graduation, he moved to Chicago and started working for a tree service. “I didn’t even know there were tree services,” he says. “I am from Stanley, Wis., and in small towns, if you need to have a tree taken down, your buddies just show up with a chain saw and do it.”

That job convinced him to devote himself to becoming a certified arborist and work toward owning his own company.

“I live in a very big city,” he says. “The nature of the type of work that I do gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling to know I’m making things better. All of the people I deal with are tree lovers. It gives me a calming feeling, being here in Los Angeles. Also, it’s hot here, and I like that usually when we’re working, we’re in some shade. Out here, trees are precious and serve a huge importance.”

Since creating Karine’s bowl, Araya has found a passion in bowl making. “It’s been four months now, and I work on bowls almost four days a week,” he says. “I always have 10 different bowls going in different phases.”

Follow Araya’s recent creations from pomegranate, black acacia, guava and mulberry trees on his new blog, http://nicksbowls.wordpress.com/. For now, Araya is offering bowls in trade for work that friends or relatives can do. He has no plans to sell his bowls due to the constraints of his tree business.

“This was the first time I had the opportunity to make things, and when other people look at them their jaws just drop,” he says.

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