KTVQ - Carving For The King Of Bhutan
Trees are more than inspiration for one Livingston artist. Her work towers over the viewer.
Amber Jean is a carver who transforms trees into detailed sculptures.
"Trees are a lot like people, each one is unique," she said. "Each one has its own story, they have history."
Amber Jean spends most of her days with company of the wooden variety.
"It's like walking into a room and picking a dance partner I think. Some who looks like they might be an awesome dance partner aren't necessarily, and some sweet old guy missing half his teeth who really knows how to dance."
Her work sells for top dollar. Her name is recognized around the world.
"Somebody in Hollywood wanted me to carve Johnny Depp out of chocolate for the premier for Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," she said.
In the studio, tucked away in the mountains of Livingston, Amber Jean digs in to the rough skin of these former sun worshipers that perished in wild fires.
"I used to fight fires, I was a forest firefighter. There are a lot of things that happen because of fires. It helps dry the trees and add burned and charred parts to trees and I like all of that."
For Amber Jean, the carving and adornment is a process of rebirth; a way to heal the living in the wake of death.
"Semi-precious ground up stones to embellish the scar or crack to just let it be what it is and other times, I'll want it to be less noticeable," Amber Jean said.
And now, more than ever, the process is personal.
"After my father passed away, I did a series called 'I never promised you a rose garden,' which had a lot to do with his and my relationship."
Her father's death was inspiring but this year, Amber Jean's mother, aunt and close friend died just months apart.
Though she says her parents never encouraged her artistically, their absence was hard to bear.
"[It's] an extra hurdle I think, for me."
At her lowest stride, Amber Jean received a stunning proposition.
"I was recently asked by the prime minister of Bhutan to come carve for the King of Bhutan."
It will be a month of solitude -- just Amber Jean, her tools and the trees. She agreed to go.
In Bhutan, a country known for its focus on national happiness, Amber Jean says she can finally come to grips with her loss and reignite her fire for carving.
"I'm in, I'm gonna do it. I feel like it's an opportune time. I won't be taking care of my mother or other people. My whole job there will be just to carve."
It is leap of faith back onto the dance floor. She's got the moves and now it's time to find her next partner.