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This California artist is building giant nests across the country for humans

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Jayson Fann has been building tiny and giant bird nests for as long as he can remember, whether it’s in his own bedroom or in his backyard. Now, some of his tallest and widest nests sit on top of coastal cliffs in Big Sur in California, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

“It was something that was just intuitive,” Fann said.

He calls his giant nests – which now number around 50 across the country – Spirit Nest Creations.

Jayson Fann walks out of his nest at the arboretum at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

“When you’re a kid, it’s magical to find a nest," Fann said. "Intuitively I started to collect and sand and I took my closet doors off, emptied everything and turned the closet into a nest.”

Fann’s nests vary in size and can weigh as much as 100,000 pounds. Some look like a single giant nest and some are two-story buildings.

Last week, he was working on a nest about 10 feet wide by 14 feet tall at the arboretum at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The piece is pretty small compared to some of his other works.

Spirit Nest by Jayson Fann. Photo courtesy of Jayson Fann

“This nest [pictured above] took me about a month to build and a lot of that time is really gathering the wood,” Fann said. “As the nests have gotten taller and taller, and multiple stories and also the weight of the structure, it has to support itself and the different levels. So I’ve really learned a lot about engineering.”

Fann rarely breaks or bends tree branches in the nest building process. He said the fun part is looking for the natural patterns and piecing together the branches that weave well together.

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“The other thing that's really unique about making the nests is that every single branch is different – every tree ends up being formed by the conditions that it’s growing in,” Fann said as he walked to a small forest of eucalyptus trees at the arboretum.

The arboretum in Santa Cruz has various types of eucalyptus trees, which are strong, durable and flexible when green. When some trees fell down because of a mudslide and heavy rain in the winter of 2016, Fann decided to make use of the fallen twigs and tree parts by building a nest. He recruited the help of about 500 first- and second-graders from an elementary school in East Salinas, California, where he teaches art and music.

Jayson Fann examines a fallen eucalyptus tree at the arboretum in Santa Cruz.

“Nature is the place that I feel the most grounded and peaceful – and I love offering that experience to other people," Fann said. "And in particular kids – this reconnects the kids into something that’s very organic.”

When Fann is not building nests, he’s busy with teaching music, dance, performing arts, and set design at schools and private studios around Big Sur and Monterey, California. He often tries to combine his work in art education by involving students in building the nests he gets commissioned to build by schools and arboretums.

“The nests became a way for me to actually generate an income and a currency to be able to produce and do the productions that I do,” he said.

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