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Seattle author turns orchard into poetry

"HEIRLOOM" project in Piper's Orchard by Shin Yu Pai

“HEIRLOOM” art installation project in Piper’s Orchard, photo by Shin Yu Pai

Stenciled apple in Piper's Orchard, photo by Thendara Kida-Gee

Stenciled apple in Piper’s Orchard, photo by Thendara Kida-Gee

You’ve probably spread a blanket out beneath a tree to read, but you’ve probably never read a tree.

This summer, author and artist Shin Yu Pai stenciled words onto hundreds of apples in Carkeek Park’s Piper’s Orchard. Shin Yu encountered the orchard numerous times on her hikes down to the beach and thought it would make an interesting location for public art. She took a tour of the orchard with a resident apple expert with her 10-month-old son in tow, and said she was inspired by his reaction to the trees.

Installing stencils on apples in Piper's Orchard

Installing stencils on apples in Piper’s Orchard, photo by Shin Yu Pai

Shin Yu wrote a 26-section poem titled “HEIRLOOM” that captures the things she wishes she could tell her son about the land and the trees and serves as a guide to orchard visitors. She took words from the poem and created stencils to cover the apples with at the beginning of the season. As the apples ripened in the sun, the stencil words remained green.

Shin Yu has faced challenges with her project, such as heavy rain storms, picking and rot, but said she enjoys seeing the new developments in the orchard.

“I invite the public to collaborate with me and help with being apple stewards,” Shin Yu said. “Visit the orchard often and take pictures of the daily changes. Save the stenciled apples that fall from the trees and remove their stencils. Take pics and email them to me at”

Shin Yu will be leading guided tours of her installation at 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 29. For more information on her project, and to hear a reading of “HEIRLOOM,” visit

“HEIRLOOM” is part of the outdoor exhibition Propagation: Heaven and Earth 7. The project was supported, in part, by an award from 4Culture, funding from Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, and The Awesome Foundation.


SHIN YU PAI is the author of several poetry collections, including AUX ARCS (La Alameda, 2013), Adamantine (White Pine, 2010), Sightings (1913 Press, 2007), and Equivalence (La Alameda, 2003). She has exhibited her visual work and collaborations at The Three Arts Club of Chicago, McKinney Avenue Contemporary, International Print Center, Center for Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College, 516 Arts, The Ferguson Gallery at The University of Alabama, The American Jazz Museum, Harvard University, and the University of Texas at Dallas. Her work has been commissioned twice by the Dallas Museum of Art. For more information, visit