Monday, December 16, 2013

Making a Holiday Tree: Part 2

Yay! I finally completed my handmade Seussical Holiday tree!  I started out by trying to make an all cardboard tree which I quickly realized was going to look bulky and maybe a bit amateurish so I took it apart and started over with more of a mixed-media approach.
I took the wiring out of an old, cheap Ikea floor lamp and inserted an old curtain rod into the top.  The curtain rod has a nice round knob on the end of it that I thought would look appealing on the top of the tree.  I settled on a height for the tree and taped the rod in place.  

Next, I took the thickest cardboard I could find in our house (I am a cardboard hoarder for a reason) and started to cut out many many branches of different sizes.  Then I placed them along the "trunk" of the tree and when I was satisfied with their location, used masking tape to secure them in place.

 Once I had all the branches attached, it was time to bring out the papier mache.  I bought a container of wallpaper paste from the hardware store.  You have to use rubber gloves with wallpaper paste because it contains chemicals to prevent mildew.  I wanted to use newsprint for the paper but instead of using old newspapers that make an inky mess, I used an end roll of newsprint that was purchased at our local paper, The News Tribune for a whopping $3.  We used it for another project last year too: an amazing deal.  I cut down the roll with a box cutter to create 6" wide strips and then tore those down into 1-2" x 6" strips.

 I like to mix a bit of water into my wallpaper paste to get a nice silky texture.  You don't want it all heavy and goopy.  Then I carefully applied strips all over the ends of the branches connected to the trunk.  Then I let it dry over night.  I wanted the attachments to be nice and strong.  Next, I put another layer over the first layer and then continued overlapping my paper on all the branches. 
You have to be careful not too get too much too soggy at once or the branches can start to warp.  I had to cut a couple off on the bottom that got too wet and started to deform.  I attached new branches and then carefully applied the papier mache in sections until it was nice and sturdy. 

 Finally, my glue was all dry and it was time to paint!  I mixed a big bowl full of white gesso with black to get a light gray color.  I didn't want an obvious green tree for some reason.  I am not trying to recreate a Christmas tree.  I am making my own alternative Christmas tree.  I coated the whole thing, front and back with the gray paint.  My most genius idea was to use glitter spray paint over the gray to create a really festive backdrop.  I painted it all silver glitter and then added highlights of lime green glitter paint to make it more dimensional. 

Here it is in my studio during the papier mache stage.  Note that I used props like the easel and stool to let the branches lean against them as they dried so as to keep in shape.  I figured out to do that after my other couple of soggy branches warped and had to be redone.  

And here is the temporary spray booth I set up on our front breezeway.  My studio is heated with gas heat so it would be very dangerous to use spray paint inside as it could ignite.   I wore a face respirator to protect my lungs. 

Total cost of tree: $20.  And that is just because I went for the fancy expensive spray paint. 

As a final touch I made a felted rope garland.  I wet felted the white rope and then needle felted the colorful blobs into place.  It took a long time but it was satisfying work.  

Now all it needs is a few more ornaments and some presents under the tree!
P.S. Sorry about all the corgi photos:  Oskar is a curious stinker and wouldn't stay out of my way so I put him to work and made him pose for his supper!

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