Getting Crafty this Christmas
It’s that time of year again. The nights are dark and the fires have been lit (unless like me you rely on good old fashioned central heating). The woolly jumpers have been rescued from the depths of the wardrobe and the mince pies are already in abundance. It might be a hectic time of year but the festive season truly is a magical one. For me as an artist, Christmas really is the busiest time of year. Commissions, deadlines, projects and of course, looking after the family often mean that there’s little down time to pick up a book or to enjoy a little creativity outside of the usual working day. While the temptation is there to run to the nearest store or to log online in search for this years decorations, why not take a minute to consider making your own? *Gasp* ‘Make my own?!’ Yes, that’s right. There is nothing quite like getting the family around the table to create some traditional decorations for the home. Not only will it save you money (a major bonus), but it’ll give you a unique item that is completely personal (not to mention beautiful). With the millions of mass produced products available to us, this uniqueness really should strike a cord with you – it certainly does with me. Plus, the kids will love it and even if yours are grown and gone (or just far too cool to hang around painting Christmas decorations), I promise you it’s a worthwhile process that you’ll love to do on your own while listening to your favourite Christmas carols.
When we look at the history behind the Christmas decoration, a real sense of its significance soon becomes apparent. Whether you consider Christmas as a ‘Christian’ festival, look more towards the earlier ‘Yuletide’ (originally celebrated by the Germanic people) or even celebrate the Winter Solstice; the traditions are much the same. The practice of bringing greenery into the home has long been considered to herald back to the worship of the evergreen during the dark winter months, but as with so many customs, there are numerous notions as to their origins. A popular theory is that Saint Boniface was the first monks to bring the fir tree indoors because of its triangular shape and representation of the Holy Trinity. Once inside, the tree was decorated with simple white taper candles (which became more elaborate over the years.) Whatever the origins, it’s quite plain to see that the humble Christmas ornament still holds a strong traditional value to us.
When we consider that in ye olde days each household would have made their own decorations, it seems like a fantastic tradition to uphold. With that in mind, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to create a simple but eye catching piece of festive craft.
Bearing in mind that along with the Christmas season comes an army of empty purses and wallets, I’m going to show you how to create a fabulous door hanging that utilises the materials our wonderful coastline offers us on a daily basis. Since we are blessed in Swansea with a Bay that stretches for miles, there’s a good chance that you’ll find everything you need to get creative.
Christmas Tree Driftwood Door Hanging.
As is perhaps typical of me, I like to steer away from the ‘regular’ and the ‘usual’, often opting for interesting and peculiar versions of our traditional decorations. Every year, I make and hang a wreath on my front door and crafty as it is, I’m a huge supporter of trying something new. So, this Christmas I’m going to be making a painted driftwood plaque and giving you a simple step by step guide on how to achieve your own. Go on! Dare to be different!
What you’ll need:
An old piece of driftwood. Any shape, any size – the gnarlier, the better!
Some acrylic paints (Navy, White and dark Green for this piece)
2 paintbrushes. A flat head paintbrush and a thin pointed one
Some string or ribbon
A drill (to make the holes for the string).
PVA glue (optional)
Glitter – any colour but silver works best (optional)
First thing’s first, get your woolly’s on and head down to the bay for an hour of beach combing. What you’re looking for is a piece of flat driftwood that you can paint a scene on. Don’t worry if it’s battered and broken, splintered or still has nails hanging out of it – it’ll all add to the rustic feel (just be careful it’s not too sharp or dangerous!).
Once you have your wood, make sure to pop it on the radiator overnight to dry it out before you start painting.
1. Mark out two holes, roughly about an inch or two from the top, which you’ll use as guides to drill through. If you haven’t got a drill to hand, or like me you’re banned from using your husbands power tools, you can always hammer a nail through the wood and take it out (leaving the hole) or do the same with a screw. If you don’t fancy your fingers chances with any of these, you can still make the plaque without the holes to lean in a corner (or to put inside a frame!).
2. Get your navy paint out and daub it onto the driftwood. Start at one end and work your way to the other BUT, be sure not to paint it to the edges. Leaving a little wood around the outside gives it a beautiful framed effect. Once that’s done, leave it to dry. If you’re using acrylics, it wont take long before you can paint over it. Depending on the wood you have, you might end up having to use a few layers of paint to battle the absorption process.
3. Using your trusty pencil, mark out a rough triangle where your tree will be.
4. Get out your lovely dark green paint! With a flat head paintbrush (or a fan brush if you’re feeling adventurous) start at the top and splodge a little paint where the highest most point of the tree will be. Underneath it, splodge on two more daubs of paint next to each other and continue down following the traditional pine tree shape. Your brush should be angled out and down towards the base of the tree, so you’ll have that lovely bow effect with the branches. You’re just keeping the brush at the same angle and layering up the foliage. This process isn’t neat, nor is it a fine art so don’t panic over every stroke and don’t try to make it look like a Michaelangelo. There aren’t many perfect tree’s out there, so the freer and more fluid your application, the better and more realistic your Christmas tree will begin to look!
5. Drying time. Plonk your brush in some water to clean it and let the warm air do it’s magic. This is a good time to put the kettle on or pour yourself a glass of mulled wine (depending on the time of day you’re painting of course).
6. Take your dark Green paint and splurge a little onto a plate (don’t worry, it’s only acrylic, it’ll come off with warm water) and add a touch of white. Mix it until you have a lovely shade of green that’s noticeably lighter than the one you were previously painting with.
7. Now for the highlights. Picking out SOME of the branches, daub a little of the light green throughout the tree. Follow the same lines as the branches you already have painted and keep it to the same angle. Trust your instincts here. If you feel an area needs a bit of highlighting, then go for it. There is no wrong way to do it, remember, tree’s are only perfect because of their imperfections! Once you’re happy with your tree, repeat step 5. (Perhaps substituting the wine for a biscuit if you’re especially quick at painting and still have a full glass!)
8. Once the tree is dry and your brush is clean (and I mean CLEAN for this part), get out your snowy white paint. Using exactly the same method as before, dip your brush into the white and daub on some snow. Now think about this part because it requires a little more realism. Imagine where the snow would fall.. It’s not going to be close to the centre and it’ll be in beautiful thick dollops (depending on the amount of snow fall you decide upon) on the tops of most of the branches. Your branches should be angled out and down, so follow the same lines. Don’t forget that our tree is a 3D object so you’re going to want to add a little in the front. In an upside down ‘V’ shape, dab a little white paint in to give the effect of snow covered branches that are facing you..
9. Now your snow scene is really coming together! You have a fabulous little fir and all that’s left to do is add some snowfall and a sweet quote at the top.
10. At the top of the wood, mark out with your pencil your favourite Christmas quote. ‘Let it snow’, ‘Happy Holiday’, ‘Christmas Wishes’ etc so on so forth. You could even have a welcome message on it if you intend on hanging it on the front door. Once that’s done, get your fine brush out and with the white paint, go over the message. Take your time on this so that you final piece looks nice and neat.
11. What is your festive scene missing? Snowfall of course! Using the same fine brush, put a few blobs of snow here and there. Don’t plan this part out, let it run freely from your imagination! Let it dry and then read on..
12. You’re almost finished! If like me, you’ll look for any excuse to use glitter, now is your chance! You can either leave your plaque as it is for a beautiful festive hanging, OR, your can take your clean fine brush and dip it into some PVA glue and dab a little over the top of your snowflakes. Don’t worry, this stuff dries clear! Sprinkle your gorgeous glitter over the snowfall and leave to dry for 5 minutes. At this point, the glue wont be completely dry, but will have stuck your glitter to it. Pick your plaque up and turn it to the side and gently tap it on the table to remove the excess sparkle. Now for the tree!! Every happy Christmas tree must have glitter so following on from your previous glittery daubings, apply some PVA glue to the snowfall on your tree and sprinkle some on. Once again, wait a few minutes then tap off the excess.
13. You’ll need to leave this dry for a while. Check the drying time on the back of the bottle as every glue is different.
14. Once your plaque is dry and looking fabulous, you can take your string and thread it through the holes. Do this from front to back and knot the ends so they don’t come through the holes.
VOILA! Once beautiful, inexpensive and unique festive hanging for your home!