Preparing for the overhaul...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Rubber Tree--Part I

So this is the first in what I realized was going to be a multi-post, epic description of how I made my first tree.  I really love mini trees, in particular, and wanted to make a couple for the house as well as the greenhouse.  I actually started out with a leaf sheet that I'd purchased, and wasn't totally happy with the directions; I felt like they wouldn't give me the results I was looking for.  So I disregarded them and did my own thing.

Below, this is the leaf sheet I purchased.  I actually ended up getting a couple, which is lucky because a sheet that was supposed to make multiple trees for me made about half a tree--not even.  Also, while I liked the pattern of the leaves themselves I wasn't wild about the color.  I'd looked at a few different variegated rubber trees, both online and in person, and they were a) less, um, variegated and b) more peachy/yellowy.  So I mixed a wash of Delta Ceramcoat "opaque yellow" and Americana "coral blush" and painted it over the leaves (after spraying them with matte fixative).  I painted the back of the sheet with Americana "green mist."

The sheet, as printed and purchased.
After one coat of the wash.
Drying in progress.  The partial kit came with two sheets, which were meant to be joined together.  I didn't really like that look, so I painted both separately.  I'll make a different, slightly different looking tree later with the other leaves.
I made this for dessert; just checking to see if you were paying attention.
I also made these to send to a friend who's having a hard time--peanut butter cake cookies.
After the sheets were dry, I started cutting the leaves out.
 Having painted in the white space, the edges of the leaves were now a little hard to see.  In some places, I just guessed.  The good news is, leaves have a lot of natural variations!  I amassed quite a large pile of leaves.  Because I'd kind of played it by ear in terms of darkening some areas of the sheet, lightening others, etc, I ended up with a pretty good variety in color and tone (I thought).

Candle jar tops make great paint cups.
My son, dining al fresco.
This halogen craft lamp was a great purchase.

As far as actually making the trunk of the tree, I was kind of at a loss.  Paper-wrapped wire looked pretty, and was what was recommended by the kit, but wasn't that workable--at least for me--and didn't give me really sturdy results.  So I scrapped that idea and instead twisted a bunch of 18 gauge floral wire together to make a tree shape.  I tinkered with it a little bit, pulling the individual wires out until I had an overall shape I liked.  The individual branches were still too long, but I wanted to wait to cut them down until I had a sense of how the leaves would attach.

I started trimming down the branches a little, but still left them too long on purpose.

Then, after I'd gotten a preliminary shape I more or less liked, I tried it out in the pot to see how it'd look.  Here, I'm using a Clive Brooker mossy pot from Greg Madl at Swan House.  I made sort of a "base" for the four separate trunks of the tree using Paper Clay.  It's not affixed to the pot, yet, but it's attached to itself.

Then the question became, how to make this look like a tree?  Just painting the wire would make it look...just like painted wire.  I mixed some burnt sienna with some maroon and mixed in a couple of tablespoon fulls of Woodland Scenics fine turf mix to give the "bark mixture" some texture and began to paint it on in thin coats.  Eventually, my "trunks" and "branches" began to develop a nice, gnarled appearance.  Some areas got extra coats, until the appearance of twisted wire was entirely gone.

After two thin coats on the base "trunks."
Drying in between coats on my desk.
Starting to develop that "gnarled," bark-ish appearance.
And that is part one.  Next time, I'll show you how I did the leaves.  Between finishing the trunk and starting the leaves, I glued my little base globule into the bottom of the pot, leaving the surface basically as you see it now--unattractive!  I let it rest overnight, to set, so the structure would be as sturdy as possible when I started attaching leaves.  Onward and upward...


Anna said...

I also love a good mini tree, and will eventually make a few for my current build which already has a couple of built-in planters with "potted palms" made of wire, brown grocery bag paper, brown marker, and leaves from some artificial roses).

Josje and Otterine have both made realistic mini trees - you can see them here:

Can't wait to see how your rubber tree turns out!

iseecerulean said...

I just discovered your blog today, I'm not sure how I missed it all these years. You do great work.

Giac said...

Hello CJ,
Thank you so much for sharing your techniques...these will come in very handy.
Big hug,
p.s. Give that little guy a great big hug!