A Swinging Tree
Okay…I know some of you have been waiting for a tutorial on how to make the enchanted trees for the fairy gardens. I apologize that it has taken so long, but have been out of commission for about six months, nursing two sprained feet and ankles back to health…ouch! Don’t ever sprain your feet and ankles…you can’t do anything!!!! Here it is the middle of July and I don’t even have all of my fairy gardens out. Guess it will have to wait until next Spring. That is something to look forward to. In the mean time I will work on items for the fairy gardens.
I am kind of new to this tutorial writing, so please ask questions if you have them. These trees are quite easy to make. The main thing is to not try to make it too perfect. There is no such thing as a perfect tree…especially enchanted ones. So give the tree a personality all of its own.
16 gauge wire ( I used copper)
pliers for bending wires
various tools for shaping and making lines (toothpicks work well)
polymer clay in a variety of colors (I use mostly sculpey clay, but also have a tub of scraps from previous projects, so I use it all, as long as it is clay that needs baking at about the same temperature for about the same time)
glass bird eyes (optional…I order them from a wood carving company called Chipping Away. I get the glass, dark brown, flat back, 4mm eyes, but you can also just engrave the eyes onto the tree or paint them. My sleeping tree has his eyes closed. Anything is doable.)
toaster oven or standard oven for baking
Cut 8-12 lengths of copper wire. Allow enough length for roots, trunk, and branches in each cut. The two trees in this fairy garden have trunks about 4-5″, but allow a tiny bit more because you will twist the wires together and that will shorten the length. I buy copper wire by the spool because I also make jewelry. I get it at The Naja, my jewelry making supply store. I am sure there are many other places that carry it by the spool too. If you are only going to make one or two trees you might not want to go that way. You can also buy it in smaller quantities.
Twist all of the wires together in the middle to form a trunk. Bend the roots out and the branches. I sometimes loop the ends of the wires to prevent getting scratched while working on the tree.
Take aluminum foil and wrap around the wire trunk. You really don’t need to wrap foil around the branches or roots…just the trunk. Keep wrapping until it is as thick as you want it…remember that the clay will also add some width to the trunk. Scrunch it together. Don’t worry about making it smooth or even…tree trunks are usually bumpy and lumpy.
Now take the branches and fan them out and do the same with the roots. You don’t have to have them perfect. You can move them around a bit later. I like to fan out the roots and see how it sits on a table. If the branches or roots seem too long, you can trim them now. Make the branches and roots all wavy and irregular. Tree branches and roots are not all the same length or width. We will add smaller branches using the clay, so these are just the main branches. The roots just need to be long enough to keep the tree from falling over. They can be off the ground in spots too.
Take your clay and after working it in your hands to soften, start spreading it all over the foil, covering it at least 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Cover the trunk and then start adding clay to the wire roots and branches. Remember that both are thicker by the trunk and then get thinner. You can make lumps and bumps on the branches and roots. You can also add some tiny side branches off of the wired branches by just using some clay. Sometimes I put small holes in the lumps to look like knots in the trees. You can also make hollowed out looking broken branches by adding clay in between branches not using wires.
After you get all of the branches, roots, and trunk covered, check for spots that didn’t get covered. Also make sure the tree stands properly without falling over. Now take your toothpick or sculpting tools and start etching lines in the clay. Make some swirly and irregular. Make sure to engrave lines on the branches and roots too.
If you are adding glass eyes, now is the time to add them. I usually etch into the clay where I want them. I then gently press the eyes into the clay. Keep working with them until they look the way you want them to. The clay won’t harden if you keep working on it. If you make a mistake you can pull the clay off and fix it. Give the tree some personality. You can add a nose and mouth too. There is no wrong way of doing these trees.
When you are completely happy with the tree, it is time to bake it. If using a toaster oven, I cover the tray with foil and then lay the tree down so that it will fit. Please be sure to open doors and windows. The clay gives off fumes when baking. Bake according to the clay package instructions. Let the tree cool completely after baking.
If you want to accent the lines in the bark of the tree after baking and cooling, you can use some dark brown acrylic paint. Paint it all over the tree and then gently wipe off the surface, leaving the lines dark.
I like to glue some dry moss here and there onto the branches and roots. I use Gorilla Glue for Wood because it holds up outdoors and it seems to work fine with polymer clay.