In ’04 I decided I wanted to make a Halloween tree. A creepy looking tree with some faces and veins in it. I had intended on making two of these originally…. one for each side of the walkway – that idea didn;t last past forming tree trunks.
This tree is mainly constructed of chicken wire and paper mache.
How it was made:
I began by forming a stump with a light chicken wire. Chicken wire requires gloves and nice sharp tin snips – without them, it’s a very frustrating process. I also keep pliers handy for bending and securing loose wires.
After I had a stump and roots shaped out I covered them in paper mache. I also covered the underside of all the roots. Chicken wire will not easily take the first coat of mache and the honey comb texture of the wire will show thru. This can be partially avoided by adding tape over the chicken wire, or even taping newspaper to the wire first. For this project I used newspaper and recycled packing paper. I added probably 4 layers of mache to the stump before continuing.
I then added more wire to form a tree trunk, and mache’d it to add strength before adding more chicken wire to form tree limbs. The chicken wire was cut into smaller pieces as I worked up each limb, wrapping it around itself to form long thin cone shapes for the smaller branches.
I added some 2 part polyurethane expanding foam to the roots and trunk to increase density and strength even further. (I don’t have a picture of this process as you need to work fast or you end up with foam everywhere)
I also ran an extension cord up thru the trunk in case I eventually decided I would need it. (so far all it’s used for is lights)
After I had a basic tree formed, I began to add detail. I added veining using binder twine, rope segments and some Great Stuff expanding foam. I added small bones into the tree limbs and bark. I added pieces of foam skull faces which I made in a skull mold.
I added layers of paper mache over the faces, veins and bones. A layer of mache, more detail, a layer of mache etc etc. with a little bit of light sanding here and there. This process took a while, and looking back I should have stuck with it a little longer to get the look I wanted – but I grew impatient.
The tree needed leaves. I had some old grape vine swags in storage so I took them apart and added some to the branches. At the end of each limb I poked the wire end of the grape vine swag, adhering it with masking tape and adding more mache on top.
At this point I still had the tree in my work area – the basement. I wanted to take it upstairs or outside to paint, where the lighting was better. I realized I had made the tree too big to get out of the basement… Yes, make fun of me now…. The tree had to be stored in the basement, so it obviously had to fit through the door. – I should have designed the tree in two pieces. I ended up cutting a few roots and branches down to size using snips, and a saw.
I coated the tree in black paint. I can’t remember exactly what paint I used, outdoor latex I think. Then I dry brushed some brown and red over the surface to pick up detail. The leaves got a similar treatment. Then the whole thing was sealed again with sealer.
This tree has survived a many Halloweens. It has received its share of abuse, and has had its roots stomped on, it’s been knocked over…. but it’s still in good shape.
For the past few years I have been meaning to give the thing a make-over. If I ever get it done I will post about it….