Monthly Archives: June 2015

White Cherry Tree

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This is a picture-by-picture explanation of how I made the above wire and gemstone tree.  Inspired by the flowering cherry trees with their big white flowers and subtle hints of pink, I designed this to be light and airy and full of bright spring energy.

Let’s start at the beginning with the copper hoop and a small selection of beads.  The copper hoop was made by hammering a length of 12 gauge copper wire until it was flattened (somewhat) and hard.  Hammering hardens the wire so it can keep its shape.

WhiteCherry 01

The square flat beads are moonstone.  The faceted beads are all Swarovski rhinestone beads in various colors including:

– Fire Opal AB2X, Fuchsia AB2X, Light Rose AB2X, Province Lavender, and Rose Water Opal

– All Swarovski bicone beads in 3mm and 4mm sizes

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The branches are made with 26 gauge brown wire, but copper wire works too.  The wire for the branches should be about 4-1/2 times as long as the diameter of the hoop.  I take a length of wire, measure out two hoop-lengths (plus some extra), bend the wire at the measured point and consider that this will be the center of the length of wire.  Fold it back on itself and cut when you meet the tail end.

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Join the branches together as you build down, alternating between branch designs to keep an organic feel.  Eventually, they will all come together to form the trunk.

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Add some shorter branches to the middle of the tree.  They will keep the design from looking sparse.  Here is one that I created, first by making a long loop of wire to decide how long the branch should be…

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Then I added the stones and twisted the wire back on itself to form the branch.

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Continue adding branches, joining them together and building down.  The more variety you can include in the planning and architecture of your tree, the more organic the design will be.

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If you notice an empty area, or if something isn’t coming together in a way you like, you can un-twist and un-join the branches and try again in a different way.  This generally works once or twice.  Any more redesigning and you risk breaking the wire.

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The more you manipulate wire, the more brittle it becomes, until eventually it will break rather than bend.  For this reason, you should make gentle but purposeful twists.  Don’t twist too tight.


As larger branches are twisted together, it gets a little more challenging to make them blend together naturally.


I tend to spread out the wires of the individual branches and massage them together with my fingers as I twist the two bundles together.


In the end, it should look like one branch turning into 2 branches, not like unraveling rope.  You can avoid this challenge by always joining unequally sized branches.  The smaller one will tend to fall into the larger one.  But I tend to like the look of two big sections joining together.


On this tree, I created a strip of wildflowers across the horizon.  It was done with a single piece of wire, like this:


The strip was long enough to go across the width and coil at the sides of the hoop.  I twisted one root to the right side and one to the left side to stabilize the tree to the horizon.


I then started to spread out the roots in a radial pattern.  Some of the roots were coiled around the hoop and cut off.  Some were twisted around the hoop and back up and into the trunk.


Those are cut off and tucked into the trunk to make it thicker at the bottom, like an actual tree trunk.


And here is the end result!

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Posted in DIY Projects, Wire & Stone

Decoupage Teacup Planter

Decoupage Cup with Oxalis by Laura Ockel 2

The cup and saucer came from Goodwill and cost about 50¢ a piece.

The decorations are hand cut out of scrapbooking paper and gold tissue paper from Michaels.  The flowers were cut using a Martha Stewart punch.

The papers were chosen to complement the clover plant (oxalis) which is green in front and wine in back.

Decoupage Cup with Oxalis by Laura Ockel 1

The oxalis was grown from a cutting of a single stem and leaf from my father’s best friend, Dominic.  I’d never seen an oxalis before.  It was like a surreally oversized plant from Alice in Wonderland.

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I did not think the cutting would root, but I took it home in the little film container Nick had given me and watched in surprise as it refused to die for week after week.

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When the growth of roots became apparent, I started to design the teacup planter to go with it.

Oxalis 1

My fiancee drilled a hole into the bottom of the cup using a drill bit made for glass.  It looked like an arrowhead.  IMPORTANT:  Drill the hole before doing the decoupage.  The drilling may break the cup, especially if it is your first time.  If you break a fifty cent cup from Goodwill, no big deal.  If you break a work of art you’ve just spent hours creating, it sucks.

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I used gold metallic tissue paper for the saucer and for the bottom of the cup.  That way, the red cup would match the white saucer.  I used Mod Podge to apply the paper decorations.  I was careful to avoid leaving blotches of Mod Podge on the exposed ceramic of the cup.  If the cup had been covered with tissue paper (like most of my other pieces) it wouldn’t have mattered, but the glue would have looked sloppy on the ceramic.  For the finer details, like the flower shapes, I cleaned the crevices with a toothpick.

After the design was finished, I applied several coats of clear acrylic spray paint to protect it.  It was probably Krylon Low Odor Matte Clear, but it could have been Krylon Crystal Clear Gloss.  I used both for my decoupage cups.  I’ve now gone to using Rust-Oleum Triple Thick Glaze.  The Triple Thick Glaze needs to be applied liberally all over.  If you try applying a light layer, it develops a matte grainy texture.  If you apply it too thick, it can sometimes become cloudy and opaque.  If you try to apply some here now in one coat and some over there in a later coat, the area between the two coats gets grainy.  I’ve found that you’re in good shape if it looks evenly glossy when you’re done spraying.  As you might have noticed, I’m still working on the clear coat.

However, I did this cup a year ago and used several coats of clear acrylic and it has held up just fine.  To be sure, I have not gotten it wet or dirty, so the pristine condition is more likely an effect of the careful treatment than it is a tribute to the quality of clear acrylic.  The saucer did NOT hold up at all.  I’d given it extra protective coats, but as soon as it got wet, it formed a white opaque haze.  Months later, I sanded off the white opaque clear coat and applied Rust-Oleum Never Wet to the saucer.  Now that works.  It has a bit of a hazy blue finish, but that might have been a result of my… (what’s the polite word for incompetence?) and the haze is hardly noticeable.

Then I planted my oxalis.

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The roots had grown into this paper towel I had used to wrap the stems.  No, I don’t know why I never bothered to remove the paper towel.  Partly because it was in an opaque film container* and I was afraid I wouldn’t notice if the water level dropped.  The plant lived, so maybe I’m on to something.

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It sure looked pitiful when I planted it.  I used an olive pick to support it, and a little wire twist to hold it to the pick.  The plant had grown a new stem and clover while in the process of making roots.  I had a dream about kittens last night.  The baby clover reminded me of a kitten, but her ears were too round and she didn’t look she’d ever grow to be like her mum.  I must admit, I was starting to question the wisdom of designing a cup to match this sickly-looking plant.

I put the plant in soil on 4/14/14.  I got the cutting on 1/19 and I started on the cup two months later on 3/29.  On that day, she was growing all sorts of little sprigs.

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Now she’s all grown up with flowers of her own.

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Decoupage Cup with Oxalis by Laura Ockel 3

Hope you enjoy my articles & have a terrific day!


* Younglings – film used to go in little plastic cylinders with lids and you could re-use them for all sorts of stuff.  I put sand in mine when I went to the beach, which was rare.  Now that I travel more, I find myself missing those little stray film canisters rolling around in my camera bag, ready to hold some powdery sand and tiny, thin shells.  However, my pocket smartphone allows me to photo document my life in a way where I can show you a story instead of just telling it, and that makes me grateful for the digital age.       #rethinkingnostalgia


Posted in DIY Projects