Category Archives: The Tree That Ate Cleveland

Queen of the Tin Snips

Tonight my hands are sore, I've poked holes in my fingers and my neck and shoulders hurt. Ah, the progress of art is never easy. Sigh…you might intuit that I'm near the back end of the lovely ceramic jars, bottles and salt shakers that have become adorable ornmanets. I am now starting up the hill on the metallic ornaments for the Tree that Ate Cleveland.

A little back story here: The tree is more innocently referred to as "Green Green Christmas" and it will make its first appearance on Thanksgiving day in the Providence Saint Peter Foundation Christmas Forest, The Colors of Joy. Mind you, I haven't seen the thing yet myself, I am creating in the dark as it were. I didn't even know the theme was Colors of Joy. Hey, did I pick the right name or what? Green as in repurposing ornaments, going green, and on a green tree.

I do occaisonally regret my total devotion to recycling, repurposing and reusing at times like this. Especially when I think of the in excess of 300 ornaments for this six foot tree that I am creating. Not buying from WalMart and plopping on a  nice tree. Nope, making. From almost scratch. Yep. What was I thinking?

I was thinking today I love my husband a lot because he will help me cut out all this scary metal and then I can make it into something beautiful. I came by these tin ceiling strips several years ago when Saint Martin's College (yes, its University now but it wasn't then) ripped out the ceiling of the cafeteria and threw it into huge blue dumpsters. Several of us who worked there at the time, me included, swarmed the dumptsters and carried off the beautiful and occaisonally twisted old tin.

My husband was sure I was crazy because everytime he tried to toss it I growled, loudly. This past year the tin has sure enough made its comeback in the form of an installation at a restaurant in Seattle, Hunger up in Fremont and in the shape of garden art and now whimsical metal animal cut outs for Christmas.

Whimsical and safe when they are done but man, what a lot of work to get there!

Here's what the pieces look like when I start.

This piece has been thumped with a ten pound hammer. The pieces start out curved because they were the edges of the ceiling. They have to be flattened to be used.

Cutting out 
Here's a bird shape traced from a paper pattern and ready to cut out.

Cutout with tools 
Tools of the trade, gloves and eye protection and a really good pair of snips that will cut curves. Even with gloves and good snips I wore a blister on my hand today from the pressure of cutting.

Once the pieces are cut out they have to be hammered again with the 10 pound hammer and flattened more.

Cutouts ready for next 
These pieces are ready for the next steps. Sanding all the edges and drilling a top hole.

Metal edges 
These razor sharp edges are why I sand carefully wearing gloves before I finish up these pieces.

Tomorrow–sanding and the next steps!

Rabbit Has Gone to the Birds

I made progress today on what I have now named as The Tree That Ate Cleveland in spite of having to run my son up back up to Seattle, over an hour each way, having a lovely breakfast with friends and getting the dog to and from the groomers. Whew…in twenty minutes I leave for an artists meeting so I want to get my birdies into my blog.

bird teacup nests

Eighteen more ornaments finished with the completion of 5 cups and saucers with nests, birds and eggs. I got 14 assorted spoon nests with eggs, tinier nests and birds done for my grand total. I love old spoons and started these yesterday and finished today. Yesterday was drilling and bending, today was assembly.

You can do this with some time and attention and they are adorable. Choose your spoon and drill a hole in the handle. My spoon tops are pretty ornate with wired on glass beads and a separate wound black wire hanger. You could easily just use your black wire and make a simple hanger. Next step was to bend the spoons and glue in the moss nests.

Weldbond glue in the bowl of the spoon, green moss, all held in place with a clothes pin til dry

I wanted to use birds and eggs and got lucky with the birds. Gotta love Michael's 40% off coupons! I had to make two trips with two coupons but with the price reduction it was worth it. I looked for eggs but someone else had bought every tiny toy egg in the store. What???? So, I got a package of that soft Crayola clay that feels like marshmallows and air dries. Perfection! For $3.99 I got a ton of eggs and the plastic ones would have cost three times as much. I rolled up the egglets and set them out to dry with a note to the male members of the family that these were not food. Seriously, I did put a note on them.


After egg construction and drying it was time for what else? Glitter of course!

Glitter baby, glitter

Assembly includes gluing down the bird and gluing in the egg and completing with a gorgeous bow

Waiting for egg 
Where's my egg?


Bird nest cup with shiny eggs.

And now I'm off like a crazy rabbit to a meeting. Tomorrow saltshakers and solder.




Rabbit is Christmas Crazy and its not even Halloween!

Whew, the Christmas Tree Forest tree ornaments are under way big time. I think I'm up to around 70 finished and 30 more in some stage of on the way. I haven't even had time to go pound tin flat to cut out or cut glass or mirrors, or, or, or.  Terry put up two strong wire clothes lines for me and both of them are full. I'm out of space now so I'm going to have to carefully roll up all that glittery stuff in tissue after I take inventory and pack them up so I'll be ready for the next group waiting in the wings.

ornament clothes line

This project is accomplishing three things at the very least: Number one, its a fantastic fund raiser to bring money in to pay healthcare for those in our community who can't afford it. Number two, its getting rid of all kinds of crap I've had stashed in corners forever ( I always knew that stuff would be useful someday no matter what my family said) and number three, its reminding me I do have some mad skillz in a lot of different areas. I think I'm using them all right now too.


Today I dug all of the porcelain tea cups out of the fountain, long story, washed them and glued each cup and saucer together with trusty E600 glue. I am turning them into bird nests, I found Aspen excelsior to use for the nest part, sustainable of course and I am going to break down and buy plastic eggs today. Hey, I just don't have time to make everything. One is complete except for the eggs, very cute and will add a nice touch.


I have been on the watch for silver spoons forever, and sacrificed my stash to the tree. Terry drilled holes in them and I polished all the tarnish off and bent them. Next I'll put tiny nests in the bowls add a bird and a bow and presto hanging silver nests.


Polished and bent, ready to become nests

I have the tops on a bunch of the bottles and all they need is ribbon and trim, but when I look over at how many more are waiting, its daunting. I'm dying to stop and work on a painting but my prostestant guilt is keeping my nose to the grindstone. 

3 bottles, one empty, one ready to solder and one ready to finish off. Each one takes about an hour by the time they are all done. I'll have Some 70 bottles and salt shakers by the time I'm done.

Ewww! This black wire turns my hands black!

Its worth when they are finished, this one is really pretty

All the pretty ornaments in a row!

And if you really want to see something impressive, check out this garland that is 17 feet long and made of bottle caps by one of the Matter Gallery artists for the tree. 


I'm an artist and I'm always filled with self doubt, that's the down side and probably why my stuff is at such a high level of craft. I never stop pushing to do better, be better and create beautiful things. I hope that the tree is a success. I have trepidation sometimes, especially when I think of the people just going out and buying stuff that fits a theme and building a tree. They are so beautiful when they get done and my tree is going to be different in that its "green", its all repurposed, used cast offs that I have given new life. I do so hope people get the message that we don't have to just go buy the newest thing. I love giving grace to someething that's already in the world.

Okay, enough philosophy for the moment…of to find eggs for my nests.

Rabbit Likes Glitter

I have pretty much decided there is nothing in the world that cannot be improved by the addition of glitter, the glitter has to be really good glitter, it has to be the Cadillac of glitter, German glass glitter. That's the old shiny stuff you see in dreamy photos of vintage Christmas ornaments. It even ages and takes on a mellow patina with time.


an old restaurant creamer

I have books of glittery old papier mache ornaments and the pages are dogeared and bent with my perusal of them. I have had a glitter box for years, full of disappointing American plastic and Chinese glitters, sigh. Just not the same depth and texture. Doesn't that sound funny? I mean, to most people glitter is glitter. I found out the difference when I started searching and found someone who sold GERMAN glass glitter. Meyer Imports. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. I ordered several different types and grits all in white for the project I'm working on but it was all I could do to not go hog wild and get some in every color.

I still can't believe how nice those guys are either–they called me to make sure I got the right kind of glitter for what I was doing and offered to send me samples so I could choose the right shade and grit. Wow. I am a fan for life–and the stuff is so gorgeous I just ordered more of it. My studio looks like I killed Tinkerbell, shiny stuff everywhere. Fairy dust, and boy does it make a difference in the finished product.

Here's the thing, I got tapped this year to do a tree for the Providence St Peter Hospital Foundation Christmas Forest. That's a really big deal in Western Washington and these trees get decorated and auctioned off for thousands and thousands of dollars for charity. I mean they are spectacular and look like something off a movie set. So what theme did I choose? Green Green Christmas. This means I have to use as much recycled and repurposed stuff as I can. It has to be classy, look expensive, stick to the theme and make people want to buy it. What the hell was I thinking? Ornament1

The daunting sample-Professional slick tree is over the top 

I'm all about going green but I'm feeling daunted after seeing the spectacular sample treees last weekend. I figure I am going to need in excess of 300 ornaments before its all over and each one is going to be handmade pretty much. Unlike other tree people who can just buy 3 dozen of a green whatsis and wire them on. I have to create them. I'm whining and panic stricken now. I'll get over it but I need my moment.

Glitter to the rescue! Old salt shaker? Glitter it with blizzard flakes and put on a gorgeous ribbon and some buttons. 99 cent bird potpourri holder from Good Will? Glitter makes everything better–I didn't realize how incredibly gorgeous the stark white glass crystal glitter was until all the white glue on the first bird ornament dried. Glitterbird

I'm making "snow shakers" with old small jars and tiny figures. Those are fun, and I love soldering so I have a whole soldering stage set up.

I have to give a shout out to all the black wire in the world. I love that stuff, I'm using it in two sizes because I like the vintage feel it gives. Just don't forget to run steel wool down it unless you like being covered in the black gunk that comes off the wire.

Just to share with those that see this and want to do it for themselves. Here are the steps for each ornament made from a repurposed salt shaker, glass statue, etc.


Bear selected, noticed the giant glitter pile behind him?


Wired for hanging, this part is tough if you don't know how to do it.


Bead selection for the bear hanger-my big bead stash




I think about where snow would fall if it fell from above and use Weldbond glue and a cotton swab to apply a coat. It will be white when you glitter it and dry clear. Choose something that dries very clear to glitter on top of when using white glitter.

Bear druomg

Almost dry, there is still a spot of white on on one leg that will be clear and sparkly when it dries completely. Add a gorgeous ribbon and a button, in this cae a heart, and voila, repurposed green ornament. Feels good to not just go buy something from Walmart or Target, but to reuse something that's already in the world.

And for this post, last but not least, I am not a tidy multi-tasker. I know where everything is, but it is pretty much strewn and I have six things in progress at any one time. If you like doing this sort of thing you do need to find a dedicated area that you can set up and leave up. I have jars and boxes that everything goes back in for storage when I start on something else and need the space.

B glittering station

This is one side of the studio, the glittering and assembly station. Looks a mess doesn't it?

A soldering station

And on the other side the soldering station, notice its much tidier over here where the hot work happens. I try to get a bunch of things ready to roll all at once. Notice the little fan? I also solder with the door open and I always wear closed shoes. Solder burns are no joke.

So, this is the process and I have two big long metal clotheslines that are filling up fast with shiny completed ornaments. I'll shoot a few of those and post them next time around in my quest for 300 ornaments as repurposed as I can get them!