Festival of Trees in Erie, PA – My tree!

I found out about the St Vincent Festival of Trees from my friends at Claytopia, the pottery studio where I teach my painting on canvas classes. Gretchen (the owner) mentioned that Claytopia was going to have their very own tree with painted pottery pieces all over it! Immediately I had visions of a tree covered in my paintings. So I contacted St Vincent and got in!

Designing my tree

My tree was to be themed “Forest Friends”. It would be a whimsical, colorful, tree with woodland creatures, and all 100% hand-painted ornaments.

So first, I had to pick my colors. I LOVE teal, so teal was definitely in. I wanted two other accent colors that really felt like “me” – and since I use a lot of orange and purple in my paintings, those seemed perfect. So I settled on teal, orange, and purple. I grabbed a ton of felt in those colors to get started on my garland!

For my garland, I decided to do big leaves in my tree colors – but I wanted them whimsical and fun as opposed to realistic. I wanted them to look like the leaves I would paint in my paintings!

It took many many nights of stapling my leaves to a very long wired ribbon. Then, I hot-glued the sides and ends of the leaves together, so that the garland would lay flat. I love the way it turned out and I got SO many compliments on my garland afterwards.

Then there were the acorns. Oh, the acorns! I bought 300 little wooden acorns from Woodworks, Ltd (a great place to buy bulk wood craft supplies, esp. sawtooth hangers!). I painted the acorns teal, orange, and purple. It took forever but was so exciting seeing my tree come to life!

One part I thought about for awhile was, how will I attach the acorns to the tree? Finally I asked my super-crafty friend Erica, who can build pretty much anything. She responded with “I’ll make you a drill press that fits your acorns perfectly, and I’ll help you drill them!” What a lifesaver! Within a couple days she had a custom-made drill press for me, and she came over and drilled while I painted.

Showing off her expertise!

After all the acorns were complete, I hung them in singles and in clusters on the tree. I loved making clusters of 2 and 3 acorns. They looked so cute!

Then there were the lights. I wanted lights that matched my colors – teal, orange, and purple. I bought strands of those colors, but wanted the colors to alternate. So, instead of having a strand of all teal, and a strand of all purple, etc, I wanted my strands to have bulbs of all color. So I removed the bulbs on all the strands and made them alternate colors.

The result – my strands of teal, orange, and purple lights! I think they are beautiful.

Then, to go along with my woodland creatures theme, I decided to add some birdhouses. So I ordered about 50 wooden birdhouses of varying sizes from Sunshine Discount Crafts (tons of awesome craft supplies for a great bulk price).

I painted the birdhouses in my colors, and kept them fairly simple, like my paintings! I did add some cute details too though, like shingles on the roof.

Finished birdhouse!

And finally, my paintings! I decided to do paintings of the animals of the forest, using my tree colors. I got a bunch of flat 4″x4″ canvas panels from Dick Blick, some ribbon, and 3 different kinds of glue! Yes, 3. I don’t trust glue. It just has never worked out well for me! Whenever I need it to work the most, it seems like my creations just fall apart. So I got 3 different kinds, and I used ALL 3. That way if one fails, hopefully the others will hold on.

And here are the finished paintings!

The tree topper

And, last but not least, my tree topper! I decided to really make my animals come to life. So I made a nest with 4 forest animals sitting in it – a fox, an owl, a squirrel, and a bunny.

First I bought two wreaths made of branches from Michaels. I stacked the bigger one on top of the smaller one to make a nest.

Then I drew out my forest animals on paper, so I could make a pattern.

I used the same felt that I used for my garland to make the forest animals. I sewed them together with my sewing machine, and stuffed them with filling. For the bunny ears, I used a tip I found on DoYouSew.com, and I sandwiched some cardboard between two pieces of felt so they would stand up straight, then I hot-glued them to the bunny’s head.

Then I added all the finishing touches – the colored markings, and the eyes, noses, and mouths. I love the result – I think they look like they came straight out of one of my paintings! :)

After thinking about it for awhile, I finally settled on sewing the animals to the nest using fishing line. It actually turned out really great! The animals stood straight really well, and there was room in the center of the wreath for the top of the tree to come through.

And here is the finished topper!

Setting up my tree

And of course, as it is with any huge art project, I finished everything late the night before setup. ;) The next day, my boyfriend and I actually had a flight out to Florida from Pittsburgh for our Thanksgiving vacation! So, early the next morning, we went to the Convention Center to setup my tree before the flight!

We wrapped the lights around the topper to give it a little something extra :)

My tree was the first one decorated!

Here I am with my finished tree!

I also made a huge 24″x24″ painting with my name and a tagline “Painting & Illustration” to go with my tree. I’m going to use it at art festivals too, as a sign for my booth!

I put it behind a little table with flyers for my painting classes, business cards, and free bookmarks. They went really fast, which made me really happy!

Here are some closeups of my tree!


The event!

After we got back from our Thanksgiving vacation in Florida, there was still one day left for the Festival of Trees! So we stopped by to check out all the beautiful trees.

We put some tickets in for the silent auction. I was excited to see a lot of tickets in the bag for my donation! I donated two paintings.

I love the description that they came up with for my donation! “Whimsy on Canvas” – so cute! It says “Invite the whimsical mind of artist Heather Cash into your home!”

And here I am at the event with my tree! It was fun to finally just relax and enjoy all my hard work :)

From left: Erica (my friend who helped me with the acorns), Dean (her husband), Josh (my boyfriend), and me!

I hope you enjoyed seeing the process of creating my tree! Hopefully it will inspire you to do something fun & creative for your tree this year :) Happy holidays!