Woodland Art: Find Materials to Create Unique, Nature-Inspired Decor

Collect natural art supplies from your own backyard or from a walk in the woods to create inexpensive, one-of-a-kind home décor that brings the splendor and serenity of nature into your living space.

| November 29, 2010

The following is an excerpt from Woodland Style: Ideas and Projects for Bringing Foraged and Found Elements Into Your Home by Marlene Hurley Marshall (Storey Publishing, 2010). With dozens of step-by-step projects, Marshall gives readers inspiration on using nature’s offerings in creative ways, including as table centerpieces, wreaths, baskets, sculptures, and much more . This excerpt is from Chapter 1, “Foraging for Materials.” 

Making woodland art — such as a rustic wreath of acorns and pine cones, a coat rack fashioned from twigs, or a display of rocks and moss — offers rewards that are much greater than the end product. Unlike other arts, such as painting, in which gathering your materials may involve the fairly mundane task of going to an art supply store, gathering supplies for woodland art is an integral part of the creative process. Experiencing nature immerses you in the most pleasurable aspects of a day: the warmth of the sun; a gentle breeze; light seeping through trees; the scent of pine or honeysuckle; the sound of bird song, crunched leaves or a running stream; the softness of a gentle snowfall; the feel of earth beneath your shoes. Just being out in nature will brighten your day while also influencing your artistry. So take a walk on the wild side. Collect natural items from the woods or in your own backyard, and let them guide and inspire you.

Collecting Woodland Finds

The secret to being a successful woodland artist is to always be prepared for collecting treasured raw materials. Your basic tool kit should include utility bags and a knapsack, a trowel, a small camping knife, pruning shears, a good pair of work gloves suited for handling thorns, and insect repellent. If practical, keep a packed backpack in your car. You never know when you may see pine cones or pods on the side of the road, discover wild ramps or knotweed in your travels, or encounter a path that invites a stroll.

When collecting in any area, be aware of protected species of plants. Educate yourself on the rules of any park or preserve you enter, and always get permission from the owner before exploring private property. When foraging for wild edibles, be sure you know exactly what you are collecting and take only what you need, leaving some for others to enjoy and enough to generate next year’s crop.

Dress for Discovery

When you’re exploring woods or fields, being well-prepared for the elements will make the excursion all the more enjoyable. If you know you’ll be exposed to the sun, don a wide-brimmed hat. If there’s a chance of rain, wear waterproof shoes or rubber boots and bring along a water-repellent jacket. Long pants, socks and gloves will help prevent you from getting scratched or getting poison ivy, plus they’ll offer some protection from ticks. If these insects are prevalent in your area, be sure to check your skin and clothing after each outing.

Handy Places to Collect Natural Materials

There are many practical and easy sources for acquiring crafting supplies. Before you head out to explore new places, take a look around your own backyard. There’s a large weeping pine tree in my own yard, for example, that drops multitudes of pine cones. In addition, my neighbor has a weeping pine tree that hangs over my fence and sends down a few thousand more! And a friend offered me the bark from the pine trees she plans to remove from her yard. As part of spring cleanup, many homeowners clear fallen or pruned fruit tree branches that may still have buds. If so, you can take them indoors to force the blooms. You may also find places where local road crews are trimming trees in the downtown area or developers are clearing plots for new homes. Just be sure to ask permission before scavenging through the cuttings.

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