I wanted a table prop that would fit my College Fae series and decided a small fairy tree house would be perfect! This is the first blog post of three that goes into the details of how we made our own fairy tree house.
Start by making a hollow form from thin cardboard. For the upper part, we wrapped it around a Styrofoam cone to keep the shape although we removed the cone later so we could have it hollow for lighting. Use masking tape to fix it into place – don’t worry as this will be covered later with your foam spray.
We made some roots and bumps by adding packing Styrofoam (you could use pool noodles or pipe insulation from your local hardware store) to exterior areas. Remember, trees rarely grow straight, so have some bend in the trunk will make it look more realistic. We went overboard with this idea, and once the foam was on, it expanded and hid a lot of the detail! So just experiment and see what works for you.
TIP: This tree was our first experiment, in preparation for doing a larger tree. The foam, because it expands and is hard to control, doesn’t do well with finer details. Many of our smaller roots were obscured by foam.
The upper branches were made with wire, punched into the cardboard form and taped into place. The lower portion of the branch we built up by wrapping cardboard or rolled up newspaper around it before taping it.
The upper branches we covered using a different technique (not foam). Wet paper towels in a solution of Mod Podge or white glue. Wrap it around your branch, setting wrinkles for the bark. This gives texture, and when painted the right color will look great!
The foam is SUPER STICKY – but one thing it won’t stick on is plastic garbage bags. You can use these to protect your table surface of where you are working; once the foam hardens you can just pop it right off. If you want to “press” the foam to shape it (which you can do after it sets for about 10 minutes), cover your hand with a plastic garbage bag to do it because if it gets on your hands it’s like getting cotton candy off (and you can’t lick this off your fingers)! Have acetone ready; it is the ONLY thing that will dissolve the foam or get it off your hands, but it will not work once the foam hardens!
Here’s some video of the procedure of foaming the trunk of the fairy tree house – and our bloopers!
Before starting to spray with foam, thoroughly wet down the fairy tree house. We didn’t do this on the first pass (forgot), and the foam started slipping off! After a spray coat of water, it stuck on better.
Water will also speed up the drying time. In about 15 minutes check back and if you want to change the shape before it sets now is the time to do it!
Once it was all set we started carving. We took off some of the larger lumps of foam (where we didn’t want it) and shaped the roots a bit better. We also cut out space for a fairy door and the windows.
If you remove any of the spray foam, once you start painting these areas will come in darker with a different texture. No worry – just adjust your colors.
To make windows we first made cardboard templates and pinned them on the tree. Our tree tree may be seen from any angle, so it’s important to have proper proportion of door to windows, and a mix of styles.
Using the templates gave us a better idea of where we would want them before we started cutting the foam. We used a drill and a keyhole saw to make the openings.
My next blog will go over how we painted and decorated this fairy house tree!
This tabletop tree is the centerpiece of the College Fae table at my booth. Doing this smaller project gave us experience before proceeding to the bigger one – a large tree centerpiece that will have a Dryad emerging from its trunk! (Stay tuned!!)
Some helpful info that gave us great ideas:
Videos showing how a foam tree trunk was made. These are super helpful!:
Bark techniques (we used her paper towel technique):
Tree roots made of rolled up newspaper: