I wanted a table prop that would fit my College Fae series and decided a small “fairy house” tree would be perfect! Here are the directions on how to make one.
Make a hollow form from thin cardboard. For the upper part we wrapped it around a Styrofoam cone to make the shape. Use masking tape to fix it into place – don’t worry as this will be covered later.
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.
TIP: This tree was our first experiment in preparation of 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. The lower portion of the branch we built up by wrapping cardboard or rolled up newspaper around it before taping it.
For the thinner upper branches we covered using a different technique. Wet paper towels in a solution of Mod Podge or white glue. Wrap it around your branch, setting wrinkles for the bark.
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. If you want to “pat” the foam to shape it, cover your hand with a plastic garbage bag to do it.
Before starting to spray with foam, thoroughly wet down the tree. We didn’t do this on the first pass (forgot) and the foam started slipping off! After a spraycoat of water, it stuck on better.
Water will also speed up the drying time so in about 15 minutes check back and if you want to change the shape before it sets now is the time.
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. We may have the tree be seen 360 degrees so it’s important to have proper portion 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 the 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: