- To finish your project, spray your wood pieces with a matte polyurethane or after selecting the
pieces you wish to use you could spray each piece individually before gluing. Don’t forget to
spray outside or in a well ventilated area. I spray in my bathroom where there is a vent fan
and I can close the door to contain the smell of spray paints or finishes.
You’ll find, as we continue tinkering together, I favor
wood as a medium. I have a particular penchant for
found wood from nature and have several beautiful and
unique pieces that remind me that nature is the
greatest sculptor of all. In years past I spent a great
deal of time outdoors taking long walks in the woods
where I collected all sorts of materials for my many
In the original work pieces of driftwood are glued to a
canvas board in a dramatic arrangement showing a
wide variance in color, grain and texture. The board is
in turn glued on colored art board and set off by an
edging of metallic tape. The article did not mention
what size the finished piece was, though much smaller
than my interpretation I'm sure. Neither did the article
indicate how the finished work was to be hung.
A note to teachers -
This could be a very successful project for students of all ages and useful for teaching
concepts of design and texture as well as a lesson in “green” and recycling. Perhaps the art
and science teachers could work together to plan a nature walk or outing for the purpose of
collecting woods for the assignment.
This is a leftover-lumber collage built
on much the same principle as the
wood painting. Here the scraps of
lumber and pieces of driftwood make
an interesting and inexpensive
outdoor art piece. Use 1/2 – inch
exterior plywood for the backing.
Arrange your lumber scraps in a way
that highlights their various sizes,
shapes and textures. Apply wood to
the backing with a waterproof glue.
Frame the collage with redwood 1"x 2"
s or 1"x 4"s. For added interest, apply
wood stains to different pieces.
Around 35 years ago I found this project in a woman’s
magazine and my version that you see pictured above is
about that old. I’ve had it hanging over my sofa for as
long as I can remember. The original article had several
examples of sculptures made from found objects by
students from the New York School of Design who were
assigned to recycle trash into treasures. The project
was ahead of its time and is very much back in style now
with the new "green" awareness.
30” x 42”
Arts and Crafts
Painted Ceramic Bisque
- First a word about bringing nature into your living space. Clean all found wood pieces
thoroughly with water to rid them of any crawly things that may be living within. Do not spray
with insecticides or poisons especially if you own pets. Submerging each piece in hot water
is usually sufficient to flush out unwanted bugs. Allow all pieces to dry throughly before using
them. While I have been careful I do admit I have a bark frame that for years has had
something living in it and chewing on it. I occasionally find tiny piles of sawdust on the table
that sits below it. I have inspected it many times and have found nothing so ignored it. After
years I know longer found any evidence of chewing so whatever it is must have finally died of
- Prepare your canvas board by painting it with washable paint before beginning this project.
You can use acrylic or latex wall paint. If left untreated, canvas board collects dirt and stains
easily. You are doing this in advance as It is difficult to paint the canvas around the wood
and bark pieces after they have been arranged and affixed.
HOW TO –
- My finished work is 30” x 42”. Art board, as suggested in the original instructions, would have
never stood that size or the weight of the wood without buckling. Also you will need to have
something sturdier to attach your picture hanger from. I used 1/4" inch plywood covered in a
colored in olive green burlap as the mounting board. After many years the burlap faded. When
it got really bad I simply painted the burlap with a slightly darker water thinned acrylic paint
which refreshed it nicely.
- Attach your picture wire to your mounting board first. I
originally used screw eyes for this project and it worked for a
while but then one of the screw eyes pulled out and there was
a terrible crash. I can tell you that once you have your wood
arranged attractively and glued in place you don’t want the
painting to fall. The wood, most especially the bark pieces, will
break and you will never get it glued back quite as nicely.
Measure 1/4 the distance down from the top of your wall
sculpture mounting board and drill 2 parallel holes 4 – 6 inches
apart. The holes only need to be large enough for a double
thickness of picture hanging wire to fit through . Make sure
your wire is strong enough to last a lifetime because you will
not be able to replace it easily. Thread it through twice to be
extra sure and twist tie your ends.
- The metallic tape that was used in the original project will not stick to the coarse burlap
fabric. Instead I use grosgrain ribbon in an accent color of gold or yellow ochre to form a
matte boarder edge. Place your canvas board on the covered mounting board and measure
carefully to make sure it is centered, then trace around it with white chalk. Glue 1” grosgrain
ribbon directly on top of the line so that when the canvas board is laid on top approximately a
half inch of the ribbon will show around the board while a half inch remains under the canvas
board. Make an angle fold at the end of each ribbon to form a mitered seam at all four
corners where the ribbons meet. If the ribbon fades over the years, like the burlap covering
of the mounting board, the ribbon too can be revived by painting it with thinned acrylic paint.
- Glue down your empty painted canvas board. I used white glue. I’ve been experimenting
with a new construction adhesive but have not used it long enough to know if I would
- Now begin to arrange your wood pieces. This is strictly a spontaneous free form technique
from this point on. There is no way to make a preliminary sketch or plan. The design
depends on your individual pieces of wood. You have to decide as you go what piece goes
where according to color and texture and what looks best to you. When you have your wood
pieces arranged, begin to glue them down. Back when my wall sculpture was made I used
plain old Elmer’s white glue throughout because that was pretty much all there was. I’ve
spent 40 plus years waiting for someone to come out with something better, stronger, easier,
neater, that dries faster and dries clear and I’m still waiting. I've tried dozens of products in
that time but still haven't found a glue to meet all my criteria. You might think that a hot glue
gun would be good for this project, and I have used a glue gun on other bark project but
have found that hot glue sticks to certain woods but not to others. This is especially true
with highly textured bark. If you can find a glue gun that doesn’t thread, you can use it to
tack or fill if you choose. I have found though that the fine hairs of hot glue get caught on all
your wood pieces and are difficult if not impossible to remove. Beside the threading
problem hot glue is simply not a dependable choice. In hot weather I have had hot glue melt
and have had entire sections of bark artwork fall off during a hot humid summer. Because of
these problems and despite the slow drying process I’d still use a good white glue even to
this day. Another of the drawbacks of white glue is that it must be weighted or clamped. I
gently laid bricks on top all glued spots but any heavy objects will do.
Gluing is the most difficult part of this project. Since few of your found wood pieces will be
flat you have to analyze where your pieces are making actual contact to the canvas board
and each other and glue at, and only at, those contact points. Glue used anywhere other
than contact points is simply wasted.
- Allow a full 24 hours of drying time and use fans if it is a humid day. After the glue is
thoroughly dried remove the weights and blow off all wood debris with your blow dryer.
Notice how the fabric is stretched on first one side
then directly opposite that side. After the first 4
sides you move to the diagonals always moving to
the opposing diagonal. Corners are finished by
gathering the fabric so that no folds or puckers
are seen from the front or sides. When you have
placed the first 16 staples you continue the
stapling process until all the fabric is as flat and
finished as possible. The illustration to the left is
what the stretched burlap should look like when
you are finished. As always, neatness counts but of
course the back of the painting will be against the
wall so never visible.