My Christmas wreath from 2016. I felt we needed some popping colour to cheer us all up!
The first thing to do is to check what you have already by way of
poster and acrylic paints, brushes, old sponges and rags; plastic tubs from small yoghurts up to the half litre cartons - any containers that would work for holding paint for those using fine brushes, medium brushes, and pieces of sponge; old plates and saucers
for resting the paint brushes and sponges on while working; hairy garden twine, string, ribbons and raffia.
Save up any tissue or wrapping paper and all types
of ribbon from now on - as yet, you have no idea what you may need.
You will need bits of old sponge for applying paint, rags for wiping brush handles, paint brushes from very
small to medium sizes, cotton buds, and a selection of poster / acrylic paints - stick to approximately four to five bright colours, along with black, plus silver and gold
for your basic colour themes. You may need white spirits to soak and clean some of your paint brushes. You'll need lots of newspaper.
Please keep any brushes you have soaking in white spirits out of the house, either on a step, or on a window sill, firmly
attached by twine. The fumes of white spirits cause really bad headaches and are generally to be avoided. Rinse them off as soon as possible.
If you have some oil based paint you use for painting the front door, or wherever, please resist using it as the fumes in the house will cause bad headaches, and can cause nausea.
If you think you may decide to work on decorations for Hallowe'en / Samhain and Christmas / The New Year this
coming year, perhaps you could buy some medium sized pots of black, vivid red, yellow, and orange,
and green paints - depending on what you have already, and only get tiny pots of the silver and gold paint, which can be quite expensive.
Try to make sure you don't spent too much money, on too
much paint, because it will have become rock solid in its jars or bottles by the time you go looking for paint to work on Easter eggs!
With examples of Nature as regal as tall teasel stems and beautifully shaped, naked flower heads, little is required to make a statuesque statement.
They lend themselves to drama. I would paint the possibly ten foot
long stems black, and let them dry. A great deal of paint might soak in, and a second coat may be required to give a strong, dark, even, colour.
When you are certain the stem is completely dry, you can look to the flower heads. There are so many choices!
One could choose a very strong, vivid, red,
orange, and yellow palette, and just brush a head lightly with a sponge, leaving the tips only of the spikes painted with startling colour. Or, one could paint every spike
of a flower head in bright yellow using a very fine brush or cotton buds. A second flower head, also painted fully with yellow, could be left
to dry, and as above, and using a sponge again, give it a dash of bright red or orange to the tips of the spikes only.
You wouldn't have to paint every single spike of the flower head, you could paint fully the bottom three layers and the top three layers, and add paint randomly to the layers in between.
When one has gone through the various permutations, sticking to a very few vivid colours for the flower
heads, to reflect the fires of Samhain, and when all the paint is thoroughly dry, one can arrange the stems.
By catching the stems approximately two-fifths from the base of the flower heads, and using black velvet ribbon, or hairy garden twine painted black or any colour, or raffia, or whatever
takes your fancy, tie loosely the stems together, and then spread the base of each of them in a wigwam-type circle, so that the arrangement is self-supporting. You may need to move the tie up or down
a little, and tighten or loosen it, to get just the right splay of the heads and support for the whole piece from the spread of the stems.
You may need to trim the ends of the stems to make the arrangement as stable as possible.
Large and smaller
thistle heads and stems could be given the same wigwam treatment as the teasel suggestions. These would make great table centrepieces and mantlepiece decorations.
They could be secured to your front door knocker or doorknob.
around your house, and choose where would make the most impact if used as a site for your decorations and artwork. Would a turn on the stairs, where a guest comes around and then across a hanging decoration, add a moment of suspense to the Hallowe'en / Samhain atmosphere?
That would be my idea of a Samhain Statement!
For ideas on how to paint poppy heads, slight skeletons of cow parsley, and various grasses, you might like to look at the photograph of my 2016 Christmas wreath, above.
Given that a broad range of ages from maybe two-year-olds up to teenagers and adults working, perfection isn't the aim. Having fun, having one's own pieces of work to show, and having
lots of encouragement to take chances, to the very edge, would make for utterly unique artwork.
all about the edge - the edge between the mortal world and the spirit world. 'Safe' is the antithesis of Samhain!
Very young children working with sponges and rags, can make spectacular decorations patting paint gently onto the tops of dried
cow parsley and other spreading flower heads and dried grass heads. What looks
ordinary suddenly becomes amazing. To get the strongest effect, it's best to stick to one colour for each spreading flower head.
The youngest children could also use their sponges and rags to paint the stalks
and stems of the poppies and any of the stems and twigs you have gathered. The stems may need more than one coat of paint depending on how absorbent and dried its structure.
Go for lots of colour black, orange, bronze, gold, - the vegetation
will soak in a certain amount - strong colours always work best. Then, you can go for contrasting mixes of colour for the seedheads - Nature never clashes!
Equally, you could make wigwams of your
arrangements, tie them so that they are self-supporting, and then trim the base of the stems so that they support steadily a home-made, painted, bouquet of of Nature's glory and the family's
imagination. These could be table centre-pieces, for the mantlepiece, or as present to grandparents and family friends for the hall table, visible to children calling at Hallowe'en - to do their party
piece and collect their fruit and nuts.
MAKING PRESENTS TO PASS ON THE SPIRIT!
Hairy garden twine painted
a bright colour using a sponge or rag, can become a beautiful piece of material for tying together a mix of painted flower heads, painted
twiglets and stems, in a variety of strong, vivid, colours, drawn together at the base of the stems, and spreading out the vegetation and heads, upside down. (This is why you will have stored all your seedheads up-side-down, so that you have gather all
the seed, and no more shall fall out of your decorations - or maybe just a few.) Use the twine to wrap up the stems, tied off and ending in a a loop to hang the decoration on a door handle, or on a picture hook which can be made available for the Season.
These hanging sprays make lovely presents for grandparents, babysitters, and all family friends. People really do prefer handmade presents, made with love.
Iseult Catherine O'Brien
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