If you have time and patience, it's possible to make an inexpensive and surprisingly realistic tree from papier mache and chicken wire. A papier mache and chicken wire tree is perfect for theatrical productions, a classroom art project, home decor, or a super-scary Halloween tree. Save newspapers for several days, and start early, because a thick layer of papier mache will take days to dry'.
Form a rough tree trunk shape from chicken wire. Make the trunk out of a large piece of chicken wire first. Cut smaller pieces of chicken wire with a pair of wire cutters, and add roots at the bottom of the trunk. Form branches out of rolled up pieces of chicken wire last, and attach them to the trunk, leaving the top of the tree open. Remember that real trees have plenty of curves, lumps and bumps, so don't worry about creating a perfect shape.
Cover the entire tree with brown craft paper or newspaper and tape the seams with masking tape. Be sure that all of the chicken wire is covered.
Make the first batch of papier mache by mixing 2 cups of cold water and 1 cup of flour in a large bowl. If you're making a large tree, you'll need more papier mache, but it's best to start with smaller batches, and make more as you need it. Don't make too much ahead of time, because papier mache won't keep in the refrigerator.
Tear several newspapers into squares, rectangles or short strips. Don't cut the newspaper with scissors, because the edges won't blend together well.
Dip the pieces of newspaper in the papier mache, and wipe off the excess with your fingers. Working slowly and carefully, wrap the entire tree in strips of newspaper and papier mache.
Add detail to the tree with pieces of rope, twine and spray foam once you've covered the tree with a solid later of papier mache' and newspaper. Add another layer of papier mache' and newspaper, covering the details and blending it with your fingers.
Continue adding layers of newspaper and papier mache until the tree has the desired level of detail. Keep in mind that more papier mache will make the tree sturdier, but the more you use, the longer it will take to dry.
Set the tree aside to dry. Depending on the temperature in this room and depth of the paper mache, this could take anywhere from two days to a week.
Paint the dry tree with brown latex paint and allow it to dry. After it's dry, add shadowing and depth with black latex paint, and allow it to dry. If desired, seal the tree with polyurethane varnish.
Add an umbrella to the top of the tree by inserting the handle into the top of the trunk. If the tree is large, you'll need more than one umbrella.
Attach as much craft-store greenery to the tree as you like. It can be hot-glued to the top and bottom of the umbrella, and then wrapped around the branches, or attached with thin wire or hot glue. Craft store grape vines works very well.
Umbrellas can be purchased very inexpensively at used clothing stores or at dollar stores. Child-size umbrellas work well for smaller trees. Use several small umbrellas or one large umbrella for larger trees.
Chicken wire is pliable and bends easily, but be sure to wear gloves because the cut edges can be sharp
Tips and warnings
- Umbrellas can be purchased very inexpensively at used clothing stores or at dollar stores. Child-size umbrellas work well for smaller trees. Use several small umbrellas or one large umbrella for larger trees.
- Chicken wire is pliable and bends easily, but be sure to wear gloves because the cut edges can be sharp