Making Rustic Picture Frames Out of Birch Sticks

The bark of some birch trees looks like pages of a sunken book, the wreckage of some ship’s log crusted over with mushrooming coral and coppery algae.


No matter how tempting, birch bark should never be pulled from living trees as doing so damages them.

This simple rule is not difficult for us to follow since the not-so-living birch varieties are more than just plentiful—they’re thriving in our area. And the living are no slouches either. The topmost branches of most birch trees are generous to a fault. They are eager to make many weighty donations to the vigilant crafter.


All cautions and humor aside, Vermont trees are stunning sun bathers under blue skies who parch their pages amidst the relentless authorings of driving snow.


Once collected, the dried and flattened bark of fallen trees can be used as a material for endless making—pages, of course, but also matting, basketry, coils or fraps. The building block of a storehouse full of useful things waits in every fiber.


We have a favorite use for these sticks.


It involves a miter box and a saw.

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We incorporate rustic sticks and old jeans together with some wood glue and a few nails to create framed canvases for our art works.

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This type of frame works best for subjects that suit it. It’s lovely and rugged, durable but also delicate. At the edges, paper and wood change places and dance together around a knot or along the ramp of a stiff curl before parting ways forever.

Small Original Oil Painting of Big Fun Coventry (Cleveland Heights, OH) Toy Store in Rustic Wood Frame Using Birch Bark

Small Original Oil Painting of Big Fun Coventry (Cleveland Heights, OH) Toy Store in Rustic Wood Frame Using Birch Bark

final version

final version

To purchase the above painting, click here.

Birch Arts and Crafts

Sara and I spend many hours working with strips of birch bark. We harvest the freshest pages, as we call them, from a few fallen birch trees around our yard.

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Vermont is home to many birch tree varieties, and our yard is no stranger to nature’s occasional offerings and donations.


The material poses challenges for the inflexible. It is resilient and water proof, but it can break easily, too. Parts of it continue to peel worse than a fragile onion—only in the most paradoxically durable way.

birch bark women by michael and sara chaney

The material is fashionably lied about everywhere in popular culture for being white, charmingly mottled with deep brown or grey. Most bark paper is ruddy, reddish brown, nearly pine, with smooth random marks like Morse code or that notched paper fed into old self-playing pianos. It comes in distinct colors and textures, which is good news to those with a design mind.

With an ability to create sharp contours and contrasts, birch possesses rich potential as an expressive art form.


To purchase our birch craft products, please click here.

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