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.

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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.

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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.

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To purchase our birch craft products, please click here.

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10 things to do with birch bark

 

We have birch trees that cozy up to our cottage, peppering the yard with occasional branches. What to do with these offerings? Here are ten great ideas for the birch enthusiast.

1. Wreath

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You could begin with an old float toy from the pool and a good pair of scissors. Cut the bark into regular strips, then glue them to the toy. We like to use wood glue diluted with water for such applications. Voila!

2. Card

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If you have need for a special touch, let birch bark help you say how you feel. We are birch bark aficionados and even we were surprised at how gorgeously these materials come together.

3. Paper you can print on

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We figured out a way to tape thin strips of bark onto paper, fooling our printer into printing onto the bark. Here is a detail of two panels from Almanac #2 (December). Side-by-side, the unadorned beauty of the wood grain contrasts against the mechanical gloss of the ink and varnish.

 

4. A Personalized Notepad

Thanks to their durability, birch strips easily lend themselves to various applications. They work great as covers. Here is our version of a personal notebook with flair.

 

5. Embellishments for furniture

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Strips of birch add softness and design appeal to this makeshift seed caddy. We made it from scrap wood left over from our projects.

 

6. Decor Accents

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A word here, a snip there, and any natural element like a birch curl can add drama to your environment. The trick is in placing it just right.

 

7. Flower Holder

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Sometimes, we need just one stem to go in the middle of an arrangement. For such moments of floral precision, try the waterproof spring of a birch curl. It can fit into most flumes to create a dedicated track for that special stem in your bouquet.

 

8. Frames/matting

We use backyard sticks in lots of projects. Birch makes for a sturdy frame. Don't even get us started on using denim to paint on!

 

9. Toy or gadget

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This spinner comes from our Almanac #4. You spin to get what should seem like many results, only in our cheeky universe of spinners, there are only two options.  The durability and flexibility of the birch bark made this project a breeze.  You might use the bark to make your own gadget for that special spinner in your life. Bored backseat passengers on long rides might find the possibilities pleasantly distracting.

10. box or pouch

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We fashioned this piece of birch to represent a mailbox. Inside the curl rests a letter, bound like a scroll and ready for delivery. Because the material is very responsive to glues of all kinds (white glue, wood glue), we know there are many ways to build a box with birch.  The strips  could be used as panels or just the curls. The possibilities are endless.

Count on us to experiment more with birch bark in our mixed media Almanac artworks. Also, please check out our latest birch crafts here.

Our latest birch craft designs showcase the rustic grain of the birch (as well as a few sprigs of dried leaves), converting the paper into a lovely and durable ornament you can hang on a window or a wall.

See our birch crafts here.

Let Birch Inspire

Creativity is hard work. It's all worth it when the well of ideas flows. But it's no walk in the park when the ideas won't come. Well, there might be more wisdom in that phrase than we know. Whenever we feel the lulls (that are really essential to creative work!), we look to the trees in our backyard for inspiration.

We search for inspiration in the birch trees. They linger by our cottage, a cape nestled in a clutch of woods at the base of Gillette and Jericho Hills in Windsor County, Vermont. Pine, maples, and birch are everywhere. They may be common, but you will remember meeting one in a thicket, if you happen to notice it on your walk.

We search for inspiration in the birch trees. They linger by our cottage, a cape nestled in a clutch of woods at the base of Gillette and Jericho Hills in Windsor County, Vermont. Pine, maples, and birch are everywhere. They may be common, but you will remember meeting one in a thicket, if you happen to notice it on your walk.

Contrast is not just a principle in art making. Contrast is essential to human vision. We really can't see what doesn't stand out well to our eyes. The birch tree is a highlight that calls attention to its own bark and makes us suddenly aware of the intricate splendor of the typically more muted natural surfaces all around us.

Contrast is not just a principle in art making. Contrast is essential to human vision. We really can't see what doesn't stand out well to our eyes. The birch tree is a highlight that calls attention to its own bark and makes us suddenly aware of the intricate splendor of the typically more muted natural surfaces all around us.

In our Almanac mixed media paintings, we use birch bark to signify all the things it reminds us of--history, writing, parchment, paper. Although it is best never to remove birch bark from a living tree, when peeled from fallen branches or dead trees, the bark can be used as paper. For us, it is more importantly used as a source of inspiration.

In our Almanac mixed media paintings, we use birch bark to signify all the things it reminds us of--history, writing, parchment, paper. Although it is best never to remove birch bark from a living tree, when peeled from fallen branches or dead trees, the bark can be used as paper. For us, it is more importantly used as a source of inspiration.

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A big, beautiful curl of birch bark hangs proudly atop our February Almanac, shown above while still in progress. We salvaged this piece during one of our walks on Gillette Hill.

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A close-up on the tiny forest of birch shavings inside our natural embellishment. We later decided to convert this one into a tiny mailbox. It even has an actual letter inside (written on birch bark, of course). The natural asymmetries of a birch curl often challenges us to think in unexpected and whimsical directions.

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The birch tree is known for its beauty and resilience. Resistant to water and disease, the bark has been used for centuries to make everything from canoes to writing paper. Here, it graces our canvas in homage to nature's flawless engineering.