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.

Sara and Michael Chaney IMG_E1585.jpg

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

Michael and Sara Chaney birch bark picture frame with denim.jpg

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.

Making Flower Tiles With Polymer Clay

Michael and Sara Chaney Flower Tile Art Rose.jpg

We have spent luscious autumnal mornings and late summer evenings making flowers out of clay. We are doing this in preparation for another Almanac, this one to be made entirely of flowers in clay. We will call it the Floramanac.

Michael and Sara Chaney Flower Tile Art Lily horizontal series.jpg

Through tiles of clay flowers and collaborative practice, we recognize the passing of the seasons together.

Michael and Sara Chaney Flower Tile Art Lily vertical series.jpg

This vertical series features our rendition of the flowers still spreading the joy of their colors in our garden: the lily, daisy, home run rose, and oversized petunia.

Michael and Sara Chaney Flower Tile Art Lily.jpg

The daylily, as lovely as she is hardy and resilient.

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

Screen Shot 2018-04-02 at 12.10.06 PM.png

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


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

Screen Shot 2018-04-02 at 12.56.19 PM.png

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


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


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

Screen Shot 2018-04-02 at 1.21.02 PM.png

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

IMG_2763 (1).jpg

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

Screen Shot 2018-04-02 at 1.34.25 PM.png

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.