A friend was inspired by another piece I had done for a wedding and wanted me to design something similar for her mom for Mother’s Day. She wanted elements in the piece to symbolize those connected to her mother—her children, grandchildren, and children-in-law (those who had married her children)—and she requested that the theme work around a tree. If you’ve read my other posts, you know how much I love to do trees, so I was very glad for this opportunity!
You can see the design and colors in the photos, so I will limit myself to explaining how I decided on the symbolism throughout the piece. I should add that this is my friend’s stepmother, who has loved and supported her as a mother (I can relate being a totally loved stepchild myself); I think this makes the symbolism all the more meaningful. The tree represents who the mother is to her family, complete with swirling branches that reach right off of the page, to show the immeasruable vastness of the influence of her love on her family and on future generations. The long, rugged roots represent the strong foundation she has laid for her family. The 7 apples on the tree represent her 7 children… who have grown directly under her care and support. The 4 bluebirds on the tree represent the 4 spouses of her children… they have not come directly from the tree, but have joined the scene happily and make the picture more beautiful and complete. The 5 saplings springing up from the ground below, of course, represent the next generation—her 5 grandchildren—thriving under the shade and protection of the tree. Each sapling is topped with a small, white heart to represent the special blessing the newest generation has inherited, being born into such a loving and supportive family. Finally, the butterfly—a perfect picture of the connectivity of changes and crises that occur throughout a lifetime that result in something unspeakably complex, delicate, and beautiful.
I’ve gotten two quilled pieces done this week—that has to be some sort of record for me given that, as much as I love quilling, I often find more meaningless ways to fill my time. Say, with cleaning or cooking… or, um, putzing on Facebook. I’m very excited about the latest because I’ve sort of been setting up the whole thing in my head for quite some time. The quilled portion measures about 4″x6″ and features a tree “blossoming” with hearts throughout its swirling leaves and 3 sweet little bluebirds, two of which of happily perched on the message, which reads “Love grows here.” Though I made the piece to sell on Etsy, I may have to make a 2nd one for myself—I’m really quite pleased with the outcome. It feels very clean and simple to me, but still colorful and fun.
My trees have been such a blast to make that I am a little sad when the piece doesn’t call for one (fortunately, this one did!). The technique is one I made up and I feel it gives my pieces a bit of character. I start with strips in 3 different shades of brown, which I roll into marquise of different sizes (that’s a loose coil which is pinched on both ends, sort of giving it an almond shape). Then I glue the marquise all together to form the trunk—they just kind of go together willy-nilly—I don’t really have a plan when I start, which is why no two trees will ever be the same. As I glue the trunk pieces together, I pinch them into each other to fill any gaps. I may include a small branch coming off the trunk here and there; you know, whatever feels right. I like to give my trees obvious roots coming off the bottom because there’s a lot of symbolism in it—plus, that’s often just how trees look! The leaves are simply open, loose coils of different sizes and in 2 or 3 shades of green. They, too, are placed wherever they want to go. I often go 2-3 layers deep in some areas of the tree—and I keep rolling coils and adding them until the tree tells me it is complete. Since I love to add color—you’ll usually see some sort of fruit or flowers (or hearts!) in my trees, but mostly just toward the bottom of the leaves. When we picked apples at my grandma’s house as a child, I remember that the only apples I could really see were those peeking out from the bottom of the mass of leaves—so that’s how it looks in my quilling too.
Lastly, my birds. Nature’s birds dazzle me, and quilling them is a joy. They are the simplest things to make (just a loose coil manipulated into a bird shape by pinching one end while pushing upward w/ a flat finger on the other end, add a tiny beak—done!) and they just add so much life to a piece. They make me smile—I hope they make the recipient smile as well.