A Driftwood Whale Ornament for a Found-Objects Tree

Craft & Design
A Driftwood Whale Ornament for a Found-Objects Tree
The whale

Man of many talents and MAKE alum Gregory Hayes recently posted some photos of holiday ornaments he made, using found objects. I asked him to tell me more about them:

I’m a sucker for celebrations. Around the holidays I become a gleeful pantheist, adopting and adapting whatever traditions inspire me to be most merry.

The closest thing I have to a tradition is to throw a bunch of things onto a branch while enjoying tasty refreshments amid excellent company. My 16-year-old dog is very slow on our walks, which gives me a lot of opportunity to pick up random items from the forest: a feather here, a colorful rock there, a fir cone or Spanish moss for good measure. At year’s end, these become part of the tree, which this year is a dead shrub I found while hiking the California coast.

Not everything that goes on the tree needs (or endures) embellishment, but some of the items I’ve found have a shape, color, or origin that suggests something it could become. The two ornaments pictured here strongly reminded me of other things, and so I used some extra wire from my workshop to dress ’em up before their hanging.

I found the driftwood near California’s Bodega Head — famous as a vantage point to spot migrating whales — and instantly saw in it the rough echo of a whale’s head shape. Following lines suggested by the wood’s natural character, I bent the wire along the mouthline then roughed out the shapes of fins and tail. I’d originally planned to flesh it out more and consult reference photos to add realism, but I liked the rough so well that I felt changing it might detract from its simple charm.

This piece of rock picked up near Joshua Tree National Park looked to me vaguely like the kitschy howling coyotes that haunt every gift shop from San Diego to Santa Fe. I started with a curl for the haunch and laid the rest of the wire shapes in angles inspired by the rock itself.

Since each one took only a couple of minutes, I could decorate the entire shrub this way in a single happy hour.

The howling coyote
The found-object tree

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"To oppose something is to maintain it." –Ursula Le Guin

Currently: NEO.LIFE Alum: Instructables and MAKE

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