February 16, 2011

DIY Project: Family Tree

OK let me just start by saying this might be my favorite DIY project ever!!  I'm over-the-moon excited to make a family tree that is not only a loving recollection of some of my favorite people but is also a beautiful art installation for my home.  Excited excited excited!!!

The idea came a year ago, before we even moved into our home.  I was watching Dear Genevieve on HGTV and saw her put lockets with people's pics inside on a piece of driftwood, making a modern interpretation of a family tree. Brilliant! Up until then, I hadn't even thought of doing something so seemingly old fashioned in my home.  Family trees have a tendency to be museum-like, old, and very formal.  Not that that is bad.  Just not me.  But this episode got my gears turning.  My original idea was to take 10 shadow boxes and line them up symmetrically down my hallway.  Each shadow box would be decorated differently with the family member's personality in mind.  Their pictures would not be included and their names would not be written.  Call it abstract.  I wanted people to look at them carefully and guess who is who.  So I wrote it down in my handy dandy notebook and didn't think much of it for months.

Then a few days ago, I got an invite to a baby shower of a dear friend.  When looking at her mailing, my first thought was "Oh, how cute! I love that the tree could sort of symbolize them adding to their family tree."  More gears turning.  Light bulbs going off.  Aaaannddd....eureka!  
I know it seems a bit crude to write all over a baby invitation, but this mommy-to-be will understand - she's the best. :)  I'm sure she will be pumped that her invite was responsible for a huge part of my house and besides...I couldn't help myself!  My mind went back to those 10 shadow boxes.  What if those shadow boxes weren't symmetrical?  What if they were stacked on top of each other in an artsy way?  What if they had a central tree theme?  What if the tree was the background but it was covered with different materials in different boxes?  What if, what if, what if?  So, the brilliant idea from Genevieve evolved into a very personal expression of my very own.  Yes!!!

To get started, I drew what my tree would look like.  If you remember from previous posts, I can't draw.  Hence all the squiggly cross-out marks in this image.  But the lack of skilz won't matter in the final product.  If they had, I wouldn't have even tried, believe me!  I wanted my tree to be bare, off kilter, with a wind blown look.  I kind of love it.

Next step: a large scale model.  This is not the fabric I'll use for the final product, but I wanted a template to work on that would allow me to make mistakes.  I'll be doing a few things in this project I've never tried before, so a $2 piece of fabric to ruin was well worth it.

This large scale art installation is probably going to take awhile.  I mean, it took me a year to come up with the idea, so I'd imagine I'll finish in another year or two. ;)  Here's a few ideas I've had so far, though.  For my own shadow box, I have coral glass beads from Ghana, an old necklace I don't want anymore to put Andrew and Emma's pics in, and something yellow of course.  I'll also add a polaroid or something photography related as well as a few other personal touches.  For my sister's box, I am making the cross pictured below, as her faith is the central most influential point in her life.  I'll also add a song bird because she's a beautiful singer.  For Andrew's brother's box, I have a sketch of a shoe he made as a child (he's a shoe designer now).  For my deceased father, I saved a bow tie that he wore to work (he was a pianist).  You get the idea.

Seriously, I'm so excited.
I'm teaching myself a bit of embroidery for this project for the outline of the entire tree.  It seems pretty easy so far, but we'll see how it goes on a big scale!  The left is a loop stitch and the right is a split stitch.  I love both of them, so I'll let Andrew decide which one is used on the real material.  Have I mentioned that I'm excited?!
If you have any fun ideas for me to add to my family tree, please comment!  I promise I'll take your suggestion to heart and if I use it, I'll make sure to put a picture of that part on a future blog post.  Keep in mind that my total budget for this piece is $50 plus cost of shadow boxes.


  1. Very cool idea, Rach! Can't wait to see the finished product!

  2. Love, love the idea! I shared about it on my blog. http://unepetiteplume.blogspot.com/2011/02/ilove.html


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