As with any story worth telling, this one starts with two people who fell in love... and found themselves in the thick of planning a wedding. Lucky for them, they have a plethora of artists, problem solvers and creative thinkers to help make their special day unique and beautiful. My task: create the wedding frames for a photo booth. I was given 100% creative freedom- that's quite a bit of trust for a wedding piece, but how could anyone say no??
Before creating this piece, you will want to know that it is illegal to collect raw materials from any New York State park... I did not know, and found out the hard way. Instead, consider meeting someone new. I made a pleasant relationship with a sweet little old man and his daughter who own a house on the water, thus providing me with as much driftwood as my heart desires.
To our dear friends, we are so very happy for you.
Now, let's get started.
Step 1: Collect Your Materials
I am known for using as much upcycled/recycled natural material as possible in my woodwork, and this project is no exception. Our friends are very out-doorsy, and their theme is all about the lake, making this decision an easy one for me. It simply had to be driftwood. As I mentioned, I collected mine from a local with a lake house. There are plenty of online shops that you can purchase your driftwood from, but I will say that they are expensive.
In addition to driftwood, I obtained a plain thin frame that had been among the bride's grandmother's collection.
You are also going to need a variety of tools for the assembly. I will list those at the start of each step.
Step 2: Arrange the Pieces & Clean the Wood
-1 cup bleach
-1 tote/storage container/garbage can (whatever is on hand)
-variety of driftwood
This is where the creative thinking and problem solving begins.
There are a lot of moving parts, so just keep placing and replacing pieces, and stay patient. Start with forming the base of your frame before anything else. The right shapes will take form in due time. Don't fuss too much if you want to take on the round frame. That has its own set of instructions later on.
Once you have an idea of what pieces you want to use and how, decide if you want them to be raw ("as is") or bleached. If you are going to bleach pieces, simply add a cup of bleach to a tote full of water and soak.
Step 3: Making the Medium Frame
-hot glue gun
1. Once you have the shape you are looking for, glue down the joints. More points of contact and fewer number of joints = a stronger frame, which is why I stuck with the rectangle shape.
2. Wrap the twine in an over-under fashion at the four main joints, tying it off and hot gluing in the back of the frame behind its designated joint. This offered a little more stability as well as a pleasing aesthetic.
3. Finally, glue down any "layering" pieces you want to use. For example, this frame has two layering pieces. One forms sort of an antler looking shape, and the other is more like a smile. These don't have anything to do with the stability of the frame, but they offer some great character to the piece.
One down, two to go!
Step 4: Making the Large Frame
The base of this frame came from the bride's grandmother's collection. I wanted this to be the largest, but I didn't want it to be too heavy, so using an old and simple frame seemed like the best plan of action.
With a project like this, I knew it was likely that the base would show through the driftwood. So I decided to give it a slightly shabby look by adding two shades of paint and sanding them down by hand with fine sand paper before adding any driftwood.
Materials for finishing the base:
-two shades of paint, one light, one dark
-fine sand paper
1. Sand down every part of the frame that currently has paint on it, and follow up with a lightly damp cloth to remove any particles. You don't need to get rid of the current color. You just want to make it more receptive to the new paint. If it is raw wood, you may not need to do this at all. This frame had a gloss on it and I wanted to be certain that my colors took hold.
2. Add your base color. In my case, I used leftover house paint from when we refurbished our old camper. Vining Ivy from Lowes. Let this dry.
3. Add your top color, in this case a lighter shade than the base. Again, I reused some of my house paint. This one is Silver Leaf, also from Lowes. (The "2" in the photo is just to represent that the second coat is imaged.)
4. Once entirely dry, take another piece of fine sand paper and gently give the entire frame a hand-sanding. Do not use a tool for this, as it is very delicate. This is what will give it the shabby effect, allowing the deeper base color to show through the lighter top coat.
As far as paint goes, you can use any colors you like. Being that this is a lake themed wedding, I chose to stick with a dark and light blue.
Now it's time for the driftwood.
5. Assembling the driftwood is a very unique experience requiring a great deal of patience, with both the wood and your creative flow. It took me DAYS of trying different arrangements for this one frame alone before it finally came together. The rule of thumb is this: Get one layer down, and get an idea of how you want to stack on top of it. Once you are confident with your first layer and have an idea of where you want to go next, glue it down and stop thinking about it. Overthinking is just as bad as not planning at all. All of the driftwood is attached with copious amounts of cleverly placed hot glue. I kept a small, thin stick handy to quickly swipe away any excess glue before it cooled. You're working in very small and tucked away spaces, and you're working against the cooling clock of the glue... prepare to burn your fingers a little. Okay- a lot.
Step 5: Making the Round Frame
Materials for the Base:
-square of leftover plywood
-two shades of paint (ideally these will match the large frame)
-drill and large drill bit
Materials for the Inner & Outer Rings:
-hot glue gun
Materials for the Design:
-assorted, uncut driftwood
-hot glue gun
-pencil to mark where you wish to cut
Important note: If you choose to follow the same design pattern, DO NOT CUT ANY DRIFTWOOD YET.
This is very important so as to limit your waste. You will need to do this step at the very end, and you will need to cut each piece of driftwood individually, one at a time, with it's own unique measurement. Trust me...
START WITH THE RINGS:
This will help to determine how you need to cut your plywood. One ring will be larger than the other. When deciding how small to go, consider how many faces you'd like to fit in the frame. When deciding how large to go, consider how thick you want the frame to be, as the driftwood will be filling the space between the two rings.
1. Braid three wires together with a drill and bend into a circle. Repeat so that you have one large and one small circle of wire.
2. Wrap the wire with twine, using hot glue to secure.
FORM THE BASE:
1. Place your rings on top of the plywood with the smaller ring inside of, and center to, your larger ring. You can get as technical as you want to with this, but in the end the driftwood is going to be in total control- and there is nothing perfectly symmetrical about that. The only measuring I did was to find my Center so my rings were in the right placement.
2. Trace the OUTSIDE of your LARGE ring, and the INSIDE of your SMALL ring. You're going to be attaching the rings to the plywood, and you don't want the wood to end up being too big or too small.
3. Cut along your outer circle using your jigsaw.
4. Take a very large drill bit and drill a hole into Center so that your jigsaw blade can fit into it.
5. Grab your handheld jigsaw, place the blade into the hole you made at Center and start cutting until the entire middle circle is gone. What results is one solid, sturdy and round frame base.
6. Sand down the outer and inner edges of the wood, as people will be holding these.
ADD THE DESIGN:
1. Paint and sand the base the same way that we painted the large frame.
2. Once dry, place your two twine rings on the corresponding edges of your round base. Attach with hot glue.
3. Fill in the gaps however you please. In my design, I chose to create a pattern with the driftwood. If you look closely, you will see that each section is a few inches wide. The sections alternate from facing "in and out" and "side to side"... Think of Jenga. This is why you need to cut each piece individually as you go. Place the piece of driftwood you want to use in a specific spot on the frame. Use your pencil to lightly mark where you want to cut the piece and which side you intend to use. Cut the driftwood with the circular saw. Return it to its position and glue it down. Repeat until the gap between your two twine rings is filled in.
Step 6: It's All About That Base
It dawned on me part way through making these frames that we would need something to hang them on to complete the display. Luckily, I collected a variety of driftwood, to include some very large pieces.
-three tall and strong pieces of driftwood
-palm sander and coarse sand paper
-drill and 6 screws (3 long for assembling, 3 short for hanging frames on)
1. Sand the wood with your palm sander and coarse paper. I am so glad that I took this step. I was hesitant, thinking it might remove some of the natural beauty of the driftwood, but I was wrong. It only made it better. The process removed all the junk that had been sitting on the face of these large pieces, and revealed a gorgeous blend of blues, beiges and greys that really brought this entire display together.
2. Attach the pieces using your long screws. This can be done a number of ways- the options are endless. In my case, I was really fortunate to have three pieces with notches in just the right places. They literally fit together. It was just meant to be. Again, this is the magic of working with natural materials.
3. Decide where you want the frames to hang. Grab a partner, and start placing.
4. Predrill your holes, set your screws, and hang your pieces.
Step 7: Enjoy!
Last, but certainly not least, enjoy!