Who says you have to be a child to enjoy a good nature craft? There are plenty of nature craft ideas out there that make affordable home décor projects. So if you are a fan of frugal decorating, and of bringing the outside in, here are some serious ideas to get started.
I’m not talking about the toddler version, although that’s a fun activity if you want to go there. I’m talking about the serious art work I see selling at craft markets for fifty bucks a pop. If you’ve got mad painting skills, and access to medium-sized rocks of interesting shapes, you can create interesting door stops, flower garden accents and more for nearly free. I’ve seen these most often done in northern climes with Alpine themes, but they would work in any woodsy cottage or lodge setting. If you’re looking for inspiration, you might try some of the books by rock-painting artist Lin Wellford, who has been known for this type of artisan work for some time.
You could use any twig really, but I’m particularly fond of the ones made out of red dogwood branches. They hold their color, make a great Christmas gift, and look fantastic on a front door from September until whenever spring arrives in your neck of the woods. (Talk about low maintenance and cheap.) Since they last for years, these are a great craft to make and sell if you need to save money on your overhead costs. They are also an extremely affordable gift you can feel proud about giving to others. Here are some directions for how to make a basic twig wreath, in case you want to get started early for the holidays.
Birch bark painting.
White birch bark makes a striking background for floral paintings and other subjects. We received a gift one year of a painting of a pet of ours that had passed away. The artist had based it on a photo and added in the background. Framed, these pieces make a statement for several reasons. The shape of the piece of bark is random, making them visually interesting. The natural element brings a certain something, and the color contrast is significant. So again, if you’ve got serious artistic skills and access to a supply of fallen birch bark, you’ve got inexpensive decorating supplies and a possible birch bark painting product line as well.
Who doesn’t love free furniture? Willow trees grow fast, and the twigs and branches can be used to make a popular variety of rustic furniture items such as tables, garden arches, chairs and more. The style isn’t for everyone. But if it appeals to you and you don’t mind learning a new skill, then you can have virtually free furniture for your cabin or outdoor living space. I’ve seen some homes that use this style exclusively. Personally, that seems like overkill to me and takes away from the charm of some of the pieces. I might choose to use some of this furniture in a breezeway, lakeside bench or outdoor garden area. I might also work in one bed frame at a cottage and decorate the room around that. More than that though, and the concept starts to lose its appeal to me. Feeling brave? Try starting out with this simple willow nightstand. If you feel like this is the craft for you, then there are numerous instructional books on the subject.
Hanging bird cakes.
This is one of those nature craft ideas that you can bring the kids in on and still have a pretty cool finished product. Using shortening, peanut butter and an affordable birdseed mix, you can create wildlife cakes for the birds to enjoy during the winter months, or at any time of year. Mix the ingredient and shape them in whatever small container you have before putting them in the freezer to set up. Yogurt containers, small milk cartons, anything goes really. It just needs to be large enough to provide a reasonable amount of food and small enough to be able to hang well. Put them in a netting to hang off a tree branch, or put a metal hook into the cake and hang with a ribbon if you are hanging them off a decorative pole near your deck. This is something that bird watchers and photographers will particularly enjoy, as it will attract colorful birds close to where you can easily watch and take pictures of them.
Pressed flowers make great framed art, stationary and other items. So if you’re looking for free art material, take a stroll when local flowers are in bloom and press them ahead for later use. The cool thing about this particular nature craft is that you can choose the colors of blooms that work for your home’s color scheme. Making your own invitations to that big back yard gathering? Consider using pressed flowers from your property or somewhere nearby. This works well for rustic locations and outdoor gatherings as it helps build the theme of the event ahead of time. A fun place to start would be this pressed flower stationery project, courtesy of Martha Stewart.
Nature crafts aren’t just for children. If you have an artistic eye and the right skill set, you can have a great-looking home using free and inexpensive materials to create artwork and furniture inspired by Mother Nature herself.
A lifelong money cruncher who can squeeze a nickel ‘til it cries, Myscha is a syndicated columnist, best-selling author, and founder of Trek Hound and We Be Sharin’.