Charred Tree Lamp

Since as long as I can remember, or at least since watching Poltergeist, I've been infatuated with spooky trees. If I'm driving somewhere and see the perfectly haunted tree, I must stop and take a picture. It's as annoying as it sounds.

Last year, there was a devastating and deadly wildfire that wiped Paradise, CA off the map (where my parents-in-law used to live–they have since relocated). Houses completely disappeared leaving behind only foundation slabs, yet strangely, charred remains of blackened trees remained standing. the visuals were all so eerie and sad. This stuck in my mind for a long time, and I'd been looking for a project to expunge it and create something good from it. So I made a lamp as a kind of remembrance piece.

1.  I first traced an existing lamp onto paper and then sketched what I would build over the existing structure. I wasn't sure how intricate I could get with my chosen materials. My friend Britta reminded me that I should use a lamp in working order. Check. And, after watching a video by Christine McConnell, I felt encouraged to confidently use a Dremel tool to reshape the metal structure of the original lamp.

2. Using balled up paper and tape, I started building a structure of the branches. Some of the branches required more structure so I added 16 gauge wire armature to ensure the branches remained upright. 

3. I kept adding branches, refining detail and thickening the base. This was an iterative process of adding and removing. 

4. I wanted a rough, bumpy texture so I made "Monster Mud" – a mix of Celluclay, water, Elmer's white glue, and joint compound – to create modeling clay. I sculpted over my existing structure in stages, letting inner layers dry before adding more clay. After several coats and sculptural detail, I let it dry thoroughly for week in the sun. I sanded it lightly to allow any loose bits to come off. 

5. Finally, I added a base coat of Krylon spray paint + primer, and added some highlights/lowlights with contrasting grey colors (which are impossible to capture in a pic). This burlap sack lamp shade seems to go well with the theme.