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Day #28 Art Every Day Month – My Perfect Tree, a Tutorial

Yeah, it is a bit ego-centric to call it “The” perfect tree, so I’ll just call it “My” perfect tree, because it’s as perfect for me as it’s going to get!

My philosophy is this…”if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing beautifully.”  I like a combination of old ornaments we’ve had on the tree from the beginning (40 years ago, now!) ones the kids made when they were little, ones people have given us as gifts, lots that I’ve made over the years, personalized ones that I buy every year and put our names and the date on, and ones I adore that I’ve bought myself. While the vast majority are country,  there are other styles, and there is a mix of traditional and whimsical Christmas icons and religious things, as well. It’s not an easy task to combine all of that into something that doesn’t look like a total mish mash, and I’ve developed my technique over many years.

The secret is to build it layer by layer, much like a mixed media art piece, and combining all the different ornaments with unifying pieces that are carried over throughout the tree. Not everything jumps out and says look at me! Much of it sits in the background, peeking out here and there, adding texture and interest that wouldn’t be there if you just slapped a bunch of ornaments on and called it a day. My goal is that each time you look at my tree, you see something you didn’t see before, just like in my garden, and in the way my paintings are developing.

I start with an artificial tree. It’s the only way to have sturdy branches everywhere you need them. Next come lights, lots of them.


Next up are the foundation pieces. These are the things tucked in that everything else builds on…big balls of red berries, giant wooden candy canes, bits of holly, pine cone, and greens cut from a garland, fake cinnamon and cranberry garland, macrame candy canes, cut out gingerbread men, wooden hearts.

Then comes all of the ornaments…hundreds of them. In 40 Christmases, I’ve never thrown an ornament away unless it got smashed to smitherines.

There are many missing an arm or a leg, but if they have sentimental value, I keep them. My daughter’s 1st Christmas ornament got chewed by the (#*%@) dog, and it still hangs on the tree every year and we remember what a pill he was.

It is a scrapbook of sorts…even in my old age I remember the stories from most of them. I suppose some day I should sit down and itemize them and tell the stories so the kids will know which are the important ones when I’m gone.

This one Mr. Tattered bought me at a year ’round Christmas store in Alexandria, VA in 1978. We were living back there for a year when he was on loan from the State of CA to the feds…one of the best years of our life, and one of the few times in our marriage he has taken it upon himself to buy an ornament for me all on his own. I don’t think after all this time he knows just how much I treasure it.

And this is one of my favorites of all time…

Anyway, I digress. Once the ornaments are on, the final trim goes up…this amazing, sparkly garland…

…and then I finish up with sheer, sparkly bows and rafia bows, and it’s done. Maybe not the world’s most perfect tree, but most certainly, the perfect one for me.

About tatterednworn

I am a woman who has committed to living a creative life.

18 responses »

  1. Oh my goodness! What a gorgeous tree!!

  2. It’s a beautiful tree and much like the one I put up every year. I always say I’m going to cut back and not use all of the ornaments and do a smaller tree…but I never do :0)

  3. Love your tree! We got ours up today but the lights need some adjustment. I love this time of year and all the creativity it brings out!

  4. That is a tree decorated with love! So beautiful!

  5. How lovely to have so many memories to decorate your tree with! It’s beautiful. I don’t know if it’s the weather, but I’m in no mood for Christmas yet. Is it really less than one month away?

  6. This is beautiful – I am very impressed that you were able to pull it off – getting so many ornaments, etc. that are so diverse, to look this great all together. I would say it is the perfect tree! My ornaments also trigger memories for me and I treasure them all.

  7. I must say Janet, you are really making me want to bust out the holiday decor. I usually wait until the middle of the month, but might just have to start a little earlier this year. Your tree is beautiful.

  8. Wow that tree is amazing… ours is a bit tatty and worn and traditionally it doesn’t go up until the 1st of Decemeber, though we normally do it a bit later as it freaks my poor dog out… yours is just gorgeous and I am so glad you shared it… I am not showing Phantom or she will want one like it too!!!

    • Thank you, Tracey. I got to get a new one when we moved into the new house because our old one was short and squat (as was the space we had for it.) This house needs tall and skinny. I’m a bit sad that it needs light replacements already, but it’s been nice to not have to string them for 5 years.


  9. I can vouch for the fact that she never throws out an ornament…

    • Hahahaha! Thanks, honey. I was just looking at the little felt one you sewed for me when you were a little girl…I love! It has a place of honor!



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