Hi everyone – how are you doing? These are such strange days that seem to be soaked through with fear and uncertainty. Half of what we hear and read is in apparent direct opposition to the other half of what we hear and read. It leaves us confused and floundering with a growing sense of anger swelling from our helplessness. It’s these moments that peel away our protective coating of security that, after time, we either get tough and smart, or collapse. This is the time to seek wise council within.
We, all us, have a core of knowledge that has been gathering information like a well programmed data processor. All our experience as well as the shared collective experience of everyone we’ve come in contact with be it remote or direct, is there for us to examine and learn from. When the barrage of sensory input is about to swallow you whole – take a break. Find a way to silence the world without and find your peace within.
I find my peace in Nature. The silent words of the wind blowing through pine needles. The clean, clear water of a mountain stream that looks like liquid crystal in motion. The quiet talk of animals and birds. All of these things I have practically out my back door and a few hours spent in the spa of Nature lets my subconscious sort through confusion, realign the data and repair my aching soul.
Crafting for me, is another source of soul repair. When I’m deep in a project, I get the same result. The chalkboard of my mind – currently overwritten with too many messages – is wiped clean while I release my creativity and get lost in the positive world of art.
My wish for all of you is that you, too, can find a portal to serenity. My latest project comes from the heart for just such a purpose. This is my shrine to Nature:
On a recent walk I found myself in an area that had been slated for expansion back in 2006 but the housing recession hit and the plans fell through. The only things remaining were some barrier posts and fabric, which this lizard found to his advantage as it has been cool and wet here lately – a real change from what mid June is normally in a high desert state.
But scattered in the sage brush and weeds are old survey stakes and boundary markers…wood that has been left to the elements and now has the ‘patina of age’ that I absolutely love. Not only am I cleaning up abandoned debris…I have a nice pile of building materials – it’s a win, win!
This is a miter box. You can find one just like this (saw and all) at your local building center for about $15. It cuts straight across or angles and for someone who doesn’t like using power equipment for these little jobs – perfect.
I decided I wanted a couple of the small stakes to have a bit of “old” color and what would be like a metal finish that had been eroded by time. I used a thick embossing powder called “Patina” but frankly was disappointed in the results. So I reheated it and wiped it off as best I could with a paper towel only to discover this was the look I was after…well hmmm, that worked out well.
The small stakes were already the size I wanted, so next I cut the long thin boards down to just a bit taller than the shorter, thicker stakes.
I considered what ‘glue’ I wanted to use for construction on this project. In the end I went with hot glue though this is not what I normally use fearing that it would not be strong enough to hold and that I would probably be nailing/stapling things later. But I was quite wrong, the hot glue held perfectly and let me build rapidly where otherwise I would have had to wait for wood glue to dry in order to proceed.
This is the front of my shrine. All the ‘spires’ show weather damage with one quite degraded and that’s just how I wanted them.
A 10″ base felt right and a three board width gave it the depth I wanted. This picture is looking from the back side of the shrine.
Three boards on each side make the side walls, I split the next cut in half before gluing them on because at this point I needed to decide how the roof line would go.
If I built straight on up I would take away from the appearance of the front spires but I wasn’t sure I wanted a sharp peaked roof either.
In the mean time I filled in the back wall.
The next board I pulled out seemed to have a bit of a curved warp to it. Dilemma solved…I was going to make a “keystone” arch.
Though traditionally these arches are supported from within until the keystone is placed, I found my hot glue held fine on it’s own until I could finish the arch and fill in the back.
Swapping to a front view, now you can see I’ve allowed for about 3″ for the inside of my shrine with a total depth of 4″.
Again, I split a cut piece down the length, this allows for a more natural arch and a final, adjusted width to fit cut, fills in the keystone piece. Now the arch is quite secure.
The final back wall pieces required a bit more fuss but a little rounding with a hand file and they all went in well enough. I’ve got a pretty solid structure overall now.
A left over end tip from one of the boards makes the perfect peak adornment but it won’t survive life just hot glued on the arch. An end cut off one of the thicker boards and glued in place behind it will make it solid and can’t even be seen from the front.
Time for some accent bits. This is a square cut from a sheet of 36 gauge tooling aluminum (available at craft and hobby stores). I ran it through my die cut machine using an embossing folder. Then I cut out enough pieces to cover the front of the arch with a heart shaped punch.
Of course, shiny metal will never do. Alcohol inks in three colors applied with a felt pad will turn these into aged metal.
The inks blend, puddle and streak – just keep tapping on color until you get the look you want. The alcohol inks dry pretty quickly, too, and are permanent after they dry.
This is more what I had in mind, but what surprised me is how much they came out looking like abalone. I’ll have to file that away for a future project.
I hot glued these all across the front…but be cautioned…this thin metal picks up the heat from the hot glue quickly and some might find the metal too hot to handle. If you do, just use some long craft tweezers to place them.
The metal still looked too ‘bright’ to me so I used an old trick to add more age. A gray acrylic paint applied with a stencil brush and then quickly rubbed off the metal will leave a dull covering of paint with just a bit of bright showing through here and there. The longer you leave the paint on, the duller the look.
That’s more like what I was after. A weathered look that is more consistent with the rest of the shrine.
Now it’s time to fill in the shrine. I like my shrines to have a ‘portal’ aspect to them…as though when you step into the shrine you can magically be transported into another time/place/world. I found a picture that perfectly suited my Nature shrine.
Using two different greens, I edged the pic all around – no white edges to ruin the illusion.
The same goes for inner edges of the wood in the shrine. Three colors of acrylic paints, diluted with water will work.
The paint also helps dull the hot glue that can look kind of shiny after it cools.
A wide ribbon of synthetic moss was nearly a perfect fit to cover the depth of the inside of the arch all the way from one side to the other.
The picture’s paper dimensions ran a bit short so I used sections of the moss to cover the edge making this look even more like a doorway into the mountain scene. I also laid a bit on the floor coming out from the edges.
As this is a Nature Shrine I thought one of my little Faux Fire’s would be the perfect altar candle. I’ll show this glowing a bit further on, and remember, these are battery flames so they are safe and easy to replace.
Almost done, but I didn’t like the bare edge of wood and metal on the arch. I carefully cut very small sections of the moss and one by one glued them to the front of the arch filling in the spaces. It took a while but it was worth it…now that looks a lot more natural.
But I also added something else here…a crystal pendant. Dangling from the roof using a small, screw-in eye hook, I suspended a length of glass beads and a crystal diamond-drop brilliant salvaged from an Antique chandelier.
The final step, a bit of brown acrylic paint quite diluted with water gets painted on the edges and all the seams, and especially covering all the freshly sawn ends of the wood. It’s still wet in this picture, when it dries it’s barely noticeable but it adds to the appearance of a structure that has been built – and aged – as a unit for a long time.
I’m very pleased with how this Nature Shrine came out. I was able to collect quite a bit of the old wood and I have a few more ideas for another shrine or two. But keep going…the photos of the finished Nature Shrine are coming up and here’s the link to the listing in my Etsy shop, Old Raven, where the shrine is now available.
I hope this has given you some ideas for creating your own place to ‘decompress’ in these turbulent times. What would your perfect dreamscape look like? Would it be a rocky beach with the ocean pounding at the edge? Perhaps a brilliant sunset silhouetting a craggy mountain top. Or maybe it’s this one…pines and steep granite faces with a campfire to cozy up to as evening falls.
Be kind to yourself, and stay well. – Kriss