Monday, June 1, 2009

Manzanita Crystal Tree

Crystal Trees are a very popular item for weddings and we frequently get questions about them, yet until recently I had never actually made one. Here is one constructed from a 36-42" Natural Manzanita Branch that I had set in plaster and then painted silver

The Crystal Tree I made, catching some afternoon sunshine.  

The Crystal Tree illuminated from below with votives. I tried hanging votives from the branches as well, but decided that there was way too much going on in the branches with all the crystals. As votives are so prominent, the placement really matters and it is best to hang the votives first, and then arrange the crystals.

The shadows of the branches cast on the ceiling. 

Now here's the story. While wandering through my lovely local Ikea in Red Hook, Brooklyn, I came across boxes of five crystals marked down to $.50 from $3.99. They certainly weren't fine crystal, but the price was right and I emptied the shelves. The plan was to "just" slap these on the manzanita branch I had set in plaster, then had painted silver, and - ta-da! - a Crystal Tree. I quickly discovered that hanging crystals is a lot more time consuming and had more pitfalls than I thought it would.

The crystals came with some thick wires for hanging, but they didn't allow the crystals to hang right - they sort of veered off to one side. I realized that I had to hang them myself. The first thing I tried was fine floral wire, but it was too thick and prominent. 

Next I tried some 25 lb test monofilament. In terms of strength, this monofilament was definitely overkill, but it was nice and stiff so the crystals would be less likely to get tangled together. The knot I first used was an Improved Clinch Knot, which is the knot I've used for fishing since a kid - I used it to tie the crystal onto the monofilament, and then to create a loop at the other end to to hang the crystal from the branch. The trouble with this knot is that it is bulky, and the loop pulls closed very easily. 

The knot that I ended up using and worked best was a Bowline Knot (a diagram of which I came across a few days before in an ad for a mens clothing store) - the knot is small, strong and when you put tension on it, the loop doesn't close. A gazillion knots and a good portion of my weekend later, I had my Crystal Tree. This took a heck of a lot longer than I had anticipated. 

A couple days later, I was working on another version of a crystal tree (hanging votives and turquoise crystals), among other projects... 

...when it occurred to me - instead of creating a loop to hang the crystal from the branch, WHY DIDN'T I JUST TIE A CRYSTAL ONTO THE OTHER END!?  I could then wrap the pair of crystals around the branch, adjust their relative height and distance from each other and cut the amount of work I had to do in half. There had to be a catch! I have yet to think of or come across one, and have come to the conclusion that I made a rather time-consuming oversight. 


Norma said...

Thanks for the great advice concerning tying the crystals with the line. Is it a mistake to make the crystal lines ahead of time then attaching them to the tree later. I was going to order a tree, have it delivered to the location, but make my crystal strands before the reception. It looks time consuming - but I did find the rectangle crystals on ebay for $10. Thanks, Norma

Justin said...

Tying the crystals before hand is a very, very good idea, given how long it took me! I don't see any problems doing so.

spaulding said...

Hello! Thank you so much for putting these pics and instructions up! I LOVE how the MITSUMATA example looks! I was just wondering if you have an overall price for this tree? (you had it posted on the other example so I am hoping you will post it here as well). Thanks!

Justin said...

Glad you like it! The Mitsumata and Votives came out to around $50 -

For this display with the Manzanita, the 36-42" branch was $41.25, the pot and plaster was around $10, the paint was probably about $5, the (super cheap on sale) crystals added up to about $5, and the votives added up to about $15, bringing the grand total to around $75.