Concrete Pumpkins: How-to

Fall is my favorite time of year!

And Halloween is my favorite holiday!

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A while ago I made a couple dozen of these concrete pumpkins for a big Halloween party. I gave most of them away, but during our move this summer, I realized we had several left-over that I’d shoved in the basement. My husband complained and complained as to why, exactly, we were moving big clumps of concrete with us to our new house. I told him we weren’t and acted like I was getting rid of them. But I snuck them into the garden shed of the new house. It wasn’t until recently, because of the dang fall yard cleaning, that he realize I’d fibbed a bit.

“These things keep cropping up like they are from a nightmare or something!” he said.

But I couldn’t part with them because I love them. Anyway, I’m keeping two and getting rid of the rest.

Before I do, I wanted to post a how-to, because they were so easy, and cheap, and awesome!

Step One:

Go to the mountains and find some large branches.

Shove them in your car, then clean out the car before the husband gets home!

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Oh, and if you happen upon a rope swing, while looking for said branches, by all means… IMG_2190.JPG

Step Two:

Next, buy those dollar store or Walmart plastic pumpkins.

Fill them with a mix of concrete (quikrete), perlite, and sphagnum moss. If you want the concrete to be smooth, then add straight concrete. But I wanted a worn, rustic look, so I added the other mix-ins. I mixed it in a big wheel barrel because I did so many. For small amounts, you could just use a big bucket for mixing. About 2/3 concrete to 1/3 mix of moss and perlite together. Scoop the mixture into the plastic pumpkins.

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Step Three:

Tap the pumpkins to make sure the concrete settles and that there aren’t any air pockets. Then add in the branches. I added more sphagnum moss to the top of the concrete where the branches go into the concrete. Just cause I thought it would look cool.

Let the pumpkins cure and dry out for two or three days.

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Step Four:

I spray painted all the branches a flat black. I should’ve done this when they were still in the plastic because I kept trying not to overspray onto the concrete. Then you get a razor, scissors, pliers, and pry off the plastic. They are glorious!

(Be careful that the razor doesn’t score into the concrete.)

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Step Five:

Because this was for a big halloween party in a huge space, I wanted drama and height. So we wrapped webbing all around the branches and then hung Halloween decor from the branches. Like bugs and bones and ghosts, etc.

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Step Six:

Once Halloween was over I cut off the branches for storage. I just kept a foot or so and tied an orange burlap bow around the wood sticking out. I also painted the eyes and mouth with black acrylic paint to make them stand out more.

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I’ve loved having these on my front porch!

But my husband hasn’t loved tripping over them.

See, he doesn’t look too pleased, but he really is a happy guy.

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See them on the railing? Beneath the hanging skull? ^^

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Happy Halloween!!!

  • Tara

How To: Tree Painting over my book pages

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I have had a lot of people ask how I created this piece of art that sits on my mantle.

It’s simple really… Take four years, write a book, and then when you wonder if the words you wrote are any good, shred up the pages and turn them into an art project!

If you don’t have the patience to write a book, I guess you could use sheet music, pages from an old book, or I always thought old maps would be cool.

FIRST:

I found this huge ugly IKEA canvas on sale for maybe two dollars. There was no way I was going to pass it up. You could use anything, really. Be creative! Maybe that old coffee table needs a new face lift. Maybe that sheet of plywood kicking around the garage is the perfect size. Or you could just go to an art supply store and buy a blank canvas.

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SECOND:

Gesso. You can really build up the textures and cover up a multitude of sins. Or do a smooth finish by not adding gesso. It depends on how you want the paper to sit on the canvas. I think it might be easier to do a somewhat smooth finish. But texture is my friend and so I really caked it on. Besides, at this point, I thought I was just going to paint a painting on top. I didn’t know at the time that I was going to cover it up with my un-edited book pages.

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* Here’s a little side note… For a couple years, I used the white canvas during the autumn in my decor. I was marinating what I wanted to do with the blank slate. Sometimes, that is the most intimidating. I am often like that in my writing, too. I’ll stare and stare at an empty scene and then all of a sudden it floods into me. That is how this painting was birthed… I stared and stared at my galley proofs and un-edited book pages that beta readers gave back to me, and I thought I should probably shred them. Then it came to me to turn them into art.

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THIRD:

I took some of my favorite scenes and pages that weren’t covered in red ink — there weren’t many 🙂 — and I soaked them in coffee and tea grounds for a day. Once the pages were dry, I flattened them with heavy books. I also tore the edges so there wasn’t a flat edge. I wanted them to look old.

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FOURTH:

Lay out your pages, then Mod-podge or glue them onto the gessoed canvas. Flatten out the pages gently with a your finger or a roller. The pages are wet and tear easily, so be careful.

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FIFTH:

I mixed RIT dye with Mod-Podge. You could also use the blue or green or red dye. Use your imagination. I wanted to make the pages look even more antiqued than what the coffee grounds did, so I used the taupe color. With a large brush, paint the mixture onto the book pages. Again, the pages are wet and very fragile.

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SIXTH:

Once dry, I painted more gesso on top of the dry pages into the shape of a tree. I wanted my tree to be very textured, so I built up knobs, bark, branches, and roots. Then I painted on top of the gesso with white acrylic paint mixed with linseed oil medium. You don’t have to mix with a medium, I just wanted the paint to be more shiny. Gesso is flat, but maybe you like that look, so just skip the acrylic paint step. Or go crazy and paint the tree your favorite color, or black, or brown. I might even add in a bit of silver or gold highlights on the branches. Have fun!

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* Here are a couple details. I made sure some of my favorite passages and poetry would be in a spot where if one were to look closely, they could read the words because they wouldn’t be covered up by the tree. You can see how textured this is. You will have to really work at it to get the pages smooth. I just didn’t care (or was too lazy!)

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So there you have it. Pretty easy. It’s fun to mesh two different hobbies/obsessions together.

Art and writing.

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My mind spun and I started to do all sorts of paintings on single book pages. I went to the art store and got cheap mat board scraps. I glued the pages on with mat board adhesive. Then I painted on a clear gesso on top of the book page. Then I just painted my image with acrylic paint. I’ve noticed that these started to make the mat board curl. Maybe a masonite board would be better. Or you can just put the painting in a frame with glass and that will flatten it up.

I gave these and other gifts away during my book launch for Broken Smiles. I sent them all over the country. It was fun to receive notes and personal thank you’s. Oh, and I did ask my publisher if that was all right. Another reason why I like my publisher.

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For the preparation below, I added watered down blue acrylic paint to gesso and then painted it onto my prepared book page and mat board. Now, I need to stare at it a while and see what speaks to me.

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I went even more crazy and made a whole bunch of these Bird Christmas tree ornaments out of sheet music. Notice how it matches my book cover. I gave these away during my Christmas novella book launch.

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Doing art projects like these breaks up the monotony of writing. They are so much fun and fairly easy.

I love to hear from you. Have you ever combined your hobbies? You are welcome to ask questions in the comment section and I will answer.

Thanks for stopping by!

Tara