A wreath is first and foremost an expression of unity. No matter the materials used or style, every wreath begins as a circle. A circle is a complete, continuous, and visually satisfying form. That decorated shape displayed at the holidays expresses the sentiments of the season, as well as a point of view about beauty. This simple grapevine wreath adorned with a few dried bits from the garden and a wired paper bow says hello and welcome.
The history of wreath making is long, dating back centuries. Holiday wreaths traditionally begin with a circle of evergreens. The evergreens last a long time, despite being cut. There is a strong element of hope associated with evergreen wreaths-that despite the quiet winter season, the natural world is still very much alive, and will persist through the winter.
All of the evergreen wreaths at the shop are locally made to a certain size and heft that will keep its shape, no matter how much I may add to it. The handmade part of them is obvious-they are not perfectly round, and they have a lively textured surface.
I like a basic mix of different types of fir. Douglas, concolor, silver, noble and frazier fir stay fresh looking a long time. Adding bits of other greens, such as boxwood, incense cedar, berried juniper and the like makes each wreath different-more personal.
Decorating a wreath spices up the evergreen stew. Natural materials-cones, mosses, dried berries, magnolia leaves, twigs, and eucalpytus provide color and texture of a different sort. Arranging all of the materials-a satisfying and contemplative exercise in composition.
I probably make upwards of 50 wreaths a year-how I enjoy this. Each client has a singular idea about what they like in terms of color, materials and style. Some are quite formal-others more low key.
The mechanics of fastening has everything to do with the weight of the material and size of the material you are trying to attach. Wire can be wrapped around the base of a pine cone, and poked through to the back of the wreath. Anything that gets wired to the steel base of the wreath will stay put, no matter how blustery the weather. I buy rolls of paddle wire. The 22 gauge green wire is a continuous length wound round a paddle shaped spool. I always have the perfect length of wire available.
Florist’s wire comes in different lengths and weights. The advantage of this wire-it is straight. A straight wire can be easier to poke through the evergreens. Smaller materials like twig bunches can be easily fastened with a single piece of wire.
Some wreath materials are available already attached to heavy wire stems. They can be wedged in between the evergreen branches. More often than not, I take the picks apart. Many are just too large, or too long for the spot where I need them. The acorn branches in the wreath pictured above came from a single pick.
A jute bow is easy to attach with a zip tie that goes through the center knot, and around a stout branch. Really heavy materials, such as faux fruit or ornaments like the bead ball pictured above need a fastening device that is both strong and rigid. Floral picks, or skewers come in various lengths, and can handle the heaviest ornament with ease. Faux fruit is really tough skinned. I pierce the surface with a steel awl, butter the pick with hot melt glue, and insert the pick. The wood pick can them be wired to the steel wreath frame.
The hot melt glue gun is an indispensable, albeit dangerous tool. Hot melt glue will stick to your skin just like anything else it touches. My downfall almost always involves gluer dripping from the back of a piece of moss. If you are using a glue gun more than 1 step from a sink, keep a bowl or glass of water handy, so you can put out the fire fast. Gluing the sticks in the wreath above-not so dangerous. The glue is at the other end. This gluing project just took lots of time. A wreath like this can last many years-and can be repaired if need be.
I don’t really have a favorite wreath. The favorite part is in the making, not in the end result. Having some time, and a good sized space to make a mess is a big help. Wreath making-a primitive form of cutting and pasting. Much more ends up on the floor or table, than on the wreath.
Hand made holiday decorations have a very special feeling about them.