Welcome to my Blog! I'm Christy, Creator of The Purple Fern and lover of all things Art and Nature. Each month I will be sharing my resources and insights with you on different topics related to Creative Wellness and Nature Art. This will be a collection of projects, inspiration, meditations and seasonal activities designed to encourage children and their families to bond and to develop a deeper connection to the earth through creative expression.
In the Spring, Summer and early Fall months, I spend most of my time outdoors leading Creative Wellness workshops, Nature-Based Art Classes, and hiking through the forests of Portland with my family.
Once Summer transitions to Fall and the days become colder and shorter, my life looks very different. I spend a lot more time indoors, which is a big adjustment for me each year. My favorite thing about the colder months is that they provide more opportunities for cozy, still moments with my family. We do a lot more snuggling, reading, baking and crafting at home. But I also find myself spending more time in front of a screen- managing sales, trying to keep up with social media posts, and planning and preparing for classes and workshops for the coming Spring. Without my daily dose of nature to balance out the extra indoor/screen time, I can start to feel sluggish, anxious and foggy.
Maintaining a strong connection to nature throughout the Winter keeps me grounded. One of my favorite ways to connect with the natural world and with my family (from the comfort of my warm home) is by doing LOTS of Nature-Based Art projects with my 6 year old!
This year I thought I'd share some of the projects we are doing together throughout the Fall and Winter months- I hope you'll join us as we create seasonal and holiday inspired art, decorations and gifts. This list offers unique ways to connect with your family and with nature- even when you can't get outside. Enjoy!
Nature-Based Art Projects for
Fall + Winter
1. Dried Citrus Garland
Dried citrus is easy to make and can be used for garland, tree ornaments, centerpieces, seasonal mobiles, wreaths, or tied to a gift! Oranges, grapefruits, lemons all dry beautifully and can be ready to craft with in just a couple hours.
Cut the oranges (or citrus of choice) in 1/4 in. thick slices.
gently press your slices between two towels to absorb as much juice as possible. place slices directly on oven racks and bake at 200, flipping every 30 min for 2-3 hours.
We love to string these with popcorn and cranberries and wrap around our tree. The citrus slices create a warm bright glow as the lights sparkle around them!
2. Celebration Wreaths
I am a big fan of making holiday decorations vs. buying them. This project is a wonderful way to bring your family together and celebrate in a more connected, mindful way. You can buy natural wreaths in all sizes at your local craft store, or make one yourself using Willow branches, vines or even cardboard rings.
You can buy natural wreaths in any size at your local craft store, or make your own using willow branches, vines, or even cut out cardboard rings as a base.
If you are using a natural wreath, decorate by weaving your nature materials into the wreath. Easy! Sometimes we use hot glue to attach tricky things like moss or flowers with shorter stems. If using cardboard rings, you can wrap twine around the ring and weave your nature items into the twine or use hot glue to attach.
We love using dried flowers, ferns, winter berries, a variety of leaves, moss, pine branches and pine cones, acorns, eucalyptus, and dried fruit.
(Also- These wreaths make lovely gifts!)
3. Gratitude Tree
Gratitude Trees are not only a beautiful way to bring natural elements into your home, they are also an opportunity to connect with each other and express gratitude during the busy holiday months.
These can be made as big or as small as needed. Gather a few branches/large sticks and decorate by wrapping with colored string, painting or coloring with Soy Pas or oil pastels.
Once the sticks are ready to be displayed, they can be arranged in a large vase. To make your hanging tags, you can use recycled paper scraps or paper bags to cut out desired shape (we like cutting stars or hearts) or our favorite- real leaves! You can write directly on the leaves or onto a small strip of paper and glue to the leaves. Then punch a hole in the top and tie a loop with twine or wire.
We also love stringing wooden beads onto the twine or wire before hanging. You can also hang other nature items or add twinkle lights to your Gratitude Tree.
Each family member can take turns writing down what they are grateful for and hanging them up on the sticks.
This project is a great way to bond with family while getting creative. Spending time focusing on what is truly important to us during the holiday months is a wonderfully grounding experience, and our Gratitude Tree is a beautiful reminder of all that we have.
(Image: Jane Merritt)
4. Glow Jars
These are definitely one of my favorite Fall crafts. The colors of the seasonal leaves and flowers bring such a cozy warmth into our home. You can make one of these for any season, this year we will be using reds and greens from nature to create a Winter Glow Jar!
You can find a great variety of jars at your local thrift store, or wash and reuse jars that you've previously purchased.
Paint the clean jar with clear dry glue, stick your nature items on and brush over them with another layer of glue. Easy and so beautiful!
(Attach a handle with twine or wire and your Glow Jar becomes a lantern for winter night walks!)
5. Wood Slice Art
These make great ornaments, and can be decorated in so many different ways. If you aren't able to make your own wood slices, check your local craft store.
We love using our Natural Earth Paint to decorate our wood circles with images that remind us of the wintery months- snowy night scenes, fairies, hibernating forest animals, etc. You can also glue pressed flower petals to create colorful pictures, or use oil pastels or Soy Pas to create abstract blends that add pops of seasonal color to your tree.
6. Forest Folk
We are big believers in all things magic. This project always includes magical stories about where our Forest Folk might live and what their homes might look like. We love imagining tiny fires to keep them warm and beds made of soft green moss. Discussions about which forest animals they might invite over for tea. We love making and displaying these Fall and Winter Forest Folk as we welcome the changing seasons.
This project really emphasizes the process and sensory experience, along with storytelling and imaginative play. The best way to set this one up is to offer a variety of different seasonal nature materials and let your little one(s) create without instruction.
Some material ideas: Acorns/ acorn caps, pine cones, pine needles, sticks, leaves, winter berries, flower pedals, leaves, wooden beads, moss, seeds, ferns, small rocks, grass, and anything else you can find outside during the Fall and Winter months!
You can use hot glue to attach everything, and for displaying I like to make a small circle of clay as a base to hold it up. These make beautiful decorations and they are also very fun to play with. You could even turn them into ornaments by tying a loop of twine on top!
7. Potato Stamp Wrapping Paper
This project combines nature, art and an earth-friendly alternative to traditional gift wrapping. I like to use this process as an opportunity to discuss the importance of caring for our earth by making conscious choices as consumers, and using the resources and materials we have in a way that is healthy for each other and for our planet.
For this project you will need paper bags, potatoes, cookie cutters and/or knife, and a stamp pad or paint. (We use green and brown Natural Earth Paint).
Cut the potato in half. Use a cookie cutter or knife to carve out desired shape, then cut around the shape with a kitchen knife, leaving the design so it is raised on the surface of the potato.
Dip the potato stamp into your paint, and use a paint brush if needed to ensure the surface is evenly coated. ( A thin layer is all you need).
Stamp away! Try different shapes, sizes, and colors- we like to do golden stars and green trees. When wrapping, add handmade gift tags, or dried fruit, cinnamon sticks or a sprig of cedar for a special touch of nature.
8. Twig Ornaments
Twig ornaments look beautiful on a tree or as part of a nature garland, mobile or wreath. They also make lovely gifts.
Gather some twigs from outside- the straighter the better- they can be thin or thick, long or short. Arrange the sticks into different shapes- experiment with stars, trees, snowflakes or whatever you can come up with!
Once you are happy with your design, you can use hot glue to hold it in place. You can attach a piece of twine in a loop at the top and leave it as is or decorate!
We like to string some colorful wooden beads or felt balls onto a piece of twine and wrap it around our shape. We also like to weave nature items into the twine ( dried flowers, small winterberry branches, dried herbs like rosemary, etc.) Another option is to brush your shape with a little clear glue and sprinkle 'nature confetti' (crushed + dried flowers and leaves).
9. Seasonal Salt Dough
Salt Dough is a winner anytime of the year, and it's fun to add a little something extra to it as we celebrate each season! For the winter months, we like to add things like cinnamon, or eucalyptus, peppermint, orange or spruce essential oils. The feel of the dough is a wonderfully therapeutic sensory experience and the scents connect us to the bright warmth of the season.
To make the dough:
2 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 cup water
*optional scents: 1-2 tbsp cinnamon, or 5 drops of your favorite seasonal essential oil.
Roll out with a little flour and get creative! You can make pinch pots, ornaments, even gift tags! Or just enjoy the experience and do some creative play.
Bake your creation at 250 degrees for 2 hours or until hard, flipping once halfway through if needed.
10. Ice + Snow Art
Snow and Ice make perfect canvases in the Winter months. We love painting the snow and ice using plant based dyes. You can make these using things like beet and blueberry juice, turmeric, green and blue spirulina and red cabbage. Or You can buy natural plant based dyes at the grocery store or online- my favorite is the Whole Foods 365 brand.
To create a snow or ice canvas to paint, use a baking tray and gather up some snow, you can flatten it out, or stack it up using an ice cream scoop or make snowballs by hand. Get creative with your child(ren) and drip the colors directly onto the snow, or mix the dye with a little water in glass jars and use paintbrushes. To make an ice canvas, simply freeze a layer of water in a baking tray, or use a cake ring or mold for different shapes!
Note: When you are doing this inside, it melts fast. You can set the tray outside or back in the freezer after painting and enjoy it again after it re-freezes!
Follow @thepurplefernstudio on Instagram for more nature art inspiration and local class + workshop info.