Do you remember going out before Christmas to pick out the Christmas
tree? Searching through dozens of shapes and sizes, to find
the one, perfectly shaped tree? Well, picture your search for
perfect Halloween tree: "Nope, not dead enough... Not twisted enough...
Not quite ugly enough... "
what we found ourselves saying as we hiked through the overgrown acres
of a local park. We pulled out plenty of dead branches, but only one
was the perfect, gnarled, twisted and very dead branch we wanted for
our perfect Halloween Tree. Trust us. You'll find yours, too. And
you'll love potting it in this hand-cast Plaster of Paris Jack
And for the final vintage touch - Halloween
Materials for the Halloween Tree
images (FREE PDF download) for the Halloween Pumpkin
Lollipops, printed on lightweight photo paper.
Dead tree branch, about 3' high when standing
on end, including a "trunk" of about 10".
Plastic Jack O'Lantern trick-or-treat bucket
Plastic water or soda bottle, 1.5 liter.
Plastic dish or plate about 7" in diameter
(black) (see Tips).
5/8" or 3/4" ribbon with Halloween colors or
Primer paint (tinted orange if you can) or
Acrylic craft paints (light, medium and dark
Matte acrylic varnish.
Artist oil paint (burnt umber or dark green).
Paint thinner or turpentine.
Spray paint (flat black).
Paint brushes (various sizes).
Natural sea sponge.
Nubby rag, like terry cloth.
Tacky craft glue (like Alene's).
Double-stick transparent tape.
Hacksaw or other fine-tooth saw.
Self-healing cutting mat, if using a craft
Remove the handle from the
trick-or-treat bucket. With a
hacksaw, cut the bucket down each side and across the bottom,
separating the front and back halves. Lightly sand the rough edges of
the plastic. Tape the two halves back together tightly
with duct tape. This is your plaster mold.
water bottle in bottom of the mold. Mark a line around the bottle, even
top of the mold. With a craft knife or scissors, cut off
the top of the bottle above that line. Fill the
bottle with sand or gravel, put some double-stick tape on the bottom,
and place it in the center
of the bottom of the mold (the gravel will keep it from floating up
the plaster is poured around it). Keep it centered with several pieces
of masking tape
across the opening of the bucket.
Plaster of Paris and water (see Tips)
and pour it into the mold around the plastic bottle. Don't worry if a
little goes in the bottle. You want the final poured plaster to be
level with the top of the bottle and the top of the mold. Let
dry for two days.
the plaster is dry and hard, empty
the sand or gravel from the bottle. Remove the tape and gently
pull apart the two halves of the mold. Lightly sand off any
imperfections on the plaster (it will be very imperfect, which is fine,
but sand off big bumps or ridges left by the mold). Wipe it
gently with a damp cloth.
Paint the entire pumpkin with primer paint or
Gesso, and let it dry.
the entire pumpkin with medium orange acrylic paint and let it dry.
Sponge on highlights of light orange acrylic paint down each of the
ribs of the pumpkin and let it dry. Sponge on dark orange acrylic paint
around the cheek areas and let it dry.
With a small brush, paint the eyes, nose and
mouth openings with black acrylic paint and let it dry.
a little black acrylic paint with an equal amount of water. Use an old
toothbrush (or other stiff bristled brush) to splatter tiny black "fly
specks" on the pumpkin (see Tips).
Brush on a coat of matte acrylic varnish and
let it dry.
the pumpkin with dark brown artist oil paint thinned slightly with a
little paint thinner. Brush it on
in small vertical sections with a wide brush, then immediately wipe it
off with a nubby rag. Try to leave the dark paint in the indentations,
with very faint streaks on the smooth surfaces. Let it dry
Apply two coats of matte acrylic varnish.
Cut a circle of felt (or cork) to fit the
bottom of the pumpkin and glue it on.
your perfect, ugly branch and spray paint it
flat black (if it is really dirty, hose it off and let it completely
Wrap the base of the "trunk" with two pieces of
florist foam, trimmed to fit snugly in the base, secure the
foam with rubber bands, and "pot" your Halloween Tree (see Tips).
Starting at the rim of the candy dish or
plate, cut a straight line on
the radius to the center, then cut a round circle in the center of the
dish, large enough to encircle the tree trunk. Twist the dish
it around the tree trunk. Center it on the pumpkin (you may
have to make some cutting adjustments if the trunk is
Tape the cut edges of the bowl together at the rim.
Cut a piece of ribbon to fit around the outside
of the dish and attach it with double-stick tape or glue. Fashion a bow
from the ribbon and attach it to the front.
Fill the bowl with candy, like the Vintage
Pumpkin Lollipops below. Eat some
until it all fits. Wait for trick-or-treaters to dig in!
Vintage Pumpkin Lollipops
out the vintage images on lightweight
Cut out the pumpkin heads with small scissors.
Optional: wrap the lollipop heads with squares of orange or black crepe
Using double-stick tape, stick the pumpkin
heads on lollipops or Tootsie Roll Pops.
Stick the lollipops, heads up, in the
candy bowl under your Halloween Tree.
molded plastic trick-or-treat buckets are in stores a couple
months before Halloween. Try Dollar Stores and thrift shops before you
pay full price. You might even have one in the attic
You want a pretty small one (ours was about 7" deep), with distinctly
molded features and
vertical ribbing you can feel on the inside.
We used florist foam to secure the tree trunk
in the base. Go thrifty, and wrap the trunk with plastic
shopping bags and rubber bands until the trunk fits snugly in the base.
Or, place your branch in the base and stuff foam packing
peanuts around the trunk until it is firm.
Paris. Sounds romantic. Looks easy. Can make you hate the whole city
and start you ordering "freedom fries." Do not panic, mes amis:
Accept that it is messy and prepare your
workspace and personal clothing accordingly.
how much plaster to make. Fill your trick-or-treat bucket with water
and pour it in a large calibrated container. That is your water
measurement. Follow the P of P package instructions for the appropriate
quantity of plaster to add (usually double the volume of the water).
Yes, you'll have some leftover plaster, but that is better
than too little.
shovel the plaster into the water: measure the plaster into
another (old) bucket, and stir in the water a little at a time until it
is as smooth as very thick gravy.
Fill your mold quickly
because the plaster sets up in 10 minutes. Jiggle and tap the mold
after you pour the plaster to eliminate air bubbles that will mar your
plaster surface. Do not pour leftover plaster down your drain - put it
in the trash. Wash your hands now or they will get very irritated.
the plaster harden for several hours before you remove the
Let it dry for a day and lightly sand off imperfections.
"fly specks." An entire industry of country-style crafts is based on
technique. Easy enough. Protect your work area with newspapers and wear
painting clothes. Set your project up on a stand so you can get to all
visible sides. Dilute black or brown acrylic paint
water. Dip in an old toothbrush (or small stiff-bristled brush) and tap
off excess paint. About
10" from your project, hold the toothbrush in one
your thumb on the bristles and aim it toward your project.
your thumb back against the bristles as you slowly move the brush, and
paint will splatter in tiny blobs onto your surface. Practice a little
first on newspaper to get the brush loaded appropriately and to perfect
your splatter dispersion plan. Then splatter with confidence,
remembering that less is more with this often overused technique.
For the plastic candy dish, you can use almost
anything that is thin and flexible enough to cut, twist and slide
tree. Since we love "recycled" crafts, we used a plastic dish
from a microwave dinner. You can see in the photo that it is a divided
plate, which is just fine for this craft. You can also use foam
dinnerware or a disposable aluminum cake pan.
We designed this Halloween tree base to make the branch
removable. We thought it would be easier to store the base
and tree separately, and figured that over the years, twigs would get
broken, or you might find an even more perfect branch in the future.
You could, of course skip the water bottle insert and just embed your
tree trunk in the wet plaster. If you do, remember that a solid ball of
plaster is very, very heavy (VOE - Voice of Experience).
We topped our Jack O'Lantern base with a candy
making this a multi-purpose Halloween tree. But there are
many other options: heap on some florist Spanish moss for straggly
Halloween garland in spiral around the tree, make a little tree skirt
from Halloween fabric, or cut a funny old hat to fit around
the tree trunk. Why not do them all and change it every year?
Halloween tree base makes a perfectly wonderful vase for flowers, too.
Arrange a Halloween centerpiece with pussy willows, spiky grasses, and
perhaps some blood-red roses.