Monday, June 16, 2014


On "Father's Day", I had fun finishing up a project that I had started about ten months ago.  I love tree houses.  I also love a lot fun miniature creations that people design for "fairy houses" in the trunks and roots of old trees.  Since I've never made something like this before, it was my attempt to combine those interests a bit. Though most would look at this and say it was "just a bird house".  It's actually a "bird feeder".  More specifically, it's a "TREE FROG" house! The Frogs have just opened a restaurant for hummingbirds!
This project started with a bunch of little sketches.  I was also inspired by conversations with my friends, Joyce Cole and Mike Adair.  I spent a good deal of time gathering images off of the internet about tiny houses, tree houses, bird houses...anything to get the creative wheels turning.
Once I had a vague idea of what I wanted to build, I started gathering sticks and limbs.  I ended up not needing most of the sticks, since my "Cafe" was more of a conventional construction approach (although whimsical in styling).  I made a "holder" for my big branch that would serve as the main post. For months, my daughter Courtney would drop by, and wondered about the "tree" in the basement, but never once asked me about it.  She later said she just figured it was another one of my art projects.  (Guess that's just a by-product of growing up with a weird creative Dad!)
Next, I sketched up a pattern on a 1"x10" board, and cut out the pieces. After gluing and nailing the walls up, I then cut strips of masonite board for the main roof.
My original idea was to have a little hut that was sitting on top of the smaller branch.  But I didn't like how that turned out.  So I decided, at this point, to make a hummingbird feeder, instead of a traditional bird house.  I created a circular platform that would also be able to hold SEED in the winter months.  This would give the feeder a dual purpose, once the hummingbirds migrated south.
Before I went any farther on the build, I felt that I had to make one of my frog characters, to have a size relationship for the other elements like doors, and the porch roof.  The idea was to design the frogs more simply, and not get too sculptural.  I used wooden beads and dowels for the body..."peel and stick" plastic beads for the eyes.  The arms were crudely made from wire, then covered with a hot glue gun.  I did a brighter color palette at first, like some jungle tree frog.  The final version was more like the "White's Tree Frog" species.
I then spend several hours gluing on all the shingles.  It was kind of therapeutic, actually...a bit like putting together a puzzle.  Next came the front porch.
After I had the two main structures about finished, I decided that I needed another place to hang a second feeder.  So I drilled a hole and made a "peg" fitting from another branch.  I also added on another layer of "shingles" to the walls of the round platform.  I also used my dremel tool to drill in some grooves to indicate old planks for the siding of the "cafe".
The last part of the build was to create the finishing details. I made a little side porch, and a little walking bridge to connect the platform to the main building. I trimmed out the door, and made some odd little windows, purposely skewing them to go with the crooked architecture.  The sign for "The Hummin' Bird Cafe" was created in Photoshop, printed, then glued to a piece of wood.  I glazed it with varnish to protect it a bit.
Time to paint the structures. I had some real challenges with using acrylic glazes on the wooden shingles.  I was a bit messy with the wood glue and hot glue gun when applying the residue prevented the paint from sticking.  Oh well...lesson learned.  I started with a warm brown wash...then added a thin wash of black paint to "age" the wood.  The house was painted with some left over "sage green" from when I recently painted a bedroom.  I glazed it with the watered-down black wash, then I used a whiter green to make the side boards look weathered.
I needed a couple more frogs for the finishing touches.  I made a "child size" froggy to sit on the roof of the front porch...then another frog to walk on the bridge.  I covered them with wood glue, just to build up a harder shell to endure the weather better.
And here's the newly opened Cafe..ready for business!!
And here are a couple more views...the last one being from inside my house looking out the front window.
So hummingbirds.  :)