Tree of Life Pendant

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About: Industrial Design student at Eindhoven University of Technology

Some projects, I make as soon as I think of them. Others remain a concept for the rest of their days. And, there is the select group of projects I simply know I am going to make, no matter how much time goes over actually getting to it.

Four years ago, I saw this wonderful instructable. It lead to me getting a few amazing pieces of wood, and following the project to make a pendant. I knew I wanted to use the other pieces to turn into my own version.

Now, that is where it got a bit tricky. I wanted to use wirework, but everything I thought of felt like a mismatch to the material. Again and again I came back to the original project, rereading the introduction. Most important for me was to be able to come up with a design that fit the original thought behind it, yet also putting my own style into it.

Seeing the remix contest pass by sparked the concept again in my head. Out of nowhere, I knew what to make of it - two circles, of which the inner one could spin around. Yeah. So, I sawed out a rough shape, took a piece of sanding paper, and went outside to enjoy the weather while sanding the outer ring. While walking, I realised how interesting the slight curve of the material was, and a new concept was born - using it in a bracelet rather than a pendant, fitting against my arm, some macrame for the bracelet. I kept walking, and kept sanding. The ring started getting a final look, and it finally clicked.

Sometimes nature itself indeed is the best designer.

Supplies:

Step 1: Materials

- a wooden ring (more about this in the next step)

- wire: I'm using silver plated copper wire of 0.4 mm / gauge 26, 0.6 mm / gauge 22 , and 1.0 mm / gauge 18 (examples linked). I'd recommend either having a slightly thinner ring, or substituting the 1.0 mm / gauge 18 wire for 0.8 mm / gauge 20 wire. It's doable with the one I used, and I like the visual result, but it's rather tricky to nicely work away the ends.

- beads: to prevent too many styles mixing in the final look, I used a set of differently sized silver coloured beads, matching the wire.

- pliers: the ones you'll really need for this project are cutting pliers and flat nose pliers, I just like having my different ones laying around in case I might use them.

Step 2: The Wooden Base Ring

For the general shape of the ring, you could decide to do all of it with sanding paper. With my initial plan being the two circles, I had already sawed out the inner part. This left a slightly hexagonal shape. Using thin strips of the sanding paper, my initial goal was to get rid of the mechanical marks. Doing so reveals the beauty of the material you are working with. I also smoothed down the edges a bit.

Step 3: The Design

With that final concept in mind, I also quickly sketched it out. The fact that the wooden ring provides more of a base makes it much easier to put the tree trunk on one side and create an asymmetrical look. The branches going past the open center of the ring give it a sense of dimension.

Step 4: Making the Trunk

For the trunk, I'd definitely recommend using different sizes of wire. These will lead to the roots and the branches, and having variation there makes it look more naturally shaped. It also gives more freedom to experiment with the visual aspect, especially in the branches.

I used four pieces of the thickest wire, two of the middle one, and one of the thinnest.

Starting with the thickest wire, put two over each other at an angle, as shown in the second image. Wrap them around each other a few times, approximately in the middle of the wire. Add the remaining wires one by one, going from thickest to thinnest.

As you can see, the pieces are still curved from having been on a coil. Working with the trunk on a ring-shaped base, this is actually useful.

Step 5: Putting Down Roots

Decide what way around your trunk is going to be, and split the bottom half in small groups or pairs. Wrap the wires together a few times per pair.

Place the trunk in its right position and hold it there while wrapping the roots around the base. Holding it with your thumb also gives you a good grip on the rest of the pendant.

For ending the wires, try to get them as flat as possible against the ring base, and consider the position of the ending. I placed all of these ends on the inside of the ring. This makes it unlikely to snag on something or to scratch.

In the materials I mentioned either having 0.8 mm wire instead of 1.0 or having a thinner ring - this part of the step is the reason why. While the ends of the wire lay inside the pendant and won't cause any issues, it is not possible to get them as snug against the material as I'd personally prefer.

Step 6: Branches and Leaves

Fan out the wires on the top half and add your beads to them. You can experiment with different looks before wrapping any wires. The different gauges of wire also come in here - not only can the thinner wires fit smaller beads, they can also easily connect to other wires.

Step 7: More Branches, More Leaves

With that advantage also comes a disadvantage. Practice helps, but still - the number of times I had to rebead a wire..

Pictured here is the final branch look I ended up going for, the thinner wire wraps already in place.

Step 8: Different Connections

To end the branches, I used a few different strategies. Two of the 1.0 mm wires were worked away using a similar technique as with the roots, though making sure to let the end sit behind the top part of the trunk. This hides the end between the wires.

One wire I wrapped around itself, looping it around the ring base first. Whether or not you can do this mostly depends on the construction of your branches and the position of the beads.

Two other wires, a 1.0 mm one and a 0.6 mm one, were wrapped around another wire on the back of the pendant.

The two remaining parts were both thin wires. In the design, they coiled around the branches in the front, after which I clamped down the end against the wire they were wrapped around.

Step 9: Making It Wearable

Matching the purple tint in the wood I used, I took a lilac colored string. The necklace itself is rather simple - cut off a piece of string that's long enough, make a knot, and add it around the top of the pendant. I intentionally kept this simple, not wanting to add too many factors to the design. With that, your necklace is ready to wear!

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