Monday, April 28, 2008

A Family Tree for Mom

One year around Mother's Day, I heard my mom was in the process of clearing out all the extras in her home. She had spent days taking loads of books and other knick knacks to the local Deseret Industries. I didn't want to add to her pile of stuff to clear out again in a few months with another useless gift. I don't like giving her clothes because I never know sizing, if she'll like it, or even what clothes she will feel comfortable wearing. I am a very sentimental yet practical person, so I like to think whatever I give her will be something treasured for years. I've made lockets including photos of all her children and all her grandchildren. She has photos in clocks, frames and albums. What else could I give that is unique and yet honors her as my mother?

She has always referred to her children as "the jewels in her crown." Mother's Day is a day to reflect on motherhood experiences with our family. This particular year my mom was really involved in our family geneology. I am a very visual person, and all those group sheets got too confusing for me to follow the lines and have it make sense. I wanted to put names in a 3-Dimensional format. I wanted it to be a peice of artwork for her wall above her computer. One that she enjoyed looking at everyday. So I created something similiar to the above photo.

After I made Mom's, I thought I would make a few extras for the local Art Market , and a few for friends and family. And then the calls started coming in for special orders. While I really love the concept, I have other ideas and projects on the drawing board and have retired this idea for resale. I have decided to share with you the Family Tree Heirloom Shadowbox instructions for a simple Mother's Day project that takes about an hour to complete once you have gathered your supplies. It's great fun to learn family names and hear stories about individuals as you work on your family heirloom.

Supplies:16 x 20 Shadowbox frame or other size (found at Michael's, Roberts or many craft or art stores)
Tree Branches (Manzanita and Curly Willow are best)
Large parent sheet of handmade paper for background on shadowbox (found at most art supply stores)
40-50 cardstock leaves (Look for maple or oak leaf punches found at scrapbooking or craft stores)
Very fine point black pen (archival)
Glue Gun (mini size is best, less risk of dripping too much hot glue in areas)
Double Stick photo tape

1. Carefully cut down and mount large handmade paper in frame, secure in place with double stick tape or hot glue gun. Below are a few examples of decorative papers available in art supply stores.

2. Arrange branches in desired layout and secure with hot glue.

3. Punch leaves out of desired colored cardstock.
Write family names on cardstock leaves with fine point black pen. *see note below
4. Place leaves near branches on "tree", but don't glue on yet until spacing and placement is exact.
5. Once everything is in place and you are certain of the arrangement, glue leaves permanently to the branches using a hot glue gun. (Be aware of hot glue drips in frame area).

6. Assemble glass and box contents and close up the frame.

*You can arrange your family names however you want. I have done them all different ways. You can use the main branches as siblings with your parents at the base trunk, and then branching out to the grandchildren names. Or you can do it the traditional way where a married couple is at the base trunk, and then the pedigree progresses from parents to grandparents, and finally to the great-grandparents.


  1. What a lovely idea! Where do you get the manzanita branches, though?

  2. Alicia, I have ordered from this website:

    Sometimes your local florist can order branches in for you as well.

    You will need a deep shadowbox for manzanita, so wait to receive your branches before you choose your frame. Good luck!

  3. I have been searching for these branches... We are looking to make 8 8x10 shadow boxes with family trees of each siblings family. How did you cut the branches, and do you think 8x10 is too small to work with? they sell filler manzanita branches sized 10-14 inches. Do we need to use larger shadow boxes? We wanted to order the white. Can you give me some tips?
    thank you!

  4. The branches I used are from a curly willow tree here in Utah. They are smaller and easier to place behind a shadowbox and it doesn't need to be so deep like it might with a manzanita branch. The frames I purchased at a local craft store that has since gone under. It made me sad, because they were so affordable. The frame was larger than an 8x10, I thought it was too difficult to squeeze it all in anything smaller and with the leaf punch the size it was, I think it needed a little more space. If you can find someone with a curly willow tree, they are always more than happy to get rid of the branches that are constantly falling to the ground. Let me know if I can help you anymore. The project only cost me about $25, but they do take a little time.

  5. By the way, my frame was an 17X21 size with an 11X16 window opening.