Since all of Chapter 16 in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz takes place in the throne room of the Emerald City, I knew I had to have something grand and something green. I had taken out a bunch of books from the library about making fairy houses, and the consensus seemed to be that, wherever possible, to craft them from natural objects. So I knew this would be one of my design goals. Since this exhibit was going to be out-of-doors for some very tricky months here in Connecticut (Super Storm Sandy blew through the Wee Village last year, for example), I also knew that sometimes the aim of "natural" would have to be sacrificed to the greater god of "sturdiness".
One of the things that we were educated on was the need to have fences of sorts surrounding our exhibits -- faerie-sized fences don't cut the mustard, and with 15k people expected to be coming through, protecting the scene from trampling feet is v. important. With that in mind, my first thought in the green/natural/fence arena was to get some green bamboo garden stakes from my local garden supply store. I had started wiring these together and knew that this would A. take forever B. not be creative in the least C. more than likely fall apart before I managed to stake them in the ground.
I like to take walks, so on a walk I came across sycamore bark on the grounds of the elementary school I attended as a child and thought, "Ah-HA!" I went back on two separate occasions to bag up the bark to bring home. Of course my mailman saw me both times, so the history of my mailmen seeing me doing odd things outdoors continues! (This was another time.)
I painted these bark pieces, used gold leafing markers and puffy glitter paint, etc. (Painting on both sides will reduce the curl that happens if you only paint one side. Some pieces were naturally more tubular -- these I decided would be placed around the throne. Other pieces were flatter -- these I decided would act as walls/fence.)
I mounted them to the aforementioned tomato stakes with wood glue, making sure the bond was solid by clamping with clothespins. Sprayed with two coats of an acrylic (clear) spray.
When testing out one of the pieces here in the garden at home (to see how glue held up, etc.), here's what I found the next morning:
A 17-year cicada had left its golden outer casing on the top! I don't know if it was attracted to the gold leafing or what, but I took it as a good sign!
The shapes of the sycamore bark are just so unusual and interesting that I knew I had that other-worldly quality that OZ (the city) needed. Plus, I knew I'd be able to arrange these bark-sticks in any way once I got to the site for installation. I live an hour away from the museum, and the ability to be flexible with my design was a must.