Alt. Xmas tree

Cot­ton snow and fir trees don’t re­ally suit an Asian Christ­mas, surely? So how about some dif­fer­ent ver­sions of the tra­di­tional Christ­mas tree this year?

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By LEE MEI LI star2@thes­

THE room was aglow with Christ­mas cheer, but it had no Christ­mas tree to speak of – at least, not in the tra­di­tional sense. What it did have, though, was a pas­tel-green tis­sue pa­per ren­di­tion of the clas­sic Christ­mas icon, placed on a bare white wall.

Stand­ing watch over a giftwrapped pile of presents, the “Christ­mas tree” tow­ered al­most 2m tall but in essence, took up vir­tu­ally no space at all. De­signed by Florida-based craft stylist Brit­tni Mehlhoff for Cur­, the Christ­mas tree al­ter­na­tive is one among the many clever ideas found cir­cu­lat­ing the World Wide Web.

In­stead of keep­ing to tra­di­tion, a bevy of mod­ern merry-mak­ing folk have been ush­er­ing in the yule­tide with one-of-a-kind DIY trees. Think faux but fes­tive trees made out of beer bot­tles, a fairy lights-in­fused lad­der, float­ing driftwood, egg car­tons, and even chalk­board scrawls.

Ap­par­ently, any­thing goes when it comes to de­part­ing from tra­di­tion yet up­ping the Christ­mas cheer, says Tokyo-based Kris­ten Mc­Quillin.

“For the past 13 years, I’ve cre­ated a hol­i­day tree from found ob­jects. In 2009 I had a pile of books I was about to get rid of, and a tin of green paint left­over from another project. A book tree was the ob­vi­ous choice for my non-tra­di­tional tree of the year,” says the 47-year-old Amer­i­can artist and per­former via e-mail.

Stead­ied with a dowel and spools of thread, Mc­Quillin’s Christ­mas tree – hard­cover edi­tion – has gar­nered rave re­views ever since a photo of it was shared on her blog, Me­di­

“My mes­sage is: ‘Be merry! Slap some­thing to­gether with good cheer.’ There is no deeper mean­ing be­hind my dec­o­ra­tions. I sim­ply want to make a pretty mo­ment to re­mem­ber when I don’t have easy ac­cess to the tra­di­tional means to do so,” she ex­plains.

“As a res­i­dent of Tokyo, I have seen my share of non-typ­i­cal dec­o­ra­tions and tra­di­tions. There are huge dis­plays of lights in shop­ping dis­tricts and town squares, some­times with non-tra­di­tional themes like zoo an­i­mals or ar­chi­tec­ture. Decor is a mat­ter of per­sonal pref­er­ence. Tra­di­tion is charm­ing but so are non-tra­di­tional styles.

“This year, we are be­ing vis­ited by the ‘Christ­mas Ele­phant’ and our dec­o­ra­tions in­clude gilded peanuts and ele­phant ban­ners. Be­cause why not?”

Sure enough, Mc­Quillin’s love for atyp­i­cal Christ­mas dé­cor this year in­cludes a chic set of wooden blocks, lov­ingly hand­crafted to match the mood.

“I en­joy all man­ner of chil­dren’s toys so when I saw a set of fancy hol­i­day-themed blocks in a de­signer store, I thought it would be fun to cre­ate a cus­tom set for my­self. This set fea­tures my Christ­mas Ele­phant char­ac­ter, pine trees, glow­ing can­dles, and three sets of greet­ings. I have been en­joy­ing re­ar­rang­ing the blocks to make new mes­sages.”

Nor­way-based web con­tent de­vel­oper Er­lend Jo­hansen has been mean­ing to craft his own ma­son jar snow globe sport­ing mini fir trees made out of bot­tle brushes. Am­bi­tious, in­deed!At the mo­ment, how­ever, he’s set­tling for tiny egg car­ton-turned-trees, a

project that he shares on his blog, Morn­ingCreativ­

“I made a Christ­mas star or­na­ment from egg car­tons last year and I’ve been try­ing to make some­thing else out of the un­usual shape of the car­tons.

“First, I tried to make a bell but I ended up with th­ese cute Christ­mas trees in­stead,” says the 32-year-old via e-mail.

Mak­ing your own dé­cor doesn’t have to be ex­pen­sive, Jo­hansen adds. “Christ­mas is a time of the year when a lot of peo­ple make dec­o­ra­tions and gifts. The more peo­ple make, the more ideas are born.

“The thing is, as poet Maya An­gelou put it, ‘You can’t use up cre­ativ­ity. The more you use, the more you have’.”

Closer to home, Pe­nang-based Joanne Loh, 43, has done up her own “tree of twigs”, hot-glu­ing mounds of sticks into a pyra­mid­like sculp­ture.

“Re­cy­cling was my theme of the year. Mak­ing a tree out of twigs gave me the op­por­tu­nity to rein­tro­duce ‘life’ into dis­carded old items.”

Last year, the CraftPas­ blog­ger, who co-owns an engineering com­pany, teamed up with her nine-year-old daugh­ter to build fuzzy trees out of pom­poms.

Loh be­lieves that mak­ing your own tree and dé­cor in­stead of pay- ing the shops to do the job for you is one way of keep­ing waste­ful­ness at bay.

Be­yond just sat­is­fy­ing cre­ative im­pulses, turn­ing the days lead­ing up to Dec 25 into a DIY af­fair works as a protest against the “sea­son of ex­cess”, as Christ­mas is some­times re­ferred to.

Nev­er­the­less, Malaysians with sim­i­lar views may very well be few and far be­tween, ob­serves in­te­rior de­signer Kate Choo of The Door In­te­ri­ors in Pu­chong, Se­lan­gor.

“We’re all for think­ing out-ofthe-box and re­cy­cling is some­thing that we’d love to ex­plore more. We’ve tried shar­ing the theme with a lot of our clients. While they ini­tially like the idea, most of them won’t end up us­ing it – out of 50 projects, we’ll prob­a­bly get one client who’ll buy into the idea. The pref­er­ence is for the new; any­thing old seems to have a neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tion.”

In the same vein, Choo, 26, feels that the Christ­mas am­bi­ence in this coun­try errs on the side of tra­di­tion, where store-bought items still take prece­dence over home­made in­ven­tions.

“The DIY cul­ture is quite es­tab­lished over­seas. Here in Malaysia, peo­ple may still find it time-con­sum­ing and im­prac­ti­cal, es­pe­cially for those with hec­tic work sched­ules, to in­dulge in hol­i­day craft­ing. It doesn’t help that ready-made goods are so eas­ily ac­quired th­ese days.”

At Choo’s com­pany, the Christ­mas scene cen­tres on a string of fairy lights, ar­ranged to mimic the fa­mous fir shape.

“We came up with this in a mat­ter of min­utes. All it cost us was RM15. It may not be an orig­i­nal idea, but the ex­pe­ri­ence is unique to us. It’s just more fun when you’re cre­at­ing.”

There’s al­ways room for this

tree: brit­tni mehlhoff cre­ated a space-sav­ing christ­mas tree out of colour­ful tis­sue pa­per and

foam boards. A close up of the ‘tree’ fea­tured on the cover: Kris­ten mc­Quillin’s hard­cover edi­tion christ­mas tree has bulbs in­ge­niously hid­den in­side so that light glows out of the tree-shaped ar­range­ment of books.

er­lend Jo­hansen crafted tiny christ­mas trees out of re­cy­cled egg car­tons. Th­ese can ei­ther be dot­ted around the house or grouped to­gether for a larger ef­fect.

In 2011, Joanne Loh in­vested some time on mak­ing a Kan­za­shi tree (left), a Ja­panese craft that in­volves fold­ing 200 fab­ric petals. Last year, she teamed up with her nine-year-old daugh­ter to make a tree out of pom­poms (far left).

Here’s a sim­ple but clever ‘tree’ built around a light fix­ture that choo put to­gether with wire rods, clips and some sea­sonal draw­ings.

This year, mc­Quillin is us­ing a set of home­made wooden blocks (left) to dec­o­rate her home for the sea­son. The blocks can be ar­ranged to fea­ture a ‘christ­mas ele­phant’ (above), pine trees, glow­ing can­dles, and dif­fer­ent

greet­ings (above left).

Kate choo putting to­gether her ‘tree’ com­pris­ing fairy lights and cards.

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