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Published: Sunday December 15, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Sunday December 15, 2013 MYT 9:42:52 AM

alt.Xmas tree

A simple but clever 'tree' built around a light fixture that Kate Choo put together with wire rods, clips and some seasonal drawings.

A simple but clever 'tree' built around a light fixture that Kate Choo put together with wire rods, clips and some seasonal drawings.

Everything from books and blocks to tissue paper and pompoms inspire seasonal decor from these creative souls.

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 gift-wrapped 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 Curbly.com, 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, Mediatinker.com.

“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, MorningCreativity.com.

“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 pyramid-like 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 CraftPassion.com blogger, who co-owns an engineering company, teamed up with her nine-year-old daughter to build fuzzy trees out of pompoms.

PLACE PIX 4i AND 4j TOGETHER, SHARING CAPTION
In 2011, Joanne Loh invested some time on making a Kanzashi tree, 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 (below).
PLACE PIX 4i AND 4j TOGETHER, SHARING CAPTION: In 2011, Joanne Loh invested some time on making a Kanzashi Tree (RIGHT), which consists of 200 folded fabric petals. Last year, she teamed up with her nine-year-old daughter to make a tree out of pom-poms.

Loh believes that making your own tree and décor instead of paying 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.

GROUP TOGETHER PIX 4k + 4l + 4m: Putting the 'tree' together by stringing the fairy lights in the traditional triangular shape and attaching the greetings cards.
Kate Choo putting together her 'tree' comprising fairy lights and cards.
GROUP TOGETHER PIX 4k + 4l + 4m, USE THIS AS MAIN PIX IN THE GROUP: The Christmas scene at interior designer Kate Choo's company centres on a string of fairy lights, arranged to resemble the Christmas tree.

“We’re all for thinking out-of-the-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.”

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle, Christmas tree, alternative, unusual

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