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DIY Painted Birch Slice Ornaments (Inspired by Maud Lewis)

I hope you like these DIY painted birch slice ornaments, inspired by Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis.  It was a lot of fun to light a fire on a cold winter’s day and made handpainted ornaments with my Mom.

DIY Painted Birch Slice Ornaments (Inspired by Maud Lewis)Black Bear Christmas OrnamentWoodland Themed DIY Christmas Tree Ornaments

The Inspiration:

This year my Mom decided she wanted a Christmas tree – which surprised me, because we stopped celebrating Christmas many, many years ago.  In fact, we no longer had tree ornaments.  But because I knew it would make my Mom happy, I helped load a live tree into my truck and then set about quickly making some ornaments so my Mom’s tree wouldn’t look empty and sad.  Because I recently painted her fireplace blue, and the rest of her apartment is definitely a moodier take on my palette of teals, I settled on a winter cottage Christmas tree theme: there’s a mix of sparkly glass and pearl ornaments (“ice and snow”) and also my DIY alcohol ink ornaments.  Plus these DIY painted birch slice ornaments, all featuring woodland/cottage/nature themes – and inspired by a recent exhibit of Maud Lewis’ work that my Mom and I saw at the local art gallery.

DIY Painted Birch Slice Ornaments (Inspired by Maud Lewis)

Who is Maud Lewis?

My Mom and I saw the Maud Lewis exhibit on Black Friday, which was genius because we had the gallery to ourselves.  We loved her work so much, I thought we could paint little birch bark slice ornaments in the same folk style Maud was famous for.  If you’re not familiar with her work, find more info here or click here – and definitely watch the beautiful and moving (sometimes heartbreaking) film about her extraordinary life and work!  Here’s a little peek at the exhibit (you can also find her artwork in this beautiful book):

Canadian Folk Artist Maud Lewis Exhibit Maud Lewis Paintings for Sale

You could take a “selfie with Maud”:

Maud Lewis

The deer painting on the bottom was one of my absolute favorites – it’s an older piece of hers, and really different from what became her characteristic style.

Maud Lewis Deer Paintings

I loved this one, of course!

Maud Lewis Painting of Chickens

This painting on glass was so beautiful I caught myself contemplating if I could grab it and make a run for it.  How fit are the gallery employees, I wondered? (Kidding, of course!):

Maud Lewis Painting on Glass

It was her coastal paintings that I kept looping back around to see:

Maud Lewis Nautical Art

With her sweet paintings fresh in our minds, we created some of our own Maud Lewis inspired ornaments:

DIY Winter Themed Christmas Tree OrnamentsMaud Lewis Inspired DIY Project

Supplies for DIY Painted Birch Slice Ornaments:

  • Birch slices (you can slice a branch and sand them, or just buy them)
  • Acrylic paints
  • Small paint brushes (mine are from Dollarama)
  • Pencil
  • Drill and bit (if not purchasing the pre-drilled slices)
  • Small piece of wire (for dotting on “snow”)
  • Drop cloth or large cutting board to protect surfaces
  • Empty plastic container filled with water to clean brushes between colors
  • Piece of paper towel to wipe damp brushes
  • Printed inspiration or just a cellphone to display “inspiration photos”

How to Paint Birch Slices

But First, a Disclaimer:

Ummmm, so, it’s really difficult to make a Maud Lewis inspired painted ornament!  First, the birch bark is not an ideal canvas for fine art, lol, and, also, Maud Lewis was incredibly talented.  You think her paintings are simple, but they are not – there is depth and perspective and beautiful composition.  There’s a reason her small paintings now fetch over $100,000 at auction!  But the important thing is that my Mom and I had a lot of fun painting these ornaments!  And, nestled among the branches of her tree, they don’t look too shabby.  So if you’d like to make your own DIY painted birch slice ornaments, here are my tips!  But, of course, things went swimmingly until I decided to photograph one step-by-step – it’s the least successful one.

Birch Slice Ornaments DIY

How to Make DIY Painted Birch Slice Ornaments:

First, find your inspiration: a photo, a painting, a cartoon (or just paint from memory)!  Print it or have it ready on your cellphone screen for reference.  You could, if you really don’t trust your skills, trace it using this graphite transfer paper.  But I’m confident that you can do it freehand!  You also don’t have to use your inspiration in its entirely – you can take just a small piece, like I did.

DIY Project Inspired by Maud Lewis

Draw a rough outline of your design on the birch bark slice with a pencil:

DIY Chicken Themed Ornament

Now paint the background, keeping the paint very smooth and flat – don’t add any texture at this point:

How to Paint on Birch Slices

Now start to block in some color, working from the background forward.  So paint a rough brown shape of a chicken, for example, then move to the other chickens and when the first has dried, start to layer on some color and feathers and wings.

Birch Slice Ornament

Keep adding details and if the paint is flat, you can always paint over an area you don’t like and touch it up!

Homemade Chicken Ornament

For the final layer, you can add some texture if you want (like around the snow):

DIY Painted Birch Slice Ornaments (Inspired by Maud Lewis)

Yikes, see?  This is my roughest one, lol.  But all of the others were tackled the same way.  Just FYI, for the “snow” or “stars” on some of my other painted birch bark slices, I used a piece of wire instead of a paint brush.  I dipped it in paint and dabbed, it was a cleaner dot than a brush.

How to Paint Small Dots - a Trick!

Here’s my Mom working on another DIY painted birch slice ornament:

DIY Painted Birch Slice Inspired by Maud Lewis Painted Birch SlicesPainted Birch Slice OrnamentsDIY Painted Birch Slice Ornaments (Inspired by Maud Lewis)

This DIY painted birch slice ornament I could hang through a knot, but for the rest I just drilled a hole near the top and hung with an ornament hook:

DIY Painted Birch Slice Ornaments (Inspired by Maud Lewis)

We painted quite a few!  Here are all of our finished DIY painted birch slice ornaments.  They all have a woodland, wintry sort of theme.

Cute Hand Painted Folk Art Christmas Ornaments

I’ll show you a closer look at some of them.  The DIY painted birch slice ornaments in the two photos below were the most inspired by Maud Lewis.  We looked at a painting of hers we liked and then borrowed a small section.  Ultimately we changed the colors and composition a bit, but the inspiration came from her folk art.

Maud Lewis Inspired Christmas OrnamentsRustic DIY Christmas Ornaments

Maud Lewis painted a lot of deer and they look adorable on DIY Christmas tree ornaments.  My Mom painted this one:

Folk Art Inspired Christmas Ornaments

And – you can probably tell from the aqua sky – I painted this one:

Deer Christmas Ornament DIY

I was also loosely inspired by Maud Lewis with this one, although the painting I had found online had many cabins and I just took a simplified approach and painted the one:

Cabin Inspired Christmas Tree Ornament

Quickly realizing that we can’t hold a candle to Maud Lewis, we “branched” out a little (pun intended) and started creating our own little woodland themed images:

Woodland Themed Christmas OrnamentsPainted Birch Slice Art

I had to paint a bear, of course, as an ode to the black bear family that terrorized me this fall:

Black Bear Hand Painted Christmas Tree OrnamentBlack Bear Christmas Ornament

My Mom painted this one and it has a shimmery metallic teal background so it really glows on the Christmas tree.  She did a series of shimmery silhouetted trees.

Tree Silhouette Painted OrnamentHand Painted Christmas Tree OrnamentSilver and Black Christmas Ornament Tree Ornaments to Make with KidsHomemade Christmas Ornaments Kids Can MakeBirch Slice Christmas Tree Ornament DIY

My Mom also painted this little bunny and I think it might be my favorite!

Snow Bunny Christmas Tree OrnamentBunny Themed Tree OrnamentWinter Themed Christmas Tree Ornament DIY

I hope these DIY painted birch slice ornaments inspire you to paint some of your own!  Once they’re on the tree, the deficiencies we saw in our painting abilities disappeared because amidst the other ornaments, nestled among the branches and glowing in the warm light of the tree, these look lovely.  And, as with most homemade ornament, the real value is the time we spent together painting them.  It was peaceful and stress relieving and whenever I see these, I’ll be reminded of that time we spent together.

DIY Christmas Tree Ornaments Kids Can Make

Interest in More Birch Slice Crafts?

Here are a few more ideas for birch slice crafts – including another birch slice ornament – that you might like!

P.S. Don’t Forget to Pin for Later!

DIY Woodland Inspired Christmas OrnamentsDIY Christmas Tree Ornament for the Cottage Handpainted Birch Slice Ornaments Tutorial

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14 Comments

  1. December 21, 2020 / 9:49 am

    These are adorable- I am obsessed with the little deer!!! SO CUTE!

  2. Wilma Hovius
    December 21, 2020 / 11:59 am

    These are incredible.

  3. SH
    December 21, 2020 / 3:14 pm

    These are all wonderful, everyone of them. The closeup of the village by the water showed the texture of the tree rings and that looked like ripples in the water–clever. The bear is perfect for you, the bunny too adorable, but my fave of all is the snowy trees with the moon. Gorgeous. I bet it was a great time for both of you. It sounds like so much fun. Happy holidays to you and your mom. And hubby and dogs.

    • December 21, 2020 / 3:28 pm

      I am so glad you like these. I was nervous about sharing them, but the experience of making them was really enjoyable and I hoped to inspired someone else to try. Happy holidays to you and yours as well!!

  4. ShellyP
    December 21, 2020 / 4:46 pm

    Such a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing the links for Maude Lewis and for sharing your special day at the Gallery with your mum, viewing Maude’s painting in person. To replicate her aesthetic on birch circles for your mum’s Christmas Tree is so endearing. I wish I was part of the whole experience! Thanks again for sharing!

    • December 21, 2020 / 5:27 pm

      I’m so happy you enjoyed this! Maud’s work really sparked a lot of joy for me, especially contrasted against her difficult life. She inspired me and I hoped to pass that along!

  5. Deanna
    December 21, 2020 / 9:47 pm

    The bear and bunny are so sweet, it’s a wonderful way to spend a winter afternoon with your Mom making memories. πŸ’–

    • December 21, 2020 / 10:13 pm

      Thank you! We painted those two near the end so I think we were actually getting the hang of it haha. We had a lot of fun, and we all need more fun these days…

  6. Christine
    December 23, 2020 / 7:24 am

    Tanya, just wondering why you don’t celebrate Christmas?

  7. Kathryn Speakman
    December 23, 2020 / 12:08 pm

    Thank you for sharing! You’ve made me miss snow – time to get up to the mountains.
    I know Maudie would be pleased!

    • December 24, 2020 / 6:03 pm

      We got lots of snow last night, I can try to send you some haha! Thanks for the kind compliment πŸ™‚

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