White birch, or paper birch (Betula papyrifera), is a woodland material that's been used to make crafts for hundreds of years. Native Americans used it in the construction of their canoes, wigwams, sleds, hunting gear and basketry, according to Marlene Hurley Marshall, author of “Woodland Style.” Today, those with an affinity for the birch-laden landscapes can incorporate paper birch bark into almost any project imaginable -- many of which, like these, can be used around the house.
Organic-looking bird houses can be either made entirely of thick layers of birch bark, or plain wood birch houses can be covered with thinner layers of the bark as a finishing touch, such as those created by Jose Pimentel, featured in “Woodland Style,” by Marlene Hurley Marshall. Pimentel starts with premade frames and uses hot glue to cover them with birch bark strips in different patterns. Artist Len Camanale embellishes his bird houses with yellow-green lichen as well, which adds a beautiful contrasting color to the white birch bark.
One-of-a-kind woodland wreathes are not complete without a bit of birch bark poking out somewhere. Woodland wreathes can be made with a hay wreath base wrapped in burlap, and then encrusted with lichen, dried moss and bark strips. The gaps can be filled in with many foraged items including pine cones, berries, seed pods, or extra curls of bark.
Whether you want to make a vase to hold wild flowers, or a pot for your plants, birch bark can be used to cover just about any type of container, large or small. One-inch strips can be glued horizontally, slightly overlapping each other around the vase, or they can be glued shingle-style in short little layered vertical strips. You may be able to wrap one strip of bark around an entire small vase. Each piece of bark is different, making each vase or pot unique. And, since paper birch bark is waterproof, you don't need to worry if you spill water on it when watering your plants.
The beautiful glow of light shining through layers of paper birch bark is unique. There are numerous ways to craft a lampshade. If you want the light to shine directly through the bark, then the segments of bark should be cut to the exact size of one of the lamp’s sides. If it is a six-sided shade then you will need six sides of roughly the same thickness of bark. Sometimes the best way to forage for this much bark of similar consistency is to look for downed birch trees. The six pieces can then be glued to the shade's wood skeleton frame.
A boring set of kitchen cabinets and drawers can be refinished by creating framed panels of birch bark on their surfaces. This often looks best if you can find a downed tree and strip large sections of bark to fill the entire frame on a drawer or cabinet. To apply to a drawer front, for example, cut a rectangle of bark that will leave at least a three-inch border of drawer around it. Glue this to the center of the drawer (removing the drawer pull first) and then frame the birch rectangle with lengths of halved branches one to two inches in diameter. This can be done on any surface, not just drawers.
- Woodland Style; Marlene Hurley Marshall; 2010
- Celebrating Birch: The Lore, Art, and Craft of an Ancient Tree; North House Folk School; 2007