Pen Tree – The making


A few months back  I got a call from a teacher  at a Govt high school, she and her red cross wing students have been collecting old and used up  ball point pens for some time now . She wanted me to see if I can do a scarp art instillation for her  in connection with Red Cross Day .

Pen Tree-01After a lot of planning and discussion we finalized on making a tree using the pens . It was a challenge as I could not use anything heavy fior  foundation on it. It had to be lightweight and yet grounded enough for them to move it around . I picked up the pens from the school, and started with the initial sketches. I wanted plastic bottles for the leaves and lots of it. Luckily I had some which I had collected over the period and also another bunch from another project. It would meet the immediate requirement.

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The structure was built on scrap materials which I already had with me. Pipe rods, paint cans, wire mesh which I had to get. The cover and wrapping was an old water drain sheet and off course the pens. Used SR rubber based adhesive, it was time consuming but once bonded well once they stick on unless you pry them out.

As I mentioned earlier the most challenging part was to get the structure light yet grounded had to wire in and wire out a couple of times to get it standing without toppling over. Plus finding the right sized scrap materials for internal structure was a challenge in itself.

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Little by little, pen by pen, it was starting to take shape,


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I was really pushing myself  so had to take a break  with a lime tea  at Dono’s and do some sketching, But all  I could think of was trees …oh well ..back to workshop 🙂

I had to improvise on the branches a bit more , though we had agreed on a 3ft sized structure , was able to build it up to almost 4 ft ( top branch )  in height and adding  the leaves at the end would give it a built more

More work on the base to make sure it doesn’t topple over and maintaining the weight well under 4- 5 KG.

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Leaves seemed to be most time consuming part, having to cut up some 100 plus plastic bottles was not an easy task.  I had to travel between home and Calicut, so had got the leaves done at home where my stashes of bottles were waiting to be turned in to leaves to see the light of day 🙂

The leaf stems were the refills of the pen and steel wires were inserted through and stapled on  to make them flexible, so I could pose them any way fit.

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Painting:  1st coat of primer and then top paint.

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Trying the leaves on

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Also needed to add a bit more branches

Enjoyed painting the leaves, 1st coat of loose acrylic green and then under coating of high gloss yellow green brought out the texture of aged leaves in between.

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Finally the structure was ready and now to assemble the leaves.

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I had pushed the last few days, burning the midnight oil since the delivery date had been moved up a day.


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May 8th, Red Cross day – at noon, was the time for the big reveal .My little sis and good friend Wafa , came through for me . She helped removing all leaves and transporting the tree  to school. The students would  assemble the leaves back  on  the tree  as a part of their activity  for the  Day . Thank you Wafa !!..couldn’t have done it without you 🙂

The students at Kutiikatoor Govt: High school, Calicut and the staff , all join hands to build the tree back up again with the leaves again.

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This was as unique as all the other scrap art but more challenging, I learned a lot from this project. The pens collected  by the students are now back at where they were but in a totally different light altogether 🙂