For years I have admired Tramp Art, produced after the Civil War through the 1930s. The techniques are much older, originating in Germany and Scandinavia. I am especially fond of the frames. Their eccentric, geometric forms dazzle and hypnotize, creating graphic alters around whatever is placed within them. Often they are quite expensive at flea markets. I wondered if there was a way to re-create the look of Tramp Art frames without all of the carving, which could take crafts people of that time months to complete.
I started by gathering some orphaned frames around our craft room that had been used for past shoots. The idea was to build and layer on top of existing frames. Then I took a trip to Da Vinci Artists Supply to find the right material. I ended up buying balsa-wood strips in multiple shapes and sizes. Balsa wood is often used by architects to create scale models of their ideas. By cutting and layering the balsa wood I was able to re-create the look of Tramp Art. Another material that worked really well was dollhouse decorative trim, which has the carved texture and is the proper scale.
Have a look below to see some of my inspiration and the final projects. Then have check out the September 2011 issue of Martha Stewart Living for all of the how-to and sources.