Tuesday, January 13, 2015

DIY Peace Pole for Garden Art

I love peace poles outside of homes and churches and other buildings.  But between not being able to afford a fancy carved one and always wanting mine to be a little brighter and to say something a little different, I've never purchased one.   Then I decided I could surely make one myself and stick it in my own garden!

Here are two photos of my finished peace pole, each showing two sides of the pole.

Honestly, the process was not too hard.

1.  Decide what words you want on it.

I have known for years what words I wanted on it.  I wanted words and phrases from a Gaelic Blessing, which I had sung for many years when I performed in choir at college.  I love the phrase "Deep Peace" which seems so perfect for a peace pole.  And I love the way that blessing winds through different parts of nature--wind and waves and earth and moon and stars--looking at all the different ways natural creation provides us with peace.

This is also a great opportunity to write your own words for the pole.  Just because these are traditionally called "peace poles" doesn't mean the words have to be about peace.  What about a welcome?  A list of favorite words or wishes?  What about no words at all?

2.  Work out a basic color scheme.  

I knew I wanted a bright color scheme based in blue because I lived in a wooded area, with lots of green and brown.  I wanted something that would look natural, compliment the colors in the scenery, but still stand out a bit.  Then I waited for a sale and stocked up on Liquitex Basics Acrylics and did color mixing tests on sturdy paper until I had what I was looking for.

3.  Buy the pole (also the cap and post).

I had already decided I wanted to work with PVC, not wood or metal, because it is inexpensive, sturdy, clean to work with and lightweight.  At first I thought I would be stuck having to create more of a Peace Pipe, because I only knew of PVC coming in tubes for plumbing and what not.  But my local fencing supply company had an outdoor display of PVC fence for yards, made to look like wood and stabilized by PVC poles that mimic wooden 4x4s.  Hooray!  I went to Lowe's (the local hardware store) and got a 4 x 4 inch PVC pole, 6 feet high, plus a cap to close the top for less than $20.  I also knew that I wanted to be able to move mine, so I bought a thin metal fence post, 5 feet high,  that I could easily pound into the ground, and pull up and move it I wanted to.  More on how I used that later.

4.  Work out the design. 

You can, of course, do anything you want.  I don't see things very well in my head, so I sketched it out.  In particular, I knew I wanted the top images to flow into each other in a circle, forming basically one image, but so that each quarter of the image would appear on a side of the pole with the appropriate words.  You can see here the sketch in which I worked that out in my sketchbook.

The numbers across the top of the image indicate which side of the square post it would go on and correspond with the numbers in the list.  Therefore, section 3, with the trees, would be above the words "Quiet Earth."  You can see that in the pictures at the top of this post.  Then, because I'm really insecure, I did "draft" versions of the sides full-size on pieces I cut and taped together from newsprint.

5.  Buy other supplies.

I purchased the paints, a drop cloth, some 1 and 2 inch-wide inexpensive paint brushes, sandpaper, PVC primer and a sealant/varnish designed for outdoor use and for UV protection against fading in the sun.  As I mentioned above, I used Liquitex Basics acrylic paints for the colored areas.  However, I used Golden Fluid Acrylics for the black line work, along with a small round brush (I think it was a size 6).  That paint flows more like a thick ink and was perfect for the finishing detail work I needed to do.

5.  Prepare the pole. 

First I scrubbed it with rubbing alcohol.  This seemed to take off anything too oily or just residual dirt.  Second I sanded it lightly, mostly to get some texture to the surface so the paint would stick.  I rubbed that down with a damp cloth to get the dust off.  Third, I painted the whole thing with white PVC primer, which I bought in a spray at the hardware store.  I let it dry overnight.  Here it is, with my cat Tim supervising the drying.

6.  Draw a light map of the image on the pole.

I did not draw the entire image on the pole because I knew I was going to paint over it with my background colors.  But I did measure out the basic dividers.  And because I had drawn my practice images in full size on newsprint back in step 6, I could lay them down beside the pole to use as a guide when I painted.  Beware:  I found that even light pencil marks did not erase well.

7.  Paint your pole. 

I found it easiest (after some messy trial and error) to prop the pole against a table and paint each section around all four sides, rather than to paint one side at a time.  I am sure this happened because I conceptualized my design as a circular one, rather than as a panel-by-panel one.

While I don't think there is one best way to paint your pole, I do taking the time to think about how you'll do it with such an awkward object will pay off!

8.  Finish it up!
Let it dry completely.  Add extra time to be sure.  Then start coating it with the UV-proof varnish.  As I mentioned earlier, I am insecure, so I gave it double dry time in between coats and I put on an extra coat or two for good measure.  Then I let it dry inside my home for a good week before I put it outside.

9.  Put it outside.

Because I wanted to be able to move my pole, at least for a while, I just picked a spot and pounded my metal garden post in.  Then a set the pole down over it.  Of course, the garden pole is much smaller than the inside of the peace pole, so the peace pole wobbles quite a bit.  But this is easily fixed!   Simply fill a bucket with dirt or sand and, making sure that the peace pole is upright as you like it, pour the sand down inside the pole.  Use a second bucket if you need to.  Soon, that will fill the bottom foot or so of the inside of the pole and stop the wobbling!  You'll have a stable pole without having to permanently mount it in place.

10. Enjoy!

Of course, the very day after I put it outside, it snowed.  But the pole looked terrific in all that white and I felt super pleased with it.  The project cost me less than $50 total for supplies (though I admit I had a lot of paints already) and probably took me a total of 10 hours to do, not counting the thinking and design time or the drying time in between coats.

I have no idea how long it will last, having just made it.  But that's part of the fun of it.  Kind of like prayer flags and sand mandalas.  The making held the most meaning.  I'll enjoy it while it lasts.

I'm happy to have made this peace pole out of the words and colors that have such deep meaning for me.  I am thinking that making them as gifts for other people might be a very cool thing--customizing the design and words to reflect who they are and what they find meaningful.


Anonymous said...

Helpful description. How is it weathering?

artauntie said...

Inspiring! And peace to you! :)

Unknown said...

Very helpful. I just learned about peace poles and am anxious to make one.

Unknown said...

Thank you for your tutorial. I bought my PVC pole today and now I know how to proceed. I have been thinking about this for 2 years!!!!

Unknown said...

Thank you for the valuable information. I cannot wait to start!!!!!!

Vicki@MorePowerfulBeyondMeasure said...

Thank you!! I have been searching and searching for precise instructions for Peace hit it :-)
I'm getting started on one TODAY! Love the pole you created!! Best, Vicki

Carol N. said...

Making one for my mother in law and aunt for Christmas..thank you for explaining how to do it!

Heart-Art by Linda said...

Beth thank you much for your instructions!!!! I have thought long about making one of these and Your idea of the pvc posts are a stellar idea.

I love the sand idea as well Thank you.

Ann @ makethebestofthings said...

Love your art piece! I scored three sections of vinyl posts and the decorative toppers at the Habitat for Humanity store. Your instructions are exactly what I need to make one into a peace pole for my mom for Mother's Day. Bless you for posting!

Unknown said...

Thank you for posting the instructions, have wanted to make one. It is beautiful, and you are a kind person

Unknown said...

Thank you for posting the instructions, have wanted to make one. It is beautiful, and you are a kind person

the Mother said...

Thanks so much for the instructions it's beautiful. What kind of paint did you use for the color? Same as your lettering??

dianeg said...

Hmm, not being an artist I am going to look for something I can decoupage onto a post. Hopefully it will turn out well.

Unknown said...

I have some extra wooden poles lying around that I thought I'd like to paint with words to put in my compost (such as "coffee ground"). I found these instructions on Pinterest and as I scrolled down, lo, and behold, it was written by one of my old professors! Thanks for teaching me, even four years later, Doc Trembley!

PattyPMJ said...

I want to put calligraphy in my garden but couldn't think how (I don't want boards all over the place) This is just what I can use. Thanks for the instructions and the first idea too as the Celtic Blessing is one I use when doing calligraphy and I even know where I will put it at the entrance to my 'wild' garden. Cheers and Thank You.

earthangel59 said...

Thank you so much! I've been trying to find instructions on how to make one of these but all I could find were pictures of poles already decorated and/or for sale. I appreciate you taking the time!

Unknown said...

Just like everyone else, I've been wanting to make these for a while - thank you so much!!

Unknown said...


Unknown said...

Just beautiful! Your tutorial has given me the confidence to try this myself!

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