I’m declaring it here and now: pinecones will be the it accessory this holiday season. Don’t know what to wear to the company party? Pearls too traditional for you? Worried that your scarf might land in your wine glass? The solution: a festive pine cone.
Let’s examine the pros and cons of pine cone accessories:
1. They’re free.
2. They show that you appreciate nature.
3. They have texture and depth.
4. You can embellish them any way you want, so you’ll have a unique accessory.
5. They’re a good conversation starter.
1. They can poke you or whomever you are dancing with or hugging.
2. They may snag your sweater.
3. They’re heavier than most accessories.
4. They may not adhere to dress codes in particularly snazzy or uptight establishments.
You see? The pros clearly outweigh the cons.
Surprisingly, this blog post has roots that go back two years. I was at a spot where pine trees grow, and I noticed that a clump of pine cones had fallen off the tree above. What, pine cones grew in clumps? Who knew? Certainly not me. I grew up in Southern California, which mostly has palm trees and Eucalyptus (no, they aren’t indigenous to this area but believe me, they’re everywhere here). There were a few pine trees where I grew up but it’s not like I lived in a forest. So when I picked up this clump of cones two years ago I was a surprised to see cones clustered densely. I decided to take the clump home. Fast forward two years and I’m making accessories from pine cones—the same clump I picked up that day under the pine tree.
I’m going to share a brief science lesson here for a minute. (Stay with me.) I actually should be calling these cones “conifer cones” but I’m used to saying pine cone so I’m going to stick with that.
The individual projections on a pine cone are called scales. Their arrangement is no accident. The scales grow in a logarithmic spiral—in other words, it’s a spiral that continues to grow at a specific rate. Each spiral is double the width of the previous curve. Check out this diagram:
I’m sure you’ve noticed that there are lots of interesting geometric patterns and spirals in nature. They’re in Nautilus shells, rose petals, branching plants, Romanesco broccoli, pineapples, artichokes and sunflowers, among others.
Long ago, a mathematician named Fibonacci discovered that there is a formula that applies to the formation of many things in nature. He noticed that the spacing of things like pine cone scales follows an ever-increasing spiral. His findings are called the Fibonacci Sequence.
Some pinecones have a distinct spiral at their base, whereas on other cones it’s less obvious. My idea for turning pine cones into accessories gained steam when I painted the scales of a pine cone and saw the spiral clearly. The scales are positioned so that there is a clockwise spiral pattern as well as a counterclockwise spiral pattern. See what I mean?
Anyway, I decided that pinecones would make fun and unusual accessories. Painting them in bright colors adds a lot of whimsy. Here is a photo of what my project looked like before I made the cones into a necklace. They look like Easter eggs, I’d say:
Today, after wearing my accessories for six or seven hours it dawned on me that my pine cones are a little reminiscent of Frida Kahlo’s accessories. She often wore something on her head, usually something colorful, whether it was flowers, fabric or ribbons. It was an unintentional reference, but I like the common thread with Kahlo, an artist who was bold and produced a lot of colorful self-portraits. In a way, that’s what I create each week: colorful self-portraits.
Back to pinecones. Did you know that they come in very tiny sizes, too? I made them into earrings this week. Check out how adorable these teeny, tiny pine cones are:
I didn’t have any jumbo cones on hand. But in case you’re wondering which tree produces the biggest cones, it is the Coulter pine. This tree’s cones can be up to 15.7 “ long and 11 pounds when fresh. My costumes sometimes are uncomfortable, but I might have to draw the line at an eleven pound pine cone atop my head.
Thanks for joining me for another edition of Science meets Sarah. Will you join me next Wednesday for more fun? I’ll take care of the wackiness. All you have to do is show up.