An Alpine Christmas Gift!

A couple of weeks ago we wrote about a particularly bespoke wedding gift order for a Harry Potter loving client (read about it here). Zoë went on to develop her miniature standing scene into personalised Christmas gifts using the same concept. Here she explains her thoughts.

My Harry Potter scene was very warmly received back in October and this quickly got me thinking ahead to Christmas.

I was keen to make something that was a cross between a Christmas card and a free standing mantle piece ornament.

I had done a bit of planning ahead of prototyping for this project. I liked the idea of having two or three different illustrated layers to the Christmas scene, so that as you look through, it would have a bit of dimension in the background.

The first challenge was to work out the slot design of the layers using linking pieces. I talked about this back in my October Harry Potter post but here it is again…

Using MDF with a thickness of 3mm, I cut interlinking slots, also 3mm wide. This would keep the layers nice and rigid allowing the Christmas scene to stand up. The background layer needs to be the tallest with the foreground being the most ‘see-through’.

My first idea was to etch a flat a mountain scene on the back panel, with a wintery forest in the middle, and a window pane at the front. I was quite pleased with this. Below are all the components of my first idea. As a little extra I decided to include stockings and holly in the very front of the window. Rather than give these their own slot as with the other layers, I just added small tabs for them to click on to – cutting two corresponding square holes either side. This gave a nice ‘free floating effect’ and looked less clumsy.

Design file christmas prototype laser cut tester
Design file for prototype slot-together laser cut Christmas scene.
Christmas laser cut gift prototype made for Nice-cuts laser cutting service in Leeds
Prototype for laser cut Christmas scene

My favourite aspect of this prototype is how the trees stick out beyond the edges. I like how eerie they look! Things to improve for this version: Cut the background stars out instead of etch so the light shines though. Move the etched mountains further down so they are not obscured by the trees. Overall I’m pleased with this, but it feels a little closed in. When I went on to make the Harry Potter scene a week later, I staggered the slot pieces so the front layer was a step below the middle and background. This ‘stepped’ effect opened the scene up a bit, so definitely something to think about moving forward.

Example of ‘stepped’ slotted layers.

I left my Christmas scene for a couple of weeks in order to come back to it with a fresh mind. My next idea was to feature a German winter cabin. I looked at several traditional german paper cuts to get an idea of cabin styles. The one I ended up drawing was a mash up of several ideas, but I really liked the traditional cut aspect of it. To be most effective, I thought a cabin with plenty of holes would be best, letting lots of light through.

Adobe Illustrator design file for German Christmas cabin scene.

You’ll recognise the trees in the above picture. I took my original tree design and manipulated it in various way to make a forest of slightly varying shapes and sizes. Here I really like the delicate nature of the design. It’s held together fairly carefully with the overlapping branches, but robust enough to not snap when being ‘wiggled’ into place. These are the trees I used for the Hogwarts scene, I like them, but they are not too christmassy. So it was time to think about a more European looking evergreen forest for the central layer.

Second attempt tree design for Christmas German cabin scene.

Here was what I came up with! The tricky thing with evergreen trees is of course, they don’t loose their leaves so not too useful for creating magical see-through Christmas scenes. My way of solving that problem was to use the tree outlines instead. I was torn at this point. So far the design had been more or less in a realistic style. A classic Christmas tree shape was a deviation from this, but overall I thought not so much as to detract  from the general ‘niceness’.

Next up! ‘Merry Christmas’. I used a nice classic looking swirly font with a solid line above and below to hold all the text together. In order to give the three layers a ‘stepped’ effect, the side slots for this front layer are far lower than those of the centre and back. The ‘y’ in ‘Merry’ sits just slightly off the bottom.

Front slotted layer of Christmas scene.
All cut out pieces.
Completed German Christmas cabin scene!

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