August 5, 2013

Make Your Own Sea Fans

Because real sea fans can be kind of pricey and I'm sorry that
they have to be harvested from the ocean for me to have
 them in my home, I tried to figure out a way to
 make my own sea fans.

In looking at sea fan images on the computer, I realized that 
they look kind of like flat cedar-type branches. Sea fans, from
what I learned on the internet, are actually soft corals and corals
are considered as an invertebrate animals.  So even though they
look like plants, sea fans are animals?  Anyway, I used easily-
 found plants to mimic an animal.  
These branches are from bushes in front of my house.  
I also gathered other cedar-type branches from around the
neighborhood and in common areas to see what worked best. 

To more closely mimick the look of sea fans, some branches
were bound together in a fan shape before drying. 

This particular set was also glued together. Try to keep the
branches as flat as possible and you can even whittle the stems 
if needed so they will be as thin as possible as they will dry.

After the gathering and some gluing and/or binding,
the experimental branches were smashed between two 
boards with the heaviest, but still moveable, objects I had
placed on top of the boards. The vegetation had paper on 
both sides of it to help protect it and to absorb moisture. 

If you want to try this with small cedar twigs, you could use 
a big book as your smasher and place a heavy object on it. 

After two weeks, the branches came out really flat and
really dry.  Truth be told, I started this project LAST summer
and never got it finished BUT the dried cedar branches held up
 beautifully all year being hidden in various places in my house.

I'm telling you that to let you know that if you spend time
making this project, the faux sea fans should hold up from year
to year if they stored/protected well.

On some of the sea fans,  I ended up gluing
small branches of the cedar together in a fan shape.

Honestly, hot glue was quicker and seemed to give about the
 same result as using traditional glues for this project. 

Sea fans are not thick.  They seem to be a single layer of an
 interlocking matrix.  To make the faux sea fans look more real,
the cedar was trimmed with scissors to be only one layer thick. 

Another way to get the cedar to be one layer thick was to
gently force the sprigs to lay side-by-side by gluing them in place.

 The edges were also trimmed with scissors to be more "blunt"
 and not wispy or pointed in order to look more like real sea fans. 

So after gluing and trimming and cutting out bulk, the cedar
 was painted with several shades of white spray paint and/or 
regular craft paint.  Spray paint is quicker but more expensive.
The cedar can certainly be painted with a brush too. 

The various cedars, even though they were dried, soaked up the
paint so several coats of paint were needed to cover up the green. 

On one fan, a seed-y tea olive bush branch ending was used
for a faux sea fan. It was dried along with the cedars and then
snipped and glued into a fan shape also. 

OK, so here is how the faux sea fans looked "in action"
 mainly in the mantle and adjoining bookcase summer decor:

 Honestly, I had a crazy beginning of summer, so a lot of what
you see is a hold-over from what was there in the spring. 

I was able to pull out some things that I had made for 
"Summer of '12 Mantle" to re-use on the summer of '13 mantle.

The faux nautical pilings (made from pool noodles)
from last year were easy to add to this year's mantle
 vignette as well as the beach-y art print. 

I have found that if you attach an art print onto a foam core
board with spray adhesive, it looks more like a real painting
because you don't have to add the glass over it. 

The vases that held flowers in the spring on the mantle got 
their contents changed out to sea shells for the summer. 

Some of the smaller faux sea fans were used in these vases.

The faux sea fans were also used on the bookshelves. 

The bookshelf on the left holds a momento from my biggest 
event of the middle son's wedding on June 1st!

His beautiful and wonderful bride, Ali, sent us a print on canvas
of our blended family at the wedding. It was a great event.

Also on that bookcase is a marked-down seahorse from Hobby Lobby that got a transformation from green to white. 

The faux sea fans on this side are some smaller fans that
were added to a faux branch coral made two years ago.

The top shelf of the bookcase holds some other DIY Coral, 
a picture from a calendar glued to foam core, a repaired and 
painted sea shell vase and some other hold-outs from spring. 

The backside of a pillow near this bookcase got some flat shells glued onto it to tie it into the summer/sea shell themed living room. 

The double bookcases hold more summer-themed items.

"Top Shelf" items include a couple of the sea fans.

Here's a tip...if you don't want folks looking at your projects
too hard to see imperfections,  put them up above eye-level.

Moving on down the bookcase are some homemade starfish, 
a purchased shell vase and shell box. 

The larger shelf on this bookcase allows for a couple of vignettes. 

One is the framed shells, sea fan-topped bottles and starfish.

The other is a shell frame I found for $10 and some summer items
 from my mom and dad's house. They are living with me now. 

One sea fan was not used on the bookcases but in the
"Sea Sayings" vignette to add height to one of the elements there.

See how flat the faux sea fans are after squishing?

A little behind the scenes on the " making of"
 some of the bookcase items:

The fan shell vase was a $2 thrift store find that got broken
(did the car run over it in the hoarder carport?) before being used.

It got glued back together and painted with a few shades of white
 paint along with the seahorse, frames and Dollar Tree shells.

The smaller mirrored frame from a yard sale, got shells
hot glued around the perimeter.

The larger frame ($4 from clearance aisle at Hobby Lobby) was used to hold an easy to create shell specimen display. 
 Simply tape or glue fabric over a piece of foam core
 that will fit in the frame, then hot glue shells on the fabric
in a visually pleasing arrangement.

Recently I went to the beach and thought I would be able to
find or buy shells easily and cheaply.  I found out that it was 
better to buy the baskets and bags of shells at the craft stores
in my hometown with coupons. 

Skinny shells can be added to beach bottles. 
Smaller faux sea fans were added to the tops of these 
bottles and twine was then wrapped about the corks. 

Shells were glued to the foam bases of the sea fans and
the older faux branch coral to add weight and beauty.

Some of the shells were hot glued onto the chunky candlesticks.
I did this last year too and the shells popped right off with no
damage to the holders when summer was over. 

Sometimes I look at the faux sea fans and think they look 
like white painted cedar pieces but other times I think that,
because they are mixed with other ocean-related items,
 they will fool most folks into thinking they are the real thing. 

I am sharing this post over at
Nifty Thrifty Tuesday @ Coastal Charm
Metamorphosis Monday @ Between Naps On The Porch
Masterpiece Monday @ Boogie Board Cottage
Inspire Me Tuesday @ A Stroll Thru Life
Tutorials and Tips @ Home Stories A to Z
Time To Sparkle @ The Gunny Sack & others
Wow Us Wednesday @ Savvy Southern Style
Tutorials, Tips & Tidbits @ StoneGable 


  1. Great tutorial and they turned out beautifully!

  2. I am SO impressed - these turned out beautiful - what a great tutorial - I never would have thought of this - thanks for sharing!

  3. Really enjoyed this post, Gayle! You always come up with the best ideas on how to make things you're interested in. Love your array of coastal items and how you put them together. Great tutorials!

  4. What an awesome idea - love the sea fans... found you through Coastal Charm's Nifty Thrifty Tuesday am a new follower....

  5. I cannot tell the difference between a real one and your copy. They are beautiful!

  6. What a GREAT idea! I've looked a little bit at buying a sea fan, but you're right, they are expensive. Now cedar trees, I have running out my ears around here. Can't wait to try this! Your living room and all of your summer decorations are so beautiful, and congratulations to your son and new daughter-in-law!

  7. They look just like sea fans, really beautiful, what a great idea.

  8. this is a fantastic project, and very detailed tutorial. Love how they all turned out. Well done

  9. What a great eye! I love this and I love nautical decor too. I don't have natural coral either because it just isn't right to harvest coral when the reefs are dying. Good job!

  10. lovely post with lovely ideas. thanks for sharing!

  11. I think those are GREAT! Wow~You did a wonderful job with them-they do look real! xo Diana

  12. Wow, these look amazing. I love all of your vignettes, so beautiful and the tutorial is great. Thanks tons for linking to Inspire Me. Hugs, Marty

  13. OMG, that is pure genius, your creations are gorgeous and could fool anyone!


  14. Such a great idea Gayle! It was so much fun meeting you at the Haven Conference!

  15. They are spectacular...such a great idea!...and it gives me some great ideas for Christmas too!...Great meeting you at Haven!

  16. This is SO cool!!! I've never seen anything like this and I would have never thought to make sea plants with cedar branches. AWESOME.

  17. What a cool tutorial! I love the look,
    in just white. It says nautical, but in a subtle way. Gorgeous!

  18. Fantastic idea! I love your compositions in marine style! Thank you for sharing your project! Kisses from Italy by Paola

  19. How ingenious! Those really look great. Thanks for sharing this idea.


  20. Enjoyed the tutorial! Makes me feel like I need to decorate more for summer-probably next year!

  21. Oh girl you are brilliant trust me noone knows those are not real sea fans. Amazing and vegan I am so gonna try to make my look anywhere near as good as yours

  22. OMG! Congratulations. I am a marine life fisherman specializing in collecting live gorgonians for marine aquariums, and some of your creations look so real that they could fool me!

  23. Thanks you very much for sharing these links. Will definitely check this out.. Events on the sea

  24. I am impressed! It looks so real! You had an idea girl!
    Keep doing it!
    My best regards


Thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to comment on my blog!

© Miss Kopy Kat. Design by FCD.