Beautiful crafts can be made from natural objects

Those who cannot resist picking up a smoothly sculptured shell tossed onto the beach by a storm or who thrill at the sight of bittersweet in a variegated forest will appreciate a thoughtful book that shows how to turn nature's best into personal treasures.

NatureCrafts, by Mary Elizabeth Johnson and Katherine Pearson (Birmingham, Ala.: Oxmoor House Inc. $17.95) presents a selection of high-quality projects for a variety of skill and age levels. Although some of the activities are complicated, such as stained glass and paper- and woolmaking, the directions are clear and well illustrated with diagrams and photos in color and black and white.

"NatureCrafts" is divided into seasonal projects, taking into account the materials available in different parts of the country.

One captivating project for the whole family is building a pumpkin totem pole. Here are the directions: Materials: Metal fence post 5-7 pumpkins (depending on height of post) Votive candles Long matches Equipment Short, sharp knife Large spoon or scoop Pencil or thin marker Large basin or pail

To carve the pumpkins, simply cut the top off each pumpkin, scoop out the seeds and discard them in the basin. Draw a face on the pumpkin with a pencil or marker and cut along the lines with a short, sharp knife. Since the tops do not need to be replaced, they can be cut into ear or nose shapes and attached with florist's picks.

Do not carve too close to the crown of the pumpkin destined for the bottom of the totem pole or it may cave in under the weight of the other pumpkins.

Drive the fence post stake into the ground up to the cross bar. Then slide the pumpkins down one at a time, largest to smallest -- puncturing the bottom of each pumpkin makes this part easier. You may need to trim the top of the pumpkin so the next one sits level. Put several votive candles in each pumpkin as you go. When the totem pole is completely assembled, light the candles with the long matches.

This project takes from 1 1/2 to 2 hours for two people to complete.

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