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Thursday, October 24, 2019

Gilded Pressed Leaves: A Modern Twist on a Centuries-Old Craft


When I was a child, we often visited my very creative grandmother. As an artist, she sensed a deep connection between humans and nature. She scattered seeds for the quail who came to visit her each day. She often brought her canvasses outdoors in the cool hours of a summer morning to catch the perfect light in paint. Winter days would find her indoors with her watercolors, translating what could be seen through the small square window by the breakfast table onto a sheet of paper. 

As a little girl, regardless of the season, she would have my sister and I tromp all over her property in search of the perfect pinecone, acorn, blossom, or leaf. With a bundle of fallen leaves in our arms, my grandmother would pull out her phone book and show us how to press the leaves for keeping one of autumn's treasures. 



When my own children were young, I followed in many of my grandmother's little traditions. In fall, my children and I would traipse through our yard in search of beautiful leaves. I would bring the children back indoors to the kitchen, where we would make placemats by pressing the leaves between two sheets of waxed paper, cut to approximately the size of a kitchen table placemat. Of course, a mother's perspective forgets the tears, little arguments, and "me firsts" that might dampen my cherished memories of craft-time spent with my small children. Those were beautiful times spent together.



Today, I still love to collect autumn leaves. Sometimes, I find a beautiful one to bring indoors and simply leave it at my place at the kitchen table as a reminder to savor all of the beauty this season produces. I also like to use pressed leaves in fall and winter holiday decor. Many years, I keep the leaves in their natural colors, as nature often has the best paintbrush and palette. 



This year's Thanksgiving table decor plan will follow a gilded color scheme. The leaves from our trees have been falling for the past 10 days. I collected some big and small ones, then pressed them between sheets of waste paper and under stacks of books. (Those Time-Life books that my parents purchased one month at a time really do have a use.)



After about a week, the leaves were pressed flat and mostly dried out. I gathered them up, and out in the garage, I painted them with a can of gold spray-paint (same paint from last year's Christmas tins, Valentine's heart-shaped candy boxes, and other projects). I just painted the top side of the leaves and left the underside natural.



I've strewn both large and small gilded leaves down the center of the dining room table. When November is over, the smaller of the gilded leaves will be repurposed in homemade gift tags for Christmas gifts. I think they'll be lovely, tied up with ribbon and topping a package.

Just a note, a couple of my largest leaves curled up a bit after painting. The leaves were quite wet when I gathered them, and I think that some of them were not quite dry enough for painting. So, after the paint had dried for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours (surface of paint dry to the touch), I pressed all of the leaves between paper and books once more, leaving them overnight. They turned out beautifully. A little bit of crinkling in the leaves is attractive in a natural way -- it gives them texture that can't be duplicated by machine-made leaves.

I think my grandmother would approve.

6 comments:

LindaJimLevitt said...

Lili, these are lovely! I'm sure your table will be beautiful on Thanksgiving. I love collecting leaves in the fall, too.
Linda

Anonymous said...

So pretty! You could do them in different metallic paints for a varied effect. I also like to collect fall leaves but they pretty much just sit on my table till they get too crumpled up to keep. :)

Lili said...

LindaJimLevitt said...
Lili, these are lovely! I'm sure your table will be beautiful on Thanksgiving. I love collecting leaves in the fall, too.
Linda


Thank you, Linda!

Lili said...

Anonymous said...
So pretty! You could do them in different metallic paints for a varied effect. I also like to collect fall leaves but they pretty much just sit on my table till they get too crumpled up to keep. :)


Thank you. I thought about using the can of silver paint (from last winter's projects) in addition to the gold. I may just do that. Thanks for the suggestion!!! Can't hurt to try, right?

Live and Learn said...

Great ideas to make another lovely table. When I was a kid, we collected leaves every fall and waxed them. Meaning we melted canning wax and dipped the leaves in it. The leaves would last forever this way. Occasionally, we would iron them between wax paper, but they usually lost some of their color that way.

When I got out of college and moved south, we didn't have the bright fall color we did when living further north. My friends and I from the north always lamented that. When I moved back to the land of changing fall leaves, I would wax leaves and mail them to my friends still in the south. They were very happy to get them and I got to relive things I did as a kid.

Lili said...

Hi Live and Learn,
Oooh, I love the sound of waxed leaves. I don't think I've ever seen those done before, but I can imagine they were lovely. How very sweet of you to make some for your friends who lived in the south after you moved back north. I bet your friends were especially pleased with those. It's nice to have those sorts of memories, isn't it?

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