Even as an imaginative child picking up leaves and pressing them between sheets of wax paper, I would never have imagined myself as an adult still playing with leaves as I do now. I am just as mesmerized by them now as I was then, and still find myself as excited as Christmas morning when I peel back that leaf for the first time to see what the casting underneath will look like. I think I have had more pleasure in this process of casting and painting leaves than anyone can imagine. And even though the process is messy and time consuming and involves heavy lifting, it has been one of the most pleasurable art forms I have ever undertaken.
The process of leaf casting begins with a freshly picked leaf and a big imagination. The leaf is not picked from the plant until I have decided what it's final form will be, such as a bowl or bird bath. Before I begin, I mound piles of sand on a table to mold the leaf into the shape I would like. Then a mixture of cement, fiberglass, cloth and other "secret" ingredients are mixed and pressed into the leaf and all of it's crevices. During this process is when I also incorporate a hanger, base or mount into the casting. I then allow the casting to dry overnight. The following morning I remove the actual leaf that served as the mold, and remove any excess casting material from the edges. At this point I allow the leaf casting to cure, sometimes as long as a year, before painting and sealing it. I hand paint all leaf castings with acrylic paints and seal them with two coats of a very durable clear coat which withstands extreme weather conditions very well. As with all things painted, and especialy those things exposed to sun, however, your leaf casting may show signs of weathering over the years. I advise my customers to avoid using a scrub brush on these castings in order to avoid scratching the paint. A soft sponge and soapy water is usually more than enough to clean them. In the case of bird baths and fountains that hold water, I give each customer mounting and extra cleaning intructions that I have found to work the best for me over the years.
It is a pleasure to preserve one of Gods' beautiful creations such as a leaf, and to be able to put a new spin on it so that it becomes a timeless and useful piece. I hope you will look at leaves in a new way this year when you go outside for a walk.