Monday, August 9, 2010

Leaf Casting

I first saw leaf castings in a garden specialty store many years ago. They had a huge elephant ear leaf cast sitting atop a cement base being used as a bird bath. I was really taken aback at the beauty and intricate details of the casting. While being made of cement, it was still very fragile and delicate looking.
For years I've had dreams of filling my backyard with small gardens and art made by my children or my own hands. I was looking online for some simple art projects for the boys and I stumbled upon how to make leaf castings. It's easy and inexpensive and our first try at it gave us an exquisite art piece for the garden!

First of all you need some damp sand or dirt. Mound up the sand into the form you'd like your finished project to be. I wanted our elephant ear leaf to be "bowl" shaped so I heaped the sand into a small hill.

When you've finished shaping the sand, cover the mound with plastic. This keeps the sand from getting onto the concrete. Next, lay down the leaf onto the plastic. Make sure you choose a leaf that has nice veining on the back and is not marred with insect holes or rips. Remember, you are casting the BACK of the leaf!

Now it's time to mix the concrete! We used Quickrete (approx. $5 a bag at Home Depot). Mix the concrete and water a little at a time until you get a brownie batter-like consistency. You do not want the mixture to be too soupy as the slurry can get under the leaf and make for an unattractive leaf casting. If the mixture is too dry,you won't see the vein details of the leaf. You want the mixture to sit on the mound of sand and not slide off.

Be sure to pat, pat, pat! This gets the concrete into all the fine lines and veins and releases minute air bubbles. Go about 1/4 to 1 inch to the edge of the leaf.

Place a plastic bag loosely on top of the leaf casting and do not move it for at least 24 hours. This is very important to avoid breakage. The air temperature should be on the cool side, but not below 40 degrees. If you are experiencing hot temperatures, make sure you prepared it in the shade and it can be misted a few times a day if you think it’s curing too fast, but the bag alone should keep it from curing too quickly.

After 24 hours you can gently turn your piece over and peel away the leaf. Place your finished project some place safe to continue curing for up to 72 hours. At that time you can paint or seal the finished piece!
I think I'm going to place our first casting on a large stump under a particular eave of our house where water runs off pretty fast during rainstorms. I even think I may cast several other large leaves to make a cascading "down spout" for the rain water.
This is such a beautiful and easy project for the whole family and I think these last few weeks of summer will be filled with creating works of art for the garden ~ and maybe a few gifts for friends and family as well!

For more tips and tricks from the garden check out
An Oregon Cottage: Tuesday Garden Party

More crafty ideas at:
Creative Jewish Mom


Kalona said...

That is gorgeous! You are mega talented.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this with pictures. You make it look so easy. We will be making these before long. - Dawn

Candi said...

We must have seen the same idea years ago. I remember it was in a store magazine I think. Yours is so beautiful!!! Every time I see an elephant ear plant, I think of those castings. Nice job!

zentmrs said...

That is a really cool project! We have some leaves that we could use for this... I see that my weekend is now busy. ;-)

Dan said...

My wife has been wanting to do this for over a year... no excuses for me not to do it now. Thanks for the directions. It would be neat if you could think of a way to arrange them as a waterfall/feature.

Marsha Neal Studio said...

What a wonderful project! I too want to fill my garden with handmade and found objects to create little nooks where imaginations can run wild! Thanks for sharing!!!

Melinda said...

How cool! This would make a really neat 4H project for my crafty daughter!

Lexa said...

That is so beautiful and you make it sound so easy too! Thanks for sharing your techniques and getting all of our creative minds flowing. Awesome!

Jami @An Oregon Cottage said...

Excellent tutorial- especially nice showing the kids helping! Love it- thanks for linking to the Garden Party.

Athena at Minerva's Garden said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I am going to bookmark the page, because I've wanted to try this for a long time!

creativejewishmom/Sara said...

This is just amazing! Thanks so very much for sharing on Craft Schooling Sunday! I've always wanted to make things from concrete, maybe this is my time! Hope to see you again soon, all the best!

Ruth & Asher said...

Oh my god that is so cool. I'm going to make one for myself as soon as the weather cools down. Stupid TX heat.
Thanks for sharing.
Hammer & Thread

Stephanie Lynn @Under the Table and Dreaming said...

This is simply amazing and fantastic. The leaf is beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing! Hope you are enjoying your weekend. ~ Stephanie Lynn

polwig said...

That is amazing... I can't believe how gorgeous it looks and how easy it is to make

Anonymous said...

ha, I am going to test my thought, your post bring me some good ideas, it's really amazing, thanks.

- Murk