Arte Es Vida

Autumn Leaf Pin by arteesvida
November 12, 2006, 3:43 am
Filed under: Clay Jewelry, Kid Friendly Projects

For those of us who are banned from playing with fire (or, to better put it, do not have kiln access), air-drying Mexican pottery clay is a nice (and surprisingly durable) alternative for creating that fired pottery look.  The October 2003 issue highlighted a great project from Illinois teacher Angie Boe making leaf-imprint dishes with Mexican pottery clay.  This weekend’s house*full of kids, ages 3 to 14, loved the project and it encouraged me to see what else I could create with the same basic design.  One of the most successful offshoots was this leaf pin.


Amaco Mexican Pottery Clay


A small well-veined leaf


Clay-dedicated rolling and cutting tools

A washable or disposable work surface (I use sheets of wax paper)

Water colors (the article recommends Crayola or Prang, I used Crayola)

A small dish of water

Corn starch

Sealant (the article called for Mod-Podge, I used Future for extra shine…. either way use a good two coats

Pin backing

Jewelry adhesive such as Jewel Glue or E600


So find yourself a little leaf.  The more veins the leaf has, the more texture the final piece will have.  Just make sure it is a whole leaf so you can get a whole and balanced imprint.  If you use a fallen leaf instead of a live one, make sure it isn’t so dried out that it falls apart when you press it into the clay.

Work a lump of clay into a smooth ball.  Dampen your fingers with the water before working the clay in order to smooth out any seams or cracks.

Rub a little cornstarch onto your clay-dedicated roller to keep it from sticking to the clay (Amaco clay is much softer and waxier than poly clay and will stick to the roller making it impossible to roll out, especially if you had to dampen it.)  Roll out your clay to about 1/4 of an inch thick (it is a more fragile clay so you want it on the thick side), again smoothing any lines or cracks or fingerprints in the clay with a little water.

Press the leaf, vein side down into the clay.  Take care to press in all areas individually so all of the leaf veins impress into the clay.  Pull the leaf out of the clay and trim all around the shape of the leaf with your clay-dedicated cutter.  Smooth the edges with a smoothing tool or your fingers.  Put the clay somewhere safe, giving it ample time to dry (at least overnight).  Keep it away from extreme heat or cold during the drying time.

Once the leaf is dry, you can paint it with watercolors.  The process is somewhat time-consuming since the watercolors will bleed down into the porous clay, and it may take several layers of color.  But watercolors will give you the best see-through “glazed” look.  Another option is watered down acrylics.  I used greens, yellows, reds, oranges, and purples, layering and swirling the colors for the most authentic look.

After the paints have dried, seal it with at least two coats of a clear, shiny sealer to complete the “glazed” look of the piece, and to somewhat protect the clay. Once the clay is dried and sealed it is surprisingly durable for an air-dry clay, but it isn’t foolproof… if the dried clay become wet enough, it will revert to back to its original state.

After the sealant has been applied to both sides and dried, attach your pin back with a jewel adhesive.  If you prefer, you can make holes in the clay before drying to wear the leaf as a pendent instead of wearing it as a pin.

A fabulous fall look for yourself, or a gorgeous but inexpensive Thanksgiving hostess gift!

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