ISSUE   |  Children's Garden

DIY: Easy Art Leaf Prints

May 27, 2013 3:30 PM

BY Justine Hand

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One of the things I love most about being a parent? Getting to feel like a kid again as I join my children in experimenting with nature. Normally on a gorgeous spring day, the kids and I disappear into the woods to build forts and collect specimens. But several weeks ago, Solvi and I found ourselves trapped at home on a lovely day while we waited for the dryer repairman. So we devised an at-home experiment.

It began as usual with Solvi collecting tiny bits of flora from the yard. Rather than arranging them in some Lilliputian vase, as I usually do, I decided to try something different: leaf prints. I vaguely remember seeing something like this somewhere, but I didn’t have the particulars, so we just winged it. We had so much fun gathering the plants and banging them with hammers that the results hardly mattered. But I do like what we got: an ephemeral homage to spring.

Photographs by Justine Hand.

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Above: To make leaf prints like this simple trio of sprouts, all you need is: leaves and flowers, paper, tape, a hammer, and some work surface that you don’t mind getting banged up – we used a piece of scrap board.

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Above: First we gathered various flora from our yard. The results are often quite different from what you’d expect, so I encourage you to experiment. For example, we thought that flowers would produce the best prints, but these were often too juicy and just became a blur. Simple specimens with little water actually produced the most interesting prints.

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Above: In terms of scale, you can really be as ambitious as you want. But this time we opted for smaller scale flowers and card stock. After securing a piece of paper with tape to our board, Solvi began arranging the leaves and flowers on top. 

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Above: A simple composition with scilla.

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Above: When your arrangement is complete, carefully place another piece of paper on top and tape this to the board as well. Now the really fun part – start hammering. Make sure you hammer the entire composition underneath (you can see it through the paper). A rubber mallet would have been preferable, but we didn’t have one, so a regular hammer worked just fine.

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Above: Gently peel off the top piece of paper and carefully scrape away any plant “goo” to get the final prints. Here, I love how the hammering released a purple pigment in the stems that was not overtly visible in the original sprouts.

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Above: In some leaves (those with less water) the veins were brought forth by the hammering.

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Above: Solvi surveys her work.

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Above: Our final prints, arranged on the dining room wall, make a charming and extemporaneous homage to spring.

N.B. Want more natural creations? Browse all our Favorite Flora DIY Projects, from Sugared Violets to Lavender Soda.