ISSUE 94  |  Change in the Weather

DIY: Leaf Silhouettes

October 25, 2013 5:00 PM

BY Justine Hand

Inspired by the antique shadow portraits used in my Haunted Hall, I recently set out to make similar silhouettes using preserved autumn leaves. The result is a slightly more cheery homage to fall.

Photographs by Justine Hand.

Above: Gathered with the enthusiastic help of my daughter, Solvi, our specimens (shown above in their preserved state) included: tulip tree, locust, several maples and oaks, cherry, birch, and burning bush leaves. 

Above: Leaves soak in a glycerin bath.

To preserve our leaves, I tried two methods: glycerin with water and pressing.

For the glycerin, we used two parts water to one part glycerin (available at your local drug store in the soap section). After completely submerging the leaves for two days, I placed them on paper towels between two cookie sheets and let them dry for another day. 

The glycerin results were mixed. While the leaves were more pliable, they retained less of their original, vibrant color than leaves we pressed, which involved nothing more than putting them under some heavy books for three days.

Above: A vignette I’m calling “Girls” features an old doll on a larch bow swing and a silhouette of me as a girl (bottom), as well as a work with oak leaves, silhouette, and red thread.

After preserving the leaves, I simply started playing around with compositions using my antique silhouettes. If you don’t have any of these portraits, you can easily print them out online. For the girl encircled above, I used a design from Shadow Shapes, who can make a custom portrait for you; $25.

Above: Placed over the sofa using double-sided adhesive dots, my assemblage is a temporal homage to fall.

Above: While on a walk one evening, the kids found these large, heart-shaped leaves, from what I think is a catalpa tree (am I right?). Paired with locust and cherry, they make a yellow composition called “Twins.”

Above: “Twins” also features my childhood portrait as well as a crowned bird, which was a gift from one of my favorite artists, Ronald Ceuppens.

Above: In my yellow vignette, the maple and tulip tree pairing are hung with vintage silk thread in autumn gold.

Above: Using more works by Ceuppens as inspiration, “Woodland Swing” features silhouettes and red thread. Similar prints by Ceuppens are available on his Etsy site; $17.

Above: My little doll on the swing made a more somber appearance on Gardenista earlier the week, as part of my Haunted Halloween Hall.

Above: A more simple configuration, “Boys” features oak and burning bush leaves, paired with silhouettes of my cousins and a young woman.

N.B. Looking for more ways to preserve the bounty of fall? See our DIY: Dried Flower Garland and other projects for bringing the outdoors in with Shane Powers.