I don’t know about you, but I really like this “Welcome to the Jungle” Book. One of the reasons I like this book so much, is that it gives a lot of basic information for things that we can use our projects later on. Christie is quick to provide us not only with a wealth of information, but really awesome techniques that are simple easy to apply and yet look realistic and organic in their own way. So what do you think? I think we should start talking about leaves … shall we begin?
Let’s Think About Leaves For a Minute
Have you ever taken a moment to stop and look outside and really look at the leaves on the trees? If you haven’t I hope and pray that sometime this spring or the summer that you will take time to do that. Trees are life-giving things. Not only do they give life but they protect life. Think of other things that trees & plants provide us from oxygen, to homes for birds, places for bugs, and so much more. Just knowing that all trees do for us, this should help us to be able not only to appreciate them better, but to really get inside of what a tree is, the life it gives, and what it means to our art.
“Jungle” is just that book. It gives us a glimpse and all the different kinds of leaves and trees that exist not only in a jungle, but in this world. Our project for this week, is going to be to make tons of leaves. Little, big, small, wonky, next up, upside down, and leaves that don’t even look like leaves at all. Because leaves are so vital to us in the future of the Friesen Project, but also in sculpting.
I really want you to take the time to get into this – get into making leaves and becoming proficient at it … but more importantly enjoy making the leaves.
As the book opens you’ll see page, after page, after page filled with different types of leaves and techniques. I want you to take your time I want you to go through each of these leaves in their techniques and I want you really play with them if you have some leaves in mind of your own. If you live in a place where there aren’t many trees, I encourage you to go to the Internet, and do a Google search engine leave and then click on the images tab and look at the hundreds of thousands of pictures of gorgeous leaves that come up. One of the first things that you will notice about any leaf, is that not only are they all different, but every single leaf has different color variations has a different texture has a different structure and so much more. Keeping this in mind, let’s make a “lookat blend.”
Making Your “Lookat” Blends
Now, let’s get into it, shall we? As Christie instructed her Jungle Book, the first thing you’re going to do is to make some color blends (see page 8). I really don’t care what color blend you create. You can create a color blend that is nothing but green and earth based, or you can create a colorful blend that’s based in pinks purples. I don’t care what color platte you choose, just make sure it’s a color palette that you like. Why? Because let’s be honest, we’re talking about the jungle here. And everything in the jungle has color, life, and special features that are not found anywhere but the jungle.
When I created my leaves, I wanted something not only that was earth based, but I wanted something that had a lot of browns and golds in it … I didn’t want a lot of green in my blends, but you can choose what you want. You can create whatever color palette you want. But I encourage you as you create your palettes, do is Christine’s truck continues one main color for each pallet you create. You’re going to be creating four distinct color palettes. Using Christie’s method, you are going to create “lookat blends.” A lookit blend can be anything your heart desires, but pay close attention as you blend your clays. If you blend them too far, the clay will become nothing but a browned scrounging mess.
When I made my blends I added some rock hard old green clay. I did this because I knew that it wouldn’t blend like the other clays would, but would leave “pieces” of green behind. To make your blend combine your clays in any order you wish and using your pasta machine, run your colors through several times. Each time you run your colors through, stop and “look at” your blend. If you see something you like, cut it off and put it on the front of your blend.
Keep the interesting parts toward the front and create your “well would you look at that…” or rather your “lookat” blend. Once you’ve made your blends, it’s time to make your leaves.
Let’s Leaf It!
Once you’ve created your palettes, it’s time to use Christie’s book, and get to work cutting out your basic leaves. Remember to keep in mind, that Christie style has a very raw, organic, and natural look to it. Just like you would find in nature.
Your first up is to cut out your basic leaf shape, using your X-Acto blade. Once you have cut out your leave, remove the outside trim and set it aside for later. At this point, pick up your leave, and begin the lightly pinch the edges to give a more natural look … in my opinion this is the single most important step. Then take your leaf and lay back down on your work surface. Most, if not all, leaves starts with a center main line. Make your centerline, this line should be deeper than the other vein lines in your leaf. This center line will be your guide to bend and shape your leaf in a few moments. You can see my pictures at the right, for many examples of different leaves that I made for my project.
You can see and make all of Christi’s favorite leaves (yes, they are all her favorite … what’s your favorite leaf) inside her book on pages 9-14. If you are making your leaves correctly, you’ll find that they can be quite time-consuming. And that’s good. Don’t let the amount of time you spend on your leaves, stop you from practicing to make gorgeous beautiful natural leaves. Take the time to really pour over the pages in Christie’s book, making some long sleeves, skinny leaves, fat leaves, odd shaped leaves, and maybe even a leaf or two that was eaten by a bug.
Here’s a TIP: don’t throw away those scraps from your leaves, and don’t put them into the scrap pile, not just yet. You will need them later.
A Caned Leaf
For some, when you hear the words “millefiori cane” you get scared, frightened, and your muscles in your hands and arms tense. Millefiori canes are indeed an art form that many sculptors wish they had (me included). But don’t worry, because this may be the easiest cane you have ever made! All you’re going to do is stack your choice colors of clay in a repeating pattern (see page 16). The easiest way to do it is to start with the center vein and build around it.
Building nice millefiori canes never start nice … see my top left picture. YUCK! But it’s amazing (like most polymer clay things) how they turn out when they are finished. Make your cane any size you want. Mine was approximately 2″ long and 1″ wide. To shape your leaves, cut slices off the cane and then shape it by pressing the inner edges together and don’t forget to twist! My partially finished leaves are in the bottom left corner … they were tailored much more after this picture, but you get the idea…
Again, I urge you, take time and learn to master making leaves right now. You will be making leaves from here on out for the rest of your projects and for every month here in the Friesen Project. If you master this technique now, when we get to the Mixed-Media Book, and the brand new Flourish book, you will have a much easier time getting through the projects.
After you’ve taken all these leaves, and made them, it’s time to set them aside, by now you should have an entire workspace filled with leaves. I myself practiced and made, over 35 leaves … so no excuses … just do it! Now, here’s the fun part. What are you going to do with all those leaves? You are going to make a really fun, really cool, very unique mirror.
Turn Your Leaves Into a Mirror
First you need to cover at least the edges of your mirror, if not the back and edges of your mirror with polymer clay (see The Jungle Book page 17-20 for more instructions). This can be scrap clay if you want, no one will see it because you will cover it with leaves anyway. Whether you want it to be green clay, or any other clay that matches the coloring of your leaves. Once you have your mirror covered, take your leaves and begin to gently set them where you think you want them to go. Remember, you have a lot of leaves. Do not press anything down into the clay until you are 100% sure you want that leads to stay there. It is far better to take your leaves and scatter them across the edges top and bottom of the mirror, and get them all in place where you think they might go … play with them until they feel right. Once you’ve gently placed all your leaves, pick up your leave that you want to place, trim them to fit, and gently pressed them onto the mirror.
When all of your leaves are down and in place, it is time to embellish your mirror. Get out your crystals, gemstones, beads, mica powders, and any embellishment you want to add to your mirror. Once you have your gemstones in place, you will need to secure them with extra bits and pieces of clay. This, is where those scraps from your leaves will come in handy. It’s time to add dervish here, a curly-cue there, make a long snake, and make it loop-de-loop, and make a jungle vine out of it. By the time you’re finished with your mirror, you will have a wonderful piece of artwork, that you can hang in your home, give to a friend, or sell in your Etsy store. I hope you enjoyed your polymer clay leaf tutorial and this project, join us again next week as we get out the bugs & hearts!
The Friesen Project
The Friesen Project is done in conjunction with Christi Friesen. All tutorials are retaught here with her expressed permission. Please make sure to read about the project here, and get answers to the most common FAQS here.
See you next Friesen Friday,
Until then, Happy Claying,