Leaf pendants are the most popular pieces I make. As well as the range on this website, I often get asked to make a piece from a specific plant, even a particular one from a from a person’s garden. I love making those pieces – they mean so much to the person who receives them as they are a unique keepsake of a beloved plant.
However, there are a number of considerations to be made before I can agree to making such a piece. Here’s a list of what I need to know before agreeing to make a specific species piece"
1. Is the leaf type thick enough? Not all plants or leaves are suitable for the process of making the exact replicas. Some plants, such as miniature flowering cherries, have leaves which are too thin, and cannot withstand the process of having wet clay layers applied to them – they just curl up tightly as they dry. Others are too hairy or too waxy and just shrug off the clay as it is applied.
2. Does the leaf have a suitable texture on its back? The beauty of the real leaf pieces is the
detail in the texture – the leaf veins and pores. Some leaves, such as ivy, have very little texture and are almost smooth. These would produce quite bland pieces if used to make a replica in the usual way.
5. Is the leaf a suitable shape? Not all leaf shapes are ideal for pendants. I made my first leaf pendant from a young birch leaf. It was a beautiful size and texture, but what I hadn't accounted for was the sharpness of the points of the leaf outline and at its tip. They were very sharp and the pendant would was very uncomfortable to wear. I files the points to smooth them, but it was still not ideal and any further smoothing would have changed the shape of the leaf. I now choose leaves from a different birch variety which has less pointed edges!
4. Are leaves of a suitable size available? Plants will have a variety of leaf sizes on them, but this is a consideration. For example, leaves that are mature might be too big for a piece., whereas, if you’re looking for earrings to be made there will need to be small, younger leaves too. In this case, a plant in its growing season will be best. The Cape Fuchsia was an ideal plant for this as you can see below:
4. Is the leaf available? Although obvious, sometimes a request for a Christmas gift of a real leaf replica comes too late. Late autumn is not the time to ask for a specific leaf to be made for a Christmas present (unless it’s from an evergreen).
6. What timescale is needed? Real leaf replicas take time to make, and usually has to be sent to the Assay Office to be hallmarked (it’s a legal requirement for all silver items over 7.78g). Therefore, they cannot be made in a tight deadline. The process requires repeated applications of clay with careful drying in between, and Hallmarking itself might take up to 10 days at certain times, especially so in the last year. So, plenty of time is needed. If you want a stone incorporated into the design, that can also add time.
The Good News!
Even if the plant you want has leaves that are not fully suitable, there are other ways to create pieces from a leaf. These pieces might be slightly thicker, but are still a unique replica of the original leaf texture. In fact, my alternative method for making leaves enables a wider range of design options, with patterned backs, such as this Polyanthus leaf:
and/or the incorporation of dichroic glass as with this Buddleia piece:
So, if you’d like a particular type of leaf making do ask, and please be understanding of the above points. Leaf replicas by either method are joyful pieces to have - a real keepsake of nature that's with you all year around.
Take a look at the variety of leaf replicas on my website - they come in a variety of shapes and sizes from the elegant outlines of lilac leaves to the more complex shapes of hawthorn and blackberry. there will be new ones added too - so watch this space!