Though these were inspired for a summer event, it was really autumn I had in mind. I’d always loved the white patina on terra cotta clay pieces and my little experiment in reproducing that look in polymer clay worked better than I’d hoped. Using real leaves from four principal trees found on the trail impressed the clay just enough to leave a trace of their outlines and texture, and the color is that perfect soft hue of red earth.
One of the other things I’d not realized until I was at the trail during my exhibit was how they also appeared like fossils, and not far from the quarry is a limestone cliff called “Fossils Cliff” where generations of children and adults have visited and come home with a fossil impressed into the limestone of the valley.
“Trees of the Trail” coasters are made from terra cotta polymer clay with the imprint of a real leaf that’s from some of the more populous tree species growing on the trail: sycamore, oak, maple and beech. In fact, the sycamore leaf is from the sycamore tree I sketched in “Sycamore Moon” and the maple leaf is from the tree that holds “The Rope Swing“. I gathered the leaves in August and finding leaves that had dimensions smaller than 4″ was a challenge late in the summer, but I did manage to find a few saplings and branch tips that still had new leaves developed enough to hold the characteristics of mature leaves.
I roll and cut the 4″ circles, press the leaf into the surface, bake the coaster and let it cool, then wash layers of natural white acrylic paint over the surface, wipe it down, wash it again, and repeat until the leaf impression holds enough white to be distinguished and the surface has a light patina. Each coaster is unique.
This was a brand new design and an experiment with the technique to get what I was visualizing with actual living leaves, and it worked! I also like that the clay looks like real potter’s red clay even though it’s polymer, but polymer clay is very durable and for a coaster that’s a good thing. Don’t worry about putting down a mug or glass too heavily.
I’m very pleased with how they turned out and look forward to trying this technique with other designs. For now you can purchase one coaster or a set including all four designs.
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