Preparing for the overhaul...

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Introduction to Plant-Making

Hi.  So, for a variety of reasons, I've had to downsize--and simplify--my crafting operations.  Which had actually turned out to be great, because it's led me to discovering something new that under other circumstances I never would've had the courage to try: plant making.  At first, I was held back by a) the fact that paper crafts intimidate me and b) there really isn't a lot of readily available information out there.  Unlike in the rest of the art world, where people pretty much have the confidence to share techniques, a lot of miniaturists seem to be a little...less into sharing.  Which is unfortunate, but a subject for a different post.

There are some kits out there, and some leaf sheets and things that you can purchase from a variety of different suppliers, and I've tried them but with generally disappointing results.  So this is my own technique that I've been developing--and am still perfecting, more posts to follow--that uses computer paper, a mouse pad (retro!), craft paint, a high quality printer, and some scissors.

First, as far as creating the leaves, there are a couple of things you can do.  You can just paint paper and then cut or punch out some leaves (Hanky Panky makes some really nice leaf punches) or, if you're feeling ambitious, you can get crafty with some pictures of leaves and PhotoShop.  Which is what we did.  My better half is the computer savvy one.  Whatever you do, before you paint, spray both sides of your paper with two fine coats of Matte spray.  I use Krylon.  

Then, if you're using a leaf sheet--someone else's or one you made yourself--paint both sides before you cut anything out!  Paint the back an opaque color, or a mix of different colors, and then paint the front with a wash.  Just enough to tint the paper, not enough to obscure the design.  This will serve two purposes: soften the lines and make them more natural, and make the little white bits when you cut out your leaves less noticeable.


Me, cutting out some peperomia leaves.
I like to keep all my different colored leaves together.  Here, I've done the same leaves, one with a more yellowish wash and one with a more greenish wash.  Most varieties of plants come in a bunch of sub-varieties and even within the same variety, there's a lot of variation based on sun exposure, soil content, etc.


The main tools here are a mouse pad, to shape the leaves on, and the same Kemper tools you use for polymer clay.  I have a couple small/extra small double-ended ball styluses, here.  I have a few other sizes as well, but these seem to work the best for me.  Our local craft store, such as it is, carries virtually nothing anyone would want so I've gotten most of this stuff on Amazon--and gotten some very good deals, too!

These leaves came out super blue in a lot of the pictures, I have no idea why.


Embossed versus non-embossed.
What I did to shape the leaves was first press an intent in the part of the leaf where the stem attaches, score over the main veins and then flip it over and crimp the edge of the leaf on the reverse.  I found it easiest to use both styluses at the same time, one in each hand.




Some leaves that are done.

Now I cut some stems.  I didn't really know what I was doing the first few times, so I cut the stems way too long--about three inches each.  Closer to two is more than sufficient, at least for such a short plant as this.  Experiment!

Green-coated floral wire.
 Then I dipped the tip of each "stem" first into some white tacky glue and then into some superglue.  The brand I've been using, that I'm very happy with, is Vibra-Tite Instant Superglue.  My better half purchased it and has generously donated it to the cause.  After the stems were dry, I touched up the edges of the leaves with the same paint I used on the back.

You can use Reynold's Wrap for anything.
My leaves, hanging out in some floral wire until I need them.
Then I took them outside into the fresh air...
Then my teenage, er, "decorating" skills came in handy.  I used gloss spray, because these leaves in particular tend to be quite shiny in real life.
One of the finished products in a Clive Brooker mossy pot.



Then, I made another peperomia, since I had a bunch of leftover leaves.  Indeed, I have even more leaves but I'm planning on using them as ground cover in another project--stay tuned, more pictures (hopefully) to come in the next few days.  This time, I used a larger pot and, after scouring the internet for inspiration pictures, decided to make it a little wider.  I put some Paper Clay in the bottom and, about halfway through sticking in the stalks, realized that the white was going to be visible and so painted the top with burnt umber craft paint.  So I recommend doing that before you start!

Again, for some reason, this came out looking really blue--I blame my halogen work lamp.
Sometimes, once the plant was getting a little more "fluffy," I found it easiest to place the stems into the Paper Clay with tweezers.



So that's it, to begin with!  More is coming; I'm currently working on some potted trees, and on a few other smaller potted plants.  I haven't really gotten into flowers yet, but as one of my projects is a dwarf lilac tree (we have one outside, near our screen porch, so I look at it a lot and always think how lovely it is) I'll have to!

Questions?  Thoughts?  Suggestions?

14 comments:

Margaret said...

Thanks for the tips, I had not thought of printing the leaves, it does give them added realism, along with the detailed embossing.

Evelyne Martin said...

Great tutorial, thank you!

Just one tip, though: if paper clay tends to shrink as much as cold porcelain (~12% to ~20%), when completely dry it might tend to separate from the vase and your leaves level might change. So, even though I used that myself on my plants, for the future I'll try styrofoam or florist foam instead.

Giac said...

Hello C.J.
Thank you for the wonderful tutorial. Your plant looks wonderful.
Big hug,
Giac

Tatiana said...

Мне очень нравятся Ваши растения! Большое спасибо за урок! Я с удовольствием попробую сделать! Хотя нет уверенности в успехе!!!
Татьяна

Liduina said...

You are quite right about the sharing-thing amongst miniaturists. So I thank you very much for this inspiring tutorial and for sharing your personal hints and tips.

Liduina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PILAR6373 said...

Muchas gracias por este estupendo tutorial!!!
Besos.

Chris P's Minis and More said...

so beautiful!! where can I find the printables for the leaves?

C.J. said...

Thanks everyone :-)

Chris, I made these on my computer but you can also buy leaf sheets from Pepperwood Miniatures and, I believe, a few other different places (Bonnie Lavish may sell them; she does sell other leaves). The easiest thing, though, might just be to draw them yourself or reduce a picture from a book and play with it a little on your computer.

MG said...

I have to agree that there seems to be so little sharing of how to, advice, tips, etc.; which makes no sense to me, but it is what it is. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing this tutorial. Being a greenhorn when it comes to miniatures, I really appreciate you taking the time to share not just your plants; which are wonderfulbtw, but the ideas for creating leaves for plants. I can't say thank you enough! And I love lilacs, so I am waiting with much anticipation for a tutorial from you on making them.

Trish Davenport said...

Your leaves are beautiful. So realistic. Also the directions are easy to follow. Thank you for sharing this.

Isabel Ruiz Alonso said...

Muy bonitas. Gracias por la información.

Charlotte Zweigoron said...

I am amazed at the comments about miniaturists not sharing. I have been into miniatures probably since I was a child and a member of two different Miniatures Clubs in the Atlanta area for probably the last 10 to 15 years. I think that belonging to a club may be the actual issue. All of us had noticed that for a long time there were very few Miniatures tutorials on YouTube, for instance. That has changed in the last few years. The thing is, whenever we have a meeting, anyone who has discovered a new technique is more than willing to teach all the rest of the group how to do it. We all go to a number of Miniatures functions in the Southeast during the course of the year. These functions are put on by local clubs. They have designed the project, pulled all of the materials together, written out complete instructions, and are wonderful hosts who provide snacks and meals and sometimes even accommodations. At each of these functions we are doing a project and learning new techniques the whole time. I really think that the issue, or one of the issues, is that not as many people are into Miniatures. It can be a very expensive hobby if you aren't willing to make your furnishings or your buildings rather than buy them. I am also a paper crafter and the paper crafting support on the Internet is huge. Miniaturists don't have anything like what paper Crafters do. I do think, however, that if one reaches out to a club and joins a club they will find some of the most sharing people they've ever met. There is a National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts (N.A.M.E.)that most of us belong to and on their website you can find many of these events that are going on throughout the year.

Charlotte Zweigoron said...

I am amazed at the comments about miniaturists not sharing. I have been into miniatures probably since I was a child and a member of two different Miniatures Clubs in the Atlanta area for probably the last 10 to 15 years. I think that belonging to a club may be the actual issue. All of us had noticed that for a long time there were very few Miniatures tutorials on YouTube, for instance. That has changed in the last few years. The thing is, whenever we have a meeting, anyone who has discovered a new technique is more than willing to teach all the rest of the group how to do it. We all go to a number of Miniatures functions in the Southeast during the course of the year. These functions are put on by local clubs. They have designed the project, pulled all of the materials together, written out complete instructions, and are wonderful hosts who provide snacks and meals and sometimes even accommodations. At each of these functions we are doing a project and learning new techniques the whole time. I really think that the issue, or one of the issues, is that not as many people are into Miniatures. It can be a very expensive hobby if you aren't willing to make your furnishings or your buildings rather than buy them. I am also a paper crafter and the paper crafting support on the Internet is huge. Miniaturists don't have anything like what paper Crafters do. I do think, however, that if one reaches out to a club and joins a club they will find some of the most sharing people they've ever met. There is a National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts (N.A.M.E.)that most of us belong to and on their website you can find many of these events that are going on throughout the year.