and other items
to make impressions in clay
I have a lot of variety of leaves in my backyard and selected ones that were hearty and had raised veins. Naturally, thin leaves don't leave much of an impression. Likewise, if the veins were too thick, particularly the center vein, I reduced the thickness by slicing off a portion. I found that if a very deep impression is made the bowl or platter would occasionally crack along the deep impression during firing. I laid the leaves on with the veins against the clay and used a rolling pin to make the impression. Pressing with your fingers will not be effective. I put all the leaves down at once and left them in place after rolling. I cut a circle out AFTER the impressions were made. If you cut the circle out first the force of the impressions will distort the circle and you will have to re-cut it. Once I cut the circle out I removed some of the stiff leaves and placed the circle on top of my bowl mold and gently pressed the clay into shape. The bowl mold was made by pouring plaster of paris into a bowl.
The clay should remain on the bowl mold until stiff, but not dry as it will crack if left on the mold too long. When I worked outside on a hot, sunny day the clay was stiff in one hour. Indoors, at average temperature it took about 3-4 hours.
After bisque-firing the bowl I applied a dark brown glaze, then wiped it off so it remained in the impressions. Then I applied various colors of glaze using brisk, light strokes. Some colors were overlapped. Finally, I applied clear glaze and made sure the entire surface was covered.
Besides using leaves, I also found other items from nature that made wonderful patterns and textures. Shells, a seed pod and an odd little pine cone rolled along the surface added interest. Man-made items that seemed to fit in well with the nature items included lace, buttons and my own stamps made of (fired) clay.