We know, we know, it's beginning to look a lot like December out there already, what with Hanukkah fast approaching and Christmas countdowns waiting in the wings—but we love Thanksgiving here at WCS and wanted to feature a few more inspired ideas you can tackle before Thanksgiving Day from some of our favorite creatives on the internet (and a few home-grown ideas, too). Today, we welcome designer Sharilyn Wright (and her daughter, Adelaide!) of Lovely Design to share a beautiful idea for Thanksgiving décor. Enjoy!
The past several weeks, Adelaide and I have been spending many hours out and about and gathering. Acorns, chestnuts, pinecones, pretty twigs and branches, and so many beautiful Autumn leaves. It was out on one of our gathering expeditions that it occurred to me, studying the make up of a leaf, that we could possibly recreate our own leaves using a little bit of wire, paper, and paint.
To make our own Autumn leaves, we first went out on a walk all around our neighbourhood and gathered up a variety of fresh leaf samples, in all types and sizes. We brought them home and together traced about 2 dozen out onto sheets of 80 lb drawing paper. I then cut a few out, and got my daughter painting.
To paint the leaves, I had 3 bottles of acrylic paint which we had picked up at the dollar store: red, orange, and yellow. (although, really you would only need red and yellow.) I squirted a little bit of each paint colour onto individual saucers. I then cut up dollar-store sponges into 1/2" - 1" blocks, and showed Adelaide how she could dab a little paint onto each sponge and use them to dap and mix and blend colours all together to paint a leaf.
I found at first it was good to give her a big leaf to paint, so she would have lots of room to experiment and check it all out. I placed several real leaves alongside of her, and together we examined them closely. I showed her how not one leaf was a solid, single colour—each was many colours blended all together: red, yellow, orange. And I also encouraged her to try to do her best to cover all of each leaf so that no white would show, just like a real leaf.
While Addie happily painted away, I used a glue gun and wire cutters and began to cut and glue wire "spines" onto the back of each leaf. When the glue dried, I found that I could bend and shape each leaf to look quite real. With a bit of trial and error, I found that a thinner wire around 16—18g worked best for these leaves. I glued and collected up a bunch of paper leaves in this manner, and bent and worked the wires until they looked authentic and were ready to be painted up. As Addie finished up her first practice leaf, I was ready to pass her the leaves I had ready-to-go.
Note: After seeing how the paper leaves dried - quite solid and stiff, I think that it is important to bend your leaves into shape first before painting them. I found that if I bent the wires when the paint was wet, the paper could tear. And if I bent the wires when the painted leaves were dry, then they could crack.
Painting leaves kept Adelaide very occupied and busy for almost two hours. Together we ended up making about 15 or 20 leaves in this manner, and so it was time for a break. Leaving the leaves to dry, we headed to the forest to find a nice branch for them. By time we had returned, the leaves were mostly all dry, and I found that they had dried quite solidly—surprisingly, they weren't very fragile at all. Happy with the results, Adelaide and I selected some of the prettiest leaves and I used bits of brown florist tape—which I had purchased ahead at Michael's—and taped leaves to the branch, one by one. Placed all together on a branch, Adelaide's leaves really do look quite real! At the very least, they do not look like they were painted by a three-year-old. Adelaide was thrilled and we are both very happy with the results of our project.
These painted leaves are so lovely and can be used in many ways—taped onto a branch and kept in a vase as we have, or perhaps all along a branch for a Thanksgiving table centerpiece. I think it would be nice for perhaps each member of a class or a family to paint their own leaf, and write their names on them to make a family tree. Or even woven into a garland for a door frame or window. All around a wreath. Or even just to keep as a single leaf, tacked to a bulletin board to keep for always. I think that it may be nice to make some more leaves in spring or summer, all green and yellow and happy.
Sharilyn Wright is the owner of Vancouver, Canada-based Lovely Design, where she creates gorgeous address file boxes, beautiful posters, and other one-of-a-kind treasures. Her work has been featured in Real Simple, Better Homes & Gardens, The Washington Post, ReadyMade, and other design publications. She is both a full-time mama and a full-time maker of lovely things, and believes firmly in including her daughter in her creative space. Please visit her shop and blog to learn more about Sharilyn!
So much of our Thanksgiving memories are wrapped up in the things we make—from pies to pilgrim hats, it is a creative holiday that builds upon a foundation of a cozy home full of those we love. By including children in your Thanksgiving preparations they'll feel a sense of pride when that beautiful table is set. So grab some paint, go find a few branches buried under the leaf pile (or snow!) and get those children working on their contributions to a homemade Thanksgiving to remember.