Grow Your Own Plants for Clay Imprints

by - December 28, 2016

In this post I'm going to share some of my favorite plants to use with clay -- all of which grow well in my home garden, which is zone 7b and follow up with tips for making imprints with leaves.

This blog space may come off as being scattered across multiple hobbies and interests, but it's an accurate reflection of my life. My day to day time is split up between family and home routines, teaching online graduate classes in engineering, home gardening and making pottery. Those last two are hobbies that have begun a gradual marriage. I make planters for small jades, succulents and indoor mini-gardens, and I grow plants which I use to make imprints in clay.

Obviously there are so many plants you could use, so this is not a comprehensive list. These are just the ones I grow and have had time to try.

Autumn Fern
Benefits: evergreen, spores add lovely detail. You can get several imprints with one leaf.
Challenge: there are many tiny little leaves, so you have to be careful not to fold them over

Benefit: come in many sizes and are heart-shaped. The trees are nearly impossible to kill, so pluck away.
Challenge: leaves are thin and veins don't always show up well.

Benefit: evergreen, commonly recognized
Challenge: the stem is thick

Benefit: smells amazing while you work, they are available year-round in my garden
Challenge: leaf clusters can be dense and not lay flat, so thinning on the backside may be required.

Benefit: look like tiny trees!
Challenge: seasonal

Benefit: leaves lay flat
Challenge: leaves are thin and may lack vein detail

Benefit: the leaves of this plant are adorable
Challenge: what is rue anyways? This is perennial.

Benefit: easy to grow
Challenge: the leaves are so tiny that the detail is easily lost.

Benefit: works well as an imprint on a soap dish since many bath bars have "calming" lavender scent.
Challenge: I have a hard time keeping lavender alive, so I quickly run out of stems to cut.

Seeded ornamental grasses
Benefit: seeds make a lovely detail if carefully pressed
Challenge: seeds easily fall off and may leave a mess on your clay surface

Benefit: I'm struggling to come up with one
Challenge: heavy on the stems, light on the leaves, prickly!

Sugar Snap Peas
Benefit: curly tendrils are fun
Challenge: I'd rather eat peas!

Benefit: leaves have a good thickness and beings that show up well
Challenge: none that I can think of

Benefit: veins show up well in the leaves
Challenge: stems are thick

Tips for making the leaf imprint

1. Make sure the clay is soft but not sticky to the touch or wet. If the surface is wet, you may get slip ridges and gummy areas that don't take to the finer details in the leaf.

2. Make sure the plant trimming is freshly cut. Wilted leaves are difficult to spread out and rip easily. Crunchy leaves will tear and be difficult to roll flat.

3. Pat the leaves dry if they are wet. Again, wet surfaces lead to a sloppy finish.

4. Use a tapered pony roller to be able have greater control over the pressing and avoid pressing the stem in too deeply. Sometimes the leaves you select may have a thick stem. If you press it in all the way, the glazing will be more difficult and the edges may be rough. Also, if you are using these for serving food, the deep imprints may be difficult to clean.

5. When you press in the leaf, only go so far so that the leaf is not pushed below the flat contour of the slab. If the clay begins to squish up over the edges, the results will be sloppier and may have sharp edges.

6. If bits of the leaf get stuck in the clay when you pull the leaf back up, don't dig them out. This will mess up the quality of the imprint. Organic matter will burn off during the bisque fire.

UNTREATED, NON-GMO, Non Hybrid 12 Heirloom Varieties of Vegetable Seeds by Zziggysgal

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Other projects:
Bead Tree (I)
Spoon molds:
Cake Stands:
Bead Tree (II):

Making Ceramic Ornaments with Cookie Cutters

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