Fall Leaf Pendants in Polymer Clay

Pile of fall leaf pendantsI spent part of a rainy weekend making fall leaf pendants from polymer clay and a “secret” ingredient.

Fall is one of my favorite times of year for many reasons, not the least of which is it means the end of my least favorite season – summer.

It’s also a great time of year for color inspiration if you’re as big a fan of earth tones as I am. What’s not to love about the blends of green, amber, orange, and red in tree leaves in the fall?

I was afraid we wouldn’t get much in the way of fall foliage this year due to the extraordinarily hot dry summer. Many tree leaves were turning brown and brittle from lack of water and falling before they had a chance to show their fall colors. I was feeling pretty wilted myself.

But, finally, summer has ended and we are in the transition season. And we got some rain. Well, some is an understatement. We got lots of rain in a short period of time thanks to a nor’easter hooking up with a tropical storm named Joaquin.

The “secret” ingredient

The rain came with some wind, which helped quite a few turning leaves find their way to the ground.  I picked up a few, and an acorn, while enjoying a walk in the refreshingly cool rain.  (I put the acorn back after the photo session. In case a squirrel was looking for it.)

Fall leaves and an acorn

I’m not a botanist so I don’t know the species of tree from which these leaves fell. I know most are some kind of maple. The brown is some kind of oak. I have some theories about the two on the bottom right, but I’ll keep them to myself.

So my “secret” ingredient for making the leaf pendants is …fallen leaves.  After rinsing the leaves, I pressed them into some conditioned polymer clay. I’ve done this a few times before. I think lots of people have done polymer clay leaf impressions at one time or another. It’s fun and easy. Here are some of my previous creations.

Two polymer clay maple leaves

These are two leaves I made last fall. The top right was green polymer clay colored with mica powders and turned into a brooch. The bottom left leaf was white colored with alcohol inks and acrylic paint. I haven’t decided whether to make it into jewelry or an ornament.

The first few times I made polymer clay leaves, I used mica powders to color them. The leaf in the top right corner of the above photo is one example.  If you’d like to give that a try, The Blue Bottle Tree has a nifty free Mica Leaf Tutorial with great step-by-step photos.

Once I added alcohol inks to my polymer clay supplies it was inevitable I would try coloring some fall leaves with them. The leaf in the bottom left corner in the photo above is an example.

Using Pan Pastels for beautifully blended fall colors

This year, I started using chalk pastels to color polymer clay. And I splurged on a set of Pan Pastels, which are super soft, richly-pigmented artist pastels. They are like cream eye shadow in consistency and coverage.

five fall leaf pendants

These are the five leaf pendants I made from the ones I collected in the rain. They are colored with Pan Pastels.

I started with a base of off-white clay, into which the leaves were pressed. After I cut out the outline of each leaf, I used the pastels like finger paints to get the colors. The pastels come with sponge applicators but I found using my finger worked better for this effect. You can add and blend and smudge away.

After baking, I antiqued the leaves with acrylic paint and sealed them with semi-gloss polyurethane.  Two of the maple leaves got a crackle treatment after baking. It isn’t very obvious in the photos unless you zoom in. But it’s a great detail in person, adding to the organic look of the leaf. I adapted the technique from a tutorial by Staci Louse Smith.

The backs of the pendants are also colored with pastels. For the backs, which are stamped with a paisley pattern and my business name, I used metallic Pan Pastels.

Backs of fall leaf pendants

The backs of the fall leaf pendants are stamped with a paisley design that is highlighted with metallic pastels.

I plan to use these pendants in some necklaces. Just as soon as some design inspiration strikes. Which may require a trip to the bead store, because I think I want to pair them with some gemstone nuggets and pebbles. And I’ve used up most in my stash.

Branching out

I’ll probably make a few more pendants, or brooches, or even ornaments, while the leaves are still falling. I seem to have a tendency to focus on maple, but I will try to branch out. No pun intended. I picked up these ginkgo leaves on my lunch break today. They haven’t turned yet, but there were quite a few on the ground thanks to the recent storms.

Ginkgo leaves

I collected these ginkgo leaves from the ground. I’ll be making some polymer clay pendants, and maybe earrings, from them shortly.

For the most realistic imitation of actual leaf colors, the Pan Pastels are my pick from the techniques I’ve tried. But the mica powders and alcohol inks are fun effects as well. I think I’ll do some more alcohol ink leaves, in addition to the pastels. And maybe even give some leaves a Swellegant metal coating treatment. Some patinated copper and rusted iron leaves could be quite fun. I hope you’ll stay tuned to see what turns out.

Oh, and if you happen to know to what kind of tree those two mystery leaves in the bottom right corner of my collected inspiration photo belong, please leaf a comment.

4 thoughts on “Fall Leaf Pendants in Polymer Clay

  1. Teresa Schurter

    These are gorgeous. I can’t wait for fall to hit out here, it’s still 80 degrees, so frost is a ways off, but you’ve brought it right into my sitting room! Lovely.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Teresa. There are still some 80 degree days in store out here too. One’s in the forecast for this week, in fact. But it is nice to have cooler nights now that fall is here. I hope your fall weather arrives soon.

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