(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on October 27, 2007. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions or comments.)
I am a gatherer of leaves. I take a few in summer if I find a particularly interesting shape, but the big harvest comes in fall when they have developed their full character, toughened and marked by the summer’s sojourn and now revealing their true colors hidden through the summer beneath the chlorophyll’s rampant green.
This all began when I was young. We would collect the prettiest leaves and my mother would iron them between sheets of wax paper to tape to the picture window in order to have a bit of the brightness linger into November’s brown stillness.
When I became the mom, I ironed leaves that I gathered with my two daughters. My youngest once declared in the midst of an amazing autumn that she wanted to eat a tree, they were all so wonderful.
Over the passing years, I have used the wax paper treatment to send autumn cheer to a friend who grew up in New England, but found herself living in the tropics with, “...all this depressingly eternal green!” I also sent some to a DG friend from Louisiana who now has her own bright wood in Kentucky.
My serious gathering began the year I decided to make Stan a quilt (as yet unfinished). The design as drawn was a mosaic of hills and fields, sun and moon overlaid with fabric leaves cut from real leaf patterns. I gathered and dried the leaves between the pages of old phone books, then sealed them between two sheets of clear Contac paper, cutting them with a bit of a clear border.
Shortly after I got the quilt top most of the way done, I discovered heliographic art - sun painting on fabric (or paper) with a certain brand of transparent fabric paint. There is something about the composition of the paint that causes it to lighten under leaves and flowers or shapes from paper when exposed to direct sun light (or any hot light source such as food heating lamps, grow lights or halogen desk lights to name a few). I had found absolute justification for all the leaves that I had and will have in the future: I need them for my art.
sunpainted fabric with dragonfly stamp
That revelation has, of course, allowed my obsession with leaf gathering to rather snowball. This year, I find myself with 12 phone books full, a 24"x 10"x 3" box full, and some just floating around the floral arrangement in the center of the dining room table. My eldest granddaughter and I went out this evening and harvested a few more, pear leaves with their lovely speckly greens and golds, maple leaves in shades of coral and pale yellow, dogwood with all of their changeable patterns. We have been painting likenesses of some of the better leaves on fabric doubled with fusible web and quite easy to bend and curl into life like poses. New uses keep popping into my head, the list grows longer even as the day grows shorter. The October sun is setting with a pure orange light, the clarity of morning come to its end in the clearness of evening. I’ve gathered and painted, and thought about some new uses that I might put my collection to, but for now, I think I’ll go eat a tree.
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