Tuesday, September 14, 2010
The CSI Project is an addicting read for a project junkie like me. I am always collecting inspiration for new things I want to do, either with the kids or on my own. There's a happy medium, which I have not yet found, between taking the time to nurture creativity and taking the time away from other, more necessary tasks. But I am making a deliberate move toward the creative stuff, because, as much as I love it, I tend to err on the side of chores and schoolwork (which has its own fallout, but I'll talk about that another day).
So, here's a project I came up with a time ago that I am reviving with the kids this week. They are itching to do more nature study, and every time we go out they collect these wonderful, interesting shapes. They would love using them for these beautiful handicrafts.
Here's what I did.
Collect and press leaves, flowers or other "flat" nature items. This part should be allowed several days, because the leaves (or whatever you're using) should be dry as well as flat; any discoloration that's going to occur will be done by then. (I did this with fresh poinsettia petals once, and the result was less than ideal.)
Melt some paraffin wax in a baking sheet or similar long, shallow, oven-safe container. Clean up is easier if it's lined with wax paper first. I'd say half a block of the kitchen paraffin wax is enough for two or three candles. I heated it in the oven on 200°F for 10 minutes. Keep an eye on it--paraffin melts at a low temperature, and you don't want to start a fire or burn your fingers working with it.
Pick a pillar candle to decorate. A 4" vanilla candle works well--heavenly scent, light ivory color that shows off the leaves, readily available. Hold the candle by the ends and roll it in the paraffin to coat it a layer of hot wax. Before it dries, press the leaf into the wax and smooth it out.
Let it dry a little on a sheet of wax paper, then roll it again to cover the leaf with another layer of wax. Do this as many times, letting it dry between layers, as it takes to get the look you want. Thicker items (like conifer needles) will require more layers to anchor them to the candle.
The end result will have an uneven look and feel that I find really appealing.
Here are a few that I did, from left to right:
Japanese maple leaf, sweet gum leaf, cedar needles and sassafras leaves, and a grapevine-type leaves. The sweet gum is my favorite--I love the purple color the leaves turn in the fall!
Next to try: some of these viney, ferny leaves that I found by the road, and some red dogwood leaves!
UPDATE: Earlier I referred to the leaves in the last candle on the right as hickory leaves. I don't know why I keep doing that but I assure you it's a habitual mistake. They are most definitely not hickory leaves, which are long and broad at the end, but also turn the most fabulous shade of yellow. I have not identified the type of vine that this pointed leaf comes from, but it grows wild around here in abundance. Maybe I'll post a picture later and someone can help ID it?