This project is a really good way to get you looking at leaves properly; their shape, thickness, colour and most importantly their structure and texture.
We used the leaves we gathered both to make prints on our clay, and also as templates to make little leaf dishes. Here, we are using air-drying clay, so our pieces will not be waterproof; I'd recommend sealing them with a coat of varnish or pva glue if you want to extend their life and be able to wipe them over in the future.
First we donned our wellies, and went out to collect leaves. We looked for big robust leaves to make our dishes that had well defined ribbing; after lots of examining we chose plantain leaves and those from the creeper that grows on our house. We also collected smaller more delicate leaves to use for our imprints.
Once the kids had chosen a leaf each, they rolled out the air-dried clay to the thickness we wanted (about 3-4mm), then placed the leaf on it and rolled it flat into the surface.
The kids used a combination of knives and scissors to cut around their leaves and clay, and used tin foil to support the leaves in a gentled curved shape ready to leave to dry. Once safely cradled, they gently removed the leaf from the clay, exposing the pattern underneath.
We left our clay leaves overnight to dry. Once dry, the kids got busy painting them! Originally I had planned to suggest using pens to pick out the detail once the leaves were painted, but in fact, the paint really highlighted the detail as you can see in the photos, so we didn't need to.
We used the smaller, more delicate leaves to make imprints on plaques of clay, which also looked great! The kids loved this activity, it was clear they were delighted with the results, and there was lots of talk between them about why leaves might have the structure they do while they were working away.