Falling Leaves

The makers at Art School Studio share an autumn-inspired salt-dough project.

There are few things more beautiful than Portland in the fall. It’s time for hot cider, cold noses, clear skies, and fiery red, yellow and orange leaves carpeting the ground.

Bundle up, take a walk and collect some fallen leaves. When you get home, get warm again with some hot cocoa and a craft. While you create this project with your family, there are great opportunities for discussions with your kids. Ask them, “Why do the leaves change? Do all the trees have changing leaves? Why or why not? What’s your favorite season?”

Your child will love mixing and kneading the dough, rolling it and pressing in the leaves. You can pitch in with the cutting, placing the leaves on bowls and in the oven. You’ll both enjoy painting the leaves. Try mixing the paints to match the colors you saw on your walk. This activity can easily be spread over two days, making the dough and baking one day, then painting the next day after the leaves have cooled.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup salt
  • ½ cup water
  • Mixing bowl
  • Whisk
  • Parchment paper
  • Rolling pin
  • Leaves, found or fake
  • Toothpick (optional)
  • Oven-safe bowls
  • Baking sheet
  • Acrylic paint
  • Brushes
  • Acrylic sealant such as Mod Podge
  • Ribbon (optional)

1. Make the dough. Whisk flour and salt together in a bowl, then slowly add the water. Whisk until the dough is too thick to whisk, then knead. Knead the dough very well to keep bubbles from forming while baking.

2. Place the dough between two sheets of parchment paper and roll out evenly to desired thickness.

3. Add your leaves to the dough, the ribbed side down, and roll some more, until the dough is about 1/8 inch thick.

4. Use a sharp knife to cut around the leaf in the general shape of it.

5. Remove the leaf to reveal your leaf impression. Poke a small hole on the stem end of the leaf with a toothpick, if you want to make your leaf an ornament.

6. Pre-heat oven to 250º F. Place your leaf on oven-safe bowls or trays to create the fallen leaf shape. You want the edges to come up a bit on the leaves.

7. Bake your leaves. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Place the oven-safe bowls with the leaves onto the sheet and bake for about two hours. Check your leaves regularly. Smaller or thinner leaves will bake faster. If air bubbles appear, pierce them with a pin and flatten. You will know if your salt-dough leaf is ready when it sounds hollow when tapped.

8. Once your leaves have cooled completely, it’s time to decorate! Paint your leaves with acrylic paint. Mix colors as you go. No need to rinse the brush – the varying hues on your leaf will make for more realistic color. Do not add water to the paint. It will cause your leaf to get soggy. It may take a few layers to get the coverage you desire.

9. Once your paint is completely dry, add a layer of Mod Podge to seal it. If you want to make your leaf into an ornament, thread ribbon through the small hole and tie off.

– This DIY craft has been brought to you by Alexis Jenssen and Heather Jackson, owners and instructors at the Art School Studio in SE Portland.

Alexis Jenssen and Heather Jackson

Alexis Jenssen and Heather Jackson

Co-owners at Art School Studio
Alexis Jenssen and Heather Jackson are mother and daughter and the co-owners of Art School Studio, an artist studio and creative space in the Woodstock neighborhood of SE Portland. They offer art camps, classes, and workshops for all ages. Heather and her husband enjoy kayaking and hiking while taking in the sights of the Pacific Northwest. Alexis likes cooking for her family, coaching a competitive basketball team for her daughter and collaborating on art projects with her husband.
Alexis Jenssen and Heather Jackson

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