During September’s Sunday Morning Art Market in Kenosha, a woman purchased some leaf earrings for her daughter, but she sighed and said that she wished that I had some in other colors. She thought that bright, autumn leaves would be perfect for the season. Now, she wasn’t wrong — and I’ll acknowledge that right off the bat — but, left to my own devices, I’d be just as happy with a variety of browns. You know… You have your chocolate brown and your deep brown and your golden brown and your cool brown… I mean, really. What’s not to like about brown?
Right. So. Fine. I decided to make leaves of several different colors and maybe even combine a few. The season is right for it, and I have a few shows coming up, so I’ll keep them inexpensive and hopefully find new homes for them. I just have one problem. I wasn’t really (only) held back by my personal taste. I use mica powders on my leaves, and I only have so many shades. I genuinely needed to go looking for warmer, redder shades of mica, and it took me a couple of weeks to get my grubby hands on some. It’s still quite muted, so I decided to play with the color and see how far I could stretch it without the colors clashing. Over the weekend, I made a few large earrings (in the style of my previous tutorial on the topic) and figured out where that line is. It leaves me with a base that looks like a burgundy leather, which is fine, I think, when we’re talking about autumn leaves. There certainly are redder leaves, but the color reads as fairly natural. Ultimately, I want to be happy with the finished product, so I will only stray so far.
Stretching the shades
Bearing in mind that the base color needs to be at least a little darker and/or more muted than the corresponding mica powders, I compare them as I blend the shades of clay.
I’ll walk you through my process. It’s the same method as for my previous leaf earrings, but all of the leaves are smaller. I’m using two shades of mica powder on each leaf and blending. I then bake them onto fairly small jump rings and allow to cool before assembly. In case you need a refresher or haven’t read my basic leaf earring post, I’m going to do a quick tutorial for the leaves. If you don’t need this tutorial, scroll down to the Assembly portion. You’ll need to make twelve leaves, two each of six different colors.
Plan your colors
You’ll need the standard non-porous work surfaces, needle tool, and tissue blade, but this is all about color. Each shade of clay will take two shades of mica, so consider your colors as a group. I started off using just one shade of red and no orange, but I chose to add in more of the warm tones later when I wanted brighter pops of color.
The cascade of leaves will require many circular jump rings (one per leaf), short lengths of chain, two larger rings (per pair), and several more jump rings (I recommend oval ones). You’ll also need ear wires and wire-working tools, of course. Select and condition your clay. If you are making enough leaves for several pairs of earrings, I recommend making them in batches and baking some while you sculpt others. In that case, you’ll want multiple oven-safe work surfaces/baking trays prepared.
Portion I — Making the leaves
This is just a quick run-through. For more detailed instructions, see my blog posts entitled “Turning Over a New Leaf” and “A Pair of New Leaves” from September.
Divide clay into small balls, roll into teardrop shapes, pinch the wide end of each to form stems, and flatten onto your work surface
Using a needle tool or similiar device, make the basic leaf markings about halfway into the clay
Add detail, thinning the leaves toward the edges
Apply 2 shades of mica powder to each leaf, putting the lighter shade near the tip and blending to the darker shade
Using a tissue blade or similar device, remove the leaves one at a time
Fold the stem portion of each leaf over a small jump ring and press the clay over it firmly
Check for any fingerprints or other marks and smooth out where necessary
Lay all of the finished leaves on an oven-safe surface and bake according to manufacturer’s instructions
If you are working in batches, repeat for all colors
Portion II — Assembly
I made two kinds of leaf cascades for this project, but the potential variations are almost endless.
Cut twelve lengths of medium-fine chain in six different lengths (I did two each of 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 13 links, but your choice will depend on the size and style of your chain.)
Divide your chains into two groups of six with one chain of each length for each earring (set aside one group)
Slide the first link of each of your six chains onto a large jump ring so that the chains hang down like a fringe
Using an additional jump ring, hang one leaf on the end of each dangling chain (It may take some trial and error to get them to all face the same direction.)
Connect the large jump ring to an ear wire
Repeat for the second earring
Cut two lengths of medium-large chain, preferably with twice as many links in it as you have leaves to hang on each earring (I used chains that were 12 links long and put 6 leaves on each)
Set one chain aside
Slide one end of the chain onto a large jump ring
Using oval jump rings, hang leaves from every other link on the chain, starting at the bottom and alternating side to side
Hang the final leaf next to the chain on the large jump ring
Connect the large jump ring to an ear wire
Repeat for second earring
I’ll be on the lookout for bolder shades of red mica powder, but this is just about as much color adventure as I have a taste for at the moment. Maybe some of you who read this will enjoy playing with color more than I do. If you try this out, please share your results with me. I’d love to see your fall color choices. Enjoy!