Oh decisions decisions, even when it comes to finishing our concrete! Let's take a close…
Wouldn’t you love to capture nature’s amazing details permanently!? My unique DIY method of Leaf Cast Concrete bowls is like no other as they are beautifully two sided! Mother Nature & I will help…
The Leaves to use:
I’m lucky enough to have access to my garden for leaves but don’t worry if you can’t access one. Since I am ‘a crazy leaf lady’ I am always looking and have also noticed amazing texture at the grocery store! Yup, have you ever looked closely at the savoy cabbage or other strong leaf varieties? That is how I made my ‘Gigantic Leaf Orb’. Last summer I had an abundance of hostas and also rhubarb so they work great. Look for leaves with a fairly simple outside edge shape and good definition of the veins. I have even resorted to the roadsides here in canada for very large weed leaves.
Just do not forget that since you are making two sided concrete leaves you will need pairs of about the same sizes. Some leaves are very wavy and that will make it a bit more challenge but can still be done.
The Concrete Mix:
As you may know I do have a favourite mix that I have gotten used to; Rapidset Cementall. It is a very fast setting concrete mix that also has a lot of strength for thin thickness. I have also used the Quikrete version when I made my Gigantic Leaf Orb. It behaved very much the same but a bit darker in final colour. If in doubt read the specifications and look for fast setting and no aggregate in the mix. Warm temperatures will effect work time as well.
Work small quantities that will used right away. There are some tips here if you have never used concrete before. If you plan it really is not as messy as it sounds.
How to get the Shapes:
You can decide how much of a curve you want for your ‘bowl’ by using whatever curved surface you like. I know some will mound up damp sand as it will be quite versatile. I used some of the orb-like shapes I had already like the basketball half and my silicone orb mold I made. Have them close at hand for when you need them.
Mixing the Concrete:
I use a small flexible up-cycled sour cream container to mix enough for one leaf. It is a bit of guesswork until you get used to guessing the amount, You could have a small leaf ready in case you have extra…
This specific mix uses much less water than most so they suggest starting with the water. I do not, but just make I add very slowly. I do not have recipe as measuring would be tedious and can be effected by too many variables. Mix until a thin sour cream consistency. Wait a couple minutes and it will be much less runny. The mix should not run away when plopped on the backside of the leaf and keep on a flat surface.
Spread the mix across the leaf to about 1/2″ from the edges.
Take your matching size leaf and place on top,
Gently smooth out the leaf to get contact with all the parts of the top leaf. The concrete will be slightly starting to set so work quickly.
Grab the leaf and quickly flip it without losing the mix in between the 2 leaves; sort of like flipping a pancake.
Again gentle patting and smoothing the mix in between to get any air out.
Pick up this ‘leaf sandwich’ and drape over the shape you want to use as the form. I like to let the leaf keep some of it’s character ad not force it to be such an artificial shape.
Once draped over you can again gently smooth the mix to be uniform in thickness and also define the edges. Clean up with a tool like a brush or knife of you find it falling out.
After curing which takes about an hour (love that!) you can start to pull off the leaf. I have never had a leaf ‘stick’ so I do not use any release agent. It will take some work to get all the leaf veins out, depending on the type of leaf. The rhubarb leaves have very deep centre veins so be careful the leaf is not too thin down the middle. It may take a couple leaves to get the hang of it. If you have made stepping stones you will understand.
It is fun & tediously satisfying to pull those threads of vein out! You can leave them to dry out to make it easier as well.
I have found some dental tools at a local hardware store that work great to pull out the fibres.
Since the leaf ‘sandwiches’ keep some of their shape I stack them on each other.
Concrete loves to cure slowly in damp conditions so after cleaning I like to soak them in water. The alkalinity will also leach out a bit.
Isn’t it wonderful how each leaf has it’s own character!? Mother Nature is so wonderful in that way. The Hosta plants have long lines whereas the Rhubarb has so much details.
Some of the leaves have wide stems so giving the overall shape consideration makes for a nice final profile. Yes concrete looks just fine as is but just wait to see how these can be finished.
I have been working with nature’s leaves in many ways for years and I never tire of how amazing details they have. ‘AND the best thing is these bowls are that they do have that ‘ugly’ concrete on one side, they are great on both sides! I hope I have inspired you to make some… or at least to get out and look at some.
To see how to get this great way to paint your finished leaves see this packed post! It’s easy, trust me.