On February 15th, 1965, the modern Canadian flag, baring the iconic red maple leaf, was official raised in Canada. Today, it is hard to think of Canada without thinking about the red maple leaf symbol. It is often believed that the red sugar maple leaf gained popularity due to the importance of the maple tree in Canada’s economy. Actually, red maples are found only in eastern Canada and not throughout the country. There are many possible explanations for its popularity, but whatever the reason, it has become the Canada’s symbol throughout the world. Not only can the maple leaf be found on Canadian flags, but on coins, military emblems, and stamps. Many Canadian businesses and leisure teams also use the words, maple leaves, in their names to celebrate their Canadian heritage. Now, learn how to make a Clay Maple Leaf out of maple leaves and air drying clay.
Clay Maple Leaf Craft Materials
- Paper Clay or other Air Drying Clay
- waxed paper
- Real maple leaves, silk maple leaves or maple leaf pattern
- pointy knife
- water color paints
- sealer like Liquitex Gloss Medium or Mod Podge
- emery board or fine sandpaper (optional)
Directions for Clay Maple Leaf
Before beginning, collect some maple leaves. You need to pick leaves that have well defined veins, so they will be visible on the clay. Also, you need leaves that are supple. Dried leaves, even along the edge, will crumble when you need to push them into the clay. If you do not have them, you can use a silk maple leaf. If you do not have those, make a copy of our Clay Maple Leaf PATTERN and cut out the leaves you wish to use.
Cut the paperclay into 8 pieces. Each maple leaf, depending on size, uses approximately 1 – 2 ounces of clay. Use 1 or 2 pieces of clay and place the rest in a Ziploc page so the clay does not begin to dry out.
Flatten the small piece of clay in our hands, then roll out between 2 pieces of waxed paper like a small pie crust. Note: If you are using the clay maple leaf pattern as your template, first crinkle the waxed paper to create lines. The lines will imprint into the clay and give a more authentic look to your dried leaves.
If using real maple leaves, place a leaf, back side down, on your clay. Using your fingertips, press the leaf into the clay so the veins on the leaf leave marks in the clay. If using the paper pattern, place a cut out maple leaf on the clay. (You will add vein markings to them later.)
Using a small paring knife, cut around the leaf, removing the extra clay.
Remove the leaf. If using a real maple leaf, the clay will have been imprinted with the leaf and is ready to dry.
If using the clay maple leaf pattern, leave the pattern on the leaf. Using a ball point pen or the tip of a small knitted needle, trace over the vein lines on the pattern to create indentations. Try to press hard without poking through the paper. If you do, however, when it comes time to paint, simply put a brown dot of paint on the hole. Real leaves are not perfect, so the holes will simply look like minor leaf blemishes! Remove paper.
If you would like to hang your leaves, either as pendants or perhaps as a garland, make a hole in the clay where you would like an opening to be. You must do this now, before the clay hardens. Also, if you would like your leaf to have a more natural look, instead of having them dry perfectly flat, set the leaf over another object to dry. We placed ours over small bowls and the rolling pin. Put waxed paper under them.
It will take 1 – 3 days to dry depending on how thick your clay is and humidity. Make sure the clay dries completely before painting.
If you would like, you can use an emery board or fine grid sandpaper to get rid of any major rough spots on the edges.
If you are making this project in the fall and have maple leaves in your area, collect a bunch of them for painting ideas. If not, look in books or go online and find photos of autumn maple leaves for inspiration. Using your watercolors, paint your leaves. When looking at natural leaves, you will notice most leaves have multiple colors and imperfections. Try different techniques to achieve pleasing results. Make sure to paint the back, too, although you do not need to add detail.
After the paint has dried use a sealer over the front and back of your leaves. Allow to dry completely before handling.
NOTE: Although all the materials we used are non-toxic, these aren’t meant to be played with. The clay is thin and can break if over handled.