Big Ceramic Store Blog

Using Leaves to Decorate Pottery

Fall is in full swing, and we've been receiving a lot of questions about whether or not leaves could be used to make impressions in clay. Leaves are used in pottery all the time, but we have a few tips that might make the process easier.

Thick leaves with deep veins make the best patterns. Otherwise you don't get much texture and it just gets filled in by the glaze.

Some people find artificial leaves actually make better impressions because they are thicker, and sturdy so they can be used again and again.

If you use live ones, it works best if they are still green (not dry), so they don't crumble. Soak them in water overnight to make them more pliable.

Leaf Decorated Pottery

A couple ways to save leaves for later use:

  • Paint both sides with shellac.
  • Place them flat in airtight plastic bags and put in the refrigerator or freezer.

If you have trouble getting the leaf out of the clay once you've pressed it in, use a pin or needle tool to pry up a side. Or you can actually leave (no pun intended) them in and they'll just burn out in the kiln.

If you get a pattern that isn't very deep and you want it to be more noticeable, there are a couple things you can do with glaze to make the pattern more noticeable.

  • Use a transparent glaze so it pools thicker where your impression is, and it will be darker where it pools.
  • Brush on a stain or oxide, then wipe off the top surface, leaving it only in the impression. Then cover with a transparent glaze.
  • Brush some texturizer onto the leaf impression. Wipe off the high surfaces, leaving the texturizer only in the impressed portions. Dip the whole piece in glaze. You will get a different texture where the leaf pattern was.

You can also use leaves as masking, painting underglaze or glaze around the leaf.

  • On leather-hard ware, we've found it works best to soak the leaf in water, then stick it on. Paint around it with slip or underglaze.
  • On bisque it is difficult to get the leaf to stick well so you can paint a good edge. You can apply the leaf with a thin layer of glue; sticky spray adhesive works well. Then carefully stick it to the bisque and paint. The leaf and the adhesive will burn away in the kiln. Be sure to have good ventilation for this.


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