Leaves All Around – Art Quilt Embellishments

Enameled metal teal and white leaf

Enameled metal teal and white leaf

Nancy Smeltzer, MFA

Here on the East Coast of the States, the leaves are starting to turn and fall. I thought I would show you how I’ve used some costume jewelry leaves as art quilt embellishments.

For some reason, leaves seem to be a popular shape for use in jewelry. In this detail shot, you can see a teal and white enameled metal leaf. I love the way that the teal color fades out to white, just as real leaves lose their color in the Fall. On a live leaf, the color usually remains next to the midrib, just as in this metal pin. The gold midrib and edges of the leaf pick up gold motifs scattered nearby, tying the composition together.

Gold metal leaf pin

Gold metal leaf pin

In this second pin, all in gold, the leaves have beautifully curled edges. There are  faint outlines of tiny veins in the larger sections of the leaf, while the larger veins are hidden in the folds. Perhaps this was meant to be a maple leaf, but it’s hard to tell as the shape is rather distorted. This is true, however, in nature, as few leaves, even on the same tree are exactly alike. This pin was one of my mother’s that I got after she died, and I don’t know when or on what she wore it. The glass “cathedral window” button in the lower rights seems to light up the leaf, and I like the way they look next to each other.

Stylized gold metal pin

Stylized gold metal pin

This last leaf pin is another that was my mother’s. It’s rather stylized, and seems to focus more on the veins of a leaf than on a whole leaf. It could be a conifer, or a branch from a tree that has needles, but the ribs seem too big to be from that kind of tree. I do like the spaces in it, because it allows you to see some of the fabric below (which was also from a blouse of my mother’s). A gold wreath off to the far right I use a lot, as they’re the circles from my signature “bead”, a hummingbird. The wreaths are the circles that the birds go through to attach the two ends of a necklace, but since the bird toggle has a shank, I use it as a button. (Wait for the link to load if it’s slow).

These costume jewelry pins usually have a pin that fits into a circle at the other end. When you rotate the circle, the pin stays locked in place on an outfit. However, because these art quilts get folded and unfolded a lot, the pins come undone if I don’t do the following. I thread the connecting pin up through the three layers of the quilt and put it in the circle and spin it. I then take small pliers and crimp the circle so that it can never be opened again. Then I stitch up and around each end of pin several times, securing it on to the surface of the quilt.

Leaves have been a popular adornment, from the laurel leaf wreaths given to winners of athletic events in ancient Greece to the present day as part of wedding tiaras and tattoos. Even though modern man is often pretty detached from daily contact with nature, leaf designs can help connect us with our ancient roots.

Do you have a favorite natural objects and how have you used them in your work?

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