Photography: James Baigrie
Source: Martha Stewart Kids, Special Issue 2003
Lovely leaf collages help smooth the transition from lazy summer days outdoors to life among the ABCs. Step outside and you'll find a palette of greens, reds, purples, and golds at your feet. Pick up a leaf and try to imagine what it could become--a butterfly wing, a flickering deer tail? Or think of leaves as nature's tissue paper, and cut them into appealing shapes before arranging them on a card or poster. Alphabet leaf collages make excellent classroom projects; the letters divvy up nicely so that each student can have one to illustrate.
Glue stick, white glue, or rubber cement
Collect leaves, avoiding ones with any mold or rot. Lay leaves flat between phone-book pages or layers of newspaper, then weight them with something heavy. Allow one to two weeks to fully flatten and dry. If you live in an area without many leaves (or want to enhance your collection), you can buy them online already pressed.
Arrange leaves on a page of heavy paper. Experiment with combinations of colors and shapes. If you are stumped by a letter of the alphabet, look in the dictionary for words to illustrate. Embellish leaves by cutting notches for parts like mouths, tails, and fins. From spare leaves, cut out details like eyes, wheels, hats, etc.
Glue leaves into place with glue stick or white glue (kids older than 12 can safely use rubber cement). Lay a clean sheet of paper on top of glued leaves and rub gently to smooth and flatten. Carefully remove the top sheet.
Label the artwork. An adult can use a pencil to sketch in guidelines for the letters and the word; a kid can then write them in ink. When it is complete, try to keep the artwork flat, because pressed leaves can be brittle. Display collages on a bulletin board or wall. If this is a class project, you can make a color photocopy of everyone's finished work and collect the pages to make a big alphabet book.