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Instructor Diana Goings helps Salem resident Marcia Wallace build a solid base of sand underneath her leaf June 29. The sand bed will shape the final casting and give it a more realistic shape representative of the original leaf.
July 17, 2013
MONMOUTH -- When Diana Goings looks at a leaf, it likely won't take long before she flips it over to look at the back side.
To Goings, who teaches a concrete leaf casting workshop during the summer months at Dancing Oaks Nursery southwest of Monmouth, the hidden side of the leaf is the most interesting -- at least for making decorative garden sculptures.
"What we do is turn the leaf upside down and use the back side of the leaf as the mold for the sculpture," Goings said, explaining her method before a recent workshop. "I'm looking for leaves that have really deep veins and interesting textures on the back side."
The results show more than just a concrete outline of the shape and size of a leaf, but life-like detail.
Goings has developed her own style in the years since she took the workshop she now teaches at Dancing Oaks.
"I took a class the first year I started working here and as soon as I learned how to do it, I just kept going with it," she said. "I've been going with it for eight years now."
In those years, she no doubt passed on the garden sculpture bug to others, even encouraging people to branch out beyond leaves to other types of sculpture.
"You can make just about anything out of concrete," Goings said at the June 29 workshop. "You've got animal sculptures and outdoor seating. Anything you can think of, you can make it out of concrete."
It's leaves, though, that are the focus of the monthly workshops at Dancing Oaks.
Diana Goings' class observes as she demonstrates her method for casting leaves in concrete to create interesting and unique garden sculptures June 29. Goings teaches a monthly workshop on the topic at Dancing Oaks Nursery southwest of Monmouth during the summer.
The workshop filled fast and Goings had to make room for an extra person who drove from Salem, bringing the class to 15.
Attendees said they were impressed with the detail and colors Goings creates in her leaves.
"I always wanted to learn the different techniques on how to do it. I've never really had any training," Dallas resident Edie Rains said. "I've just seen an article in a magazine and have done some leaves at home. But I don't know how to get all the ruffles ... and the different ways they do it. This was a neat opportunity."
Just looking at the sculptures, which would seem as fitting on a coffee table as in a garden or greenhouse, the unfamiliar would think it took hours of painstaking effort to render such a precise duplication.
Really though, Goings' technique allows Mother Nature to do the hard part in designing the leaf. The rest requires sand, concrete mix, water -- and a creative imagination.
"We thought they just looked beautiful," said Monmouth resident Patty Ross, who took the class with her sister, Linda Ross, and their friend, Edie Rains.
"It really kind of captures the detail of the leaf," Linda Ross added. "It's different than regular pottery because you get the actual texture."
Linda jokingly referred to her own childhood attempts at casting leaves -- in mud.
"When I was a kid I always used to play in mud and take a maple leaf and stick it in there," Linda said. "When it dried, of course, it crumbled, but I always had big dreams that it would be bigger than that."
Linda may have been amazed to find she was at least on the right track with her experiments.
Every workshop participant gets the chance to make their own casting, using leaves that Goings has collected before the start of the activity to make the process easier.
After a brief introduction to the art form, Goings opened the class by having her students select a leaf from those she collected before the seminar.
Then, Goings demonstrated the process that requires people to play with sand to create a proper base.
"The sand bed is everything," she said.
Level sand beds are fine for flat leaves, but adding dimension requires a little more effort.
"If you want it to be curvy and have more personality, you have to do that with your sand," she said.
Once the base is built, the leaf is placed on the sand -- upside down -- and concrete molded over the top. Goings completes the entire process in about 20 minutes as the class watches.
"That's all there is to it," Goings said after placing the last bit of concrete on the leaf. "Then you go away and don't touch it."
When she says don't touch it, she's serious.
It takes about four weeks for the concrete to completely dry and then it's ready for display or painting. Goings' leaves feature highlights that take seven coats of paint to create, but she said people can be as detailed -- or not -- as they wish.
Marcia Wallace, who came from Salem to take the June class, said she will put the lesson to good use in the future.
"I've always wanted to make leaves for the backyard," she said.
Carefully following Goings' instructions, Wallace works through the process, making minor adjustments as she goes.
"I do a lot of ceramics and I enjoy learning new techniques," Wallace said as she worked on the first of what will be many leaves. "I want to have a whole backyard full of them. ... I find it very relaxing to work on things like this."
* The next concrete leaf casting workshop is Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Workshops will also take place in August and September.
The cost is $35 and all materials are provided. Preregistration is required for the class at Dancing Oaks Nursery, 17900 Priem Road, southwest of Monmouth near Pedee. Class size is limited.
For more information: 503-838-6058; www.dancingoaks.com; email to firstname.lastname@example.org.