I kept on seeing things like this on Instagram and Pinterest etc. Looked really good but also very short on details of how it would actually work. So I thought I'd have a go myself, only this time take lots of photos and Instructable it. I must admit it was way harder than I thought and I made plenty of mistakes. But don't worry, I documented them all!
Step 1: Assemble Your Materials
First go and collect plenty of autumn (or fall) leaves. If you have children it's a great way to spend the afternoon. We had two approaches, the kids tended to gather huge piles and sort them out later, whereas I went for picking out the best leaves I could see on the ground. However you do it, you want complete leaves without holes or marks. I went for a nice range of colours and shapes too. Then press them between the pages of heavy books and leave them for a few days. When they're done, they should be dry like paper. Then, blow up a balloon and mark a straight line on it. Definitely go for pen, not masking tape. I think this lead to one of the big fails later on! Finally water down some PVA glue. We went for two tablespoons of glue to either two or three spoons of water. It was hard to get the consistency right - it either seemed so watery it ran off or the leaves wouldn't be flexible enough.
Step 2: Time to Get Messy
I tried various methods to make it work. Paint-brushing on glue., dipping and sluicing off excess and dabbing with two fingers. No matter what I tried there were problems. The leaves were so dripping in glue, it ran off and down the balloon. But at the same time the leaves were quite brittle and tended to try to lift up off the balloon. But in the end, we did the first layer with boring brown leaves as they'd be the inside of the bowl when it was finished.
Step 3: Bring in the Reinforcements
When I looked around the Internet most of the impressions were that the bowls were pretty but so weak they were best off as decorative items. I wasn't happy with this, and as I said in the previous step, the leaves were lifting slightly. So I thought I'd do a layer of traditional papier-mache as a core through the middle of the bowl. I had the advantage of adding some wet, heavy paper to hold down the curling leaves.
Step 4: The Outer Layer
For the outer layer, that would be most visible, I went full-Aspergers and sorted all the leaves by shape and colour. I then built up a rim of overlapping silver birch leaves first, then gradually worked my way around to the base. It was a very annoying job, too much glue and the leaves would slip off, too little and they'd lift up and curl.
Step 5: BANG!
Finally, after days of drying leaves, layering up leaves and glue and then waiting for those to dry, the boys finally got to burst the balloon. Remember how I said that I thought the masking tape was a bad idea? Well, if you look closely, the balloon stuck to the tape, and the leaves stuck and that kind of pulled the whole bowl inwards. I did use a glass bowl to weight it down and judiciously us a bit of PVA to stick odd leaves down.
Step 6: There Might Be Another Way
So, I was fed up with leaf bowls, but I also had a pile of wet leaves, and I'd already made a mess and had some PVA glue left over as well. I thought the time was right to see if there might be a better way to do things. I got an old takeaway container, covered it in cling-film, then leaves, then more cling-film, and finally topped it off wit ha second box that's designed to nest with it. It took longer to dry, and didn't work perfectly, but I think it might be the way forward. If I were to make another round bowl, I'd get two nesting bowls and go down this route. Again, it did unpeel and I did need to glue some back down, but so far it is holding some crystals on a windowsill.