My goal for this project was to explore methods of working with leaves and pine cones in ways that the natural patterns were utilized and respected. I also wanted to focus on altering these materials in a way that could be reversed so that they could be returned to nature.
I began by sewing leaves together using organic cotton thread and a tapestry needle. I found success was possible with rigid, waxy leaves once they had been pressed.
My approach to stitching was to integrate stitches into the natural lines of the leaves. I love the way this allowed me to experiment with different types of leaves and play with contrast between textures and colors, while still respecting the individual shapes.
Later in the project I used conductive thread to sew leaves in order to build a circuit for LEDs. Although I did not have a successful finished project with conductive thread and working LEDs, it proved an interesting avenue for future development.
For these leaves, I used a laser cutter to print rasterized graphics into leaves. I found that playing with the power settings allowed me to achieve different textures and effects in my designs.
I engraved a raster image of a shell onto the these three leaves.
My favorite results came from making multiple passes. I found that printing at low power dried the flesh of the leave without removing it, then printing again over the same area burned away the dry matterial. This method was effective in removing the green flesh of the leaf, leaving behind the vein structure.
I found this method worked extremely well for text as it allowed the veins of the leave to hold the words together.
During the project I also developed a method of incorporating LEDs into pine cones. I enjoy the aesthetic effect of this as it creates a unique housing that is decorative and sustainable. I made multiple iterations of the pine cone, using different styles of LEDs and wrapping methods. I had the most success wrapping conductive thread through the natural structure of the pine cone, after I had soaked it in warm water, This allowed the thread to embed in the cone and allowed for more invisible circuitry. I found working with the pattern of the pine cone made really convenient avenues for the thread.
After wrapping and connecting an RGB LED inside the pine cone, I connected it to a Sparkfun soil moisture sensor and mapped the readings from the sensor to colors displayed by the pine cone. The video of the prototype can be seen here: Moisture Sensor Prototype and my code for the project can be found here: Github.
Here is the final assembly. The led is green, indicating the plant is properly watered.
If I were to continue developing this project, I think I would like to sew laser cut leaves together with normal leaves and connect LEDs at their intersections with conductive thread. Going even further, I would also like to sew in sensors and have the LEDs respond to the sensor input. I'd also like to find a method of preserving these leaves, so their color and shape stay the same.