THIS EFFECT IS BASED ON the Victorian technique of “fernwork,” the fashion of stippling onto bare wood using an arrangement of leaves as natural stencils. When the leaf shapes are removed, their silhouettes reveal the wood beneath.
We recreate this look here in a style that is both delicate and striking, using colors that result in an ambiance ideal for kitchens lacking in warmth or character. Our design is based on the attractive vine shaped leaves of Parthenocissus, or Virginia creeper, which
lend themselves perfectly to this treatment. We have used a bare, sanded oak door, warmed up first with a honey-colored polish, and finished with tawny and
chestnut glazes. Different leaf shapes can be used; delicate and frond-like leaves tend to give the most pleasing effect.
This technique works best on bare, sanded, solid woods, such as oak or pine, but it can also be applied on painted wood, fiberboard, melamine, vinyl, or laminate surfaces, although these will have less of a natural “woodsy” appearance when finished. Prepare the surface following the instructions on pages 6-9. A few days prior to beginning, collect the leaves you intend to use and press them between the pages of a magazine or newspaper, weighted down under several books or other heavy, flat objects. Sand the door well, using fine-grade sandpaper.
2. MIXING THE GLAZES
Just before you start, mix up a warm chestnut glaze and a lighter, tawny glaze as follows. Pour 4 tsp (20 ml) of acrylic glazing liquid and 2 tsp ( 10 ml) of water into each of two separate paint pails. To make the chestnut glaze, add several drops of burnt sienna and raw umber; for the tawny glaze, add a few drops of yellow ocher, and some burnt sienna and raw umber. Stir the glazes well, ensuring that the colorant is fully dispersed.
3. SEALING THE WOOD
Using a varnish brush, carefully apply a coat of button polish shellac, or white shellac tinted golden brown, over the door’s entire surface. Use long, even brushstrokes, letting the
polish “glide” over the surface. Take care not to overwork anyone area shellac is fast-drying, and quickly becomes tacky, so over brushing will result in a rough, sticky surface. The polish seals the wood and adds a warm tone that suits this design. When fully dry, use fine-grade sandpaper to rub down any grain raised by the shellac. Brush or wipe away the sanding dust.
4. CREATING THE DESIGN
Carefully remove the leaves, which should now be completely flat, from their makeshift press. Lay them out on the door in an arrangement you like. We used whole leaves of varying sizes for the central panel.
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- WATER-BASED UNIVERSAL T INTERS: BURNT SIENNA,
- RAW UMBER , YELLOW OCHER
- R ED ARTISTS’ ACRYLIC PAINT
- 2 VARNISH BRUSHES
- 2 STENCIL BRUSH ES
- 3 FINE ARTISTS’ SABLE BRUSH ES
- S ELECTION OF LEAVES
- MAGAZINE DR NEWSPAPER
- SEVERAL BOOKS DR OTHER HEAVY, FLAT OBJECTS
- 2 PAINT PAILS
- L OW-TACK SPRAY ADHESIVE
- PAPER TOWEL
- 2 ELASTIC BANDS
- C RAFT KNIFE
- FINE-GRADE SANDPAPER
- ACRYLIC G LAZING LIQUID
- BUTTON POLISH SHELLAC, DR WHITE SHELLAC TINTED
- WITH BURNT SIENNA, YELLOW O C H E R , AND RAW
- UMBER TO PRODUCE A GOLDEN BROWN
- SEMI-GLOSS ACRYLIC DR O IL- BASED VARNISH and broke off single leaflets
for the outer panel.
5. FIXING THE LEAVES
Remove a few leaves from a small section of the door.
Spray them lightly with low-tack spray adhesive, and smooth each leaf back into position on the door.
Move on to the next section, and continue carefully like this until all the leaves have then stuck down in position on the door.
6. STIPPLING ON THE GLAZES
Pour some of each glaze into separate saucers.
Dip a dry stencil brush into the chestnut glaze, wiping off any excess on a paper towel. Wrap an elastic band around the base of the bristles for more control.
Stipple-dabbing the brush onto the surface- the chestnut glaze around the leaves in the central panel, until the wood is covered.
Do the same using the tawny glaze around the leaves on the outer panel.
7. REMOVING THE LEAVES
As soon as all areas of the wood have been stippled, you can begin removing the leaves. Using a fingernail, or the pointed
end of a craft knife, carefully pull up the tip of each leaf. then peel it back. If any leaves appear to be stuck, do not spend too long trying to remove them-peel off the remaining ones, then go back to the difficult ones and use a craft knife to lift or scrape them away.
TIPS: Leaves that cannot be removed with a craft knife will
loosen when dabbed with a cotton swab soaked in whatever
solvent is recommended on the spray adhesive’s label. Take
care not to disturb the surrounding glaze.
Any leaf shapes that appear blurred can now be touched up; use a fine artists’ sable brush to paint in the missing detail with the appropriate glaze. Next, mix red artists’ acrylic
paint with some chestnut glaze, and paint in the rim between the central panel and the outer panel. Allow to dry fully.
TRADE SECRETS: You may decide to hand-paint some detail, but resist the temptation to paint in the leaf veins. Doing so will make the design look fussy, and detract from the simplicity if
Apply another coat of button polish shellac, or white shellac tinted golden brown, gliding it onto the door surface without over working it. Once this has dried, you may need to sand the door lightly with fine-grade sandpaper for a completely smooth surface. Brush or vacuum away excess dust. Finish by varnishing with three coats of semi-gloss acrylic or oil-based varnish, allowing each coat to dry thoroughly before applying the next. If using oil-based varnish, sand lightly between coats.