Fabricating plants for the Wetlands and Waterways diorama

The fabrication of plants plays a major role in making most dioramas look as realistic as possible. Sometimes you can find good representations of plants through artificial plant companies. But most of the time  you will have to make modifications to some part of the plant depending on the particular requirements of your diorama. In other cases where no artificial specimen is available, you will have to make the plant from scratch. Although we are employing several techniques for the diorama in the Cahokia Mounds exhibit, “Wetlands and Waterways: The Key to Cahokia”, we are having some success with a method that diorama artist, Gary Hoyle, mentioned in his blog. He suggested making plant leaves out of paper. So, we start by collecting specimens from nature. We then scan multiple leaf types from each specimen. I scan the top side and then make a copy and flip and lighten the image for the underside.  I apply positional mounting adhesive (PMA) to one side. Then before I line up the other side, I insert a wire down the middle of each leaf to attach to the main stem. 

The other problem we had to solve was the issue of aging. Since paper tends to yellow and dye inks tend to fade over time, we’ve had to use paper and inks that are archival quality. Epson makes several lines of printers that use pigment inks which have been tested to last for decades without fading. Epson also makes a line of Fine Art papers that are acid-free and made of 100% cotton. They come in smooth or textured and bright white or natural. We are still experimenting to determine which papers work best for each leaf type. Dioramas will always be labor-inntensive endeavors, but the level of realism and the longevity achieved with this method, makes it a viable option to other plant fabrication techniques.  

IMG 1865

Artificial milkweed Leaves 

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