The Importance of Working with Natural Art Materials

The sight of auburn leaves against a crisp blue sky and smells of autumn are enough to make any New Yorker want to craft with nature’s finest art materials. Inside your home, you may be stocked up on glitter, pipe cleaners, and pompoms – only to find your children enjoy building rock piles, picking flowers, and collecting acorns just as well. At Shine, nature-inspired, naturally-sourced art materials are among our favorite camp projects. Continue reading to learn how to invite more natural beauty into your lives and get inspired by fall art ideas.

Why We Love Crafting with Nature

  • Materials are readily available. You don’t have to drive to the store to start an art project. You need only go into the backyard or to a local forage-friendly park to find nearly everything you need. Kids often become inspired on a whim, so the availability of natural art materials is an obvious bonus.
  • Art materials are free of charge. Mother Nature gives to us freely. It’s all too easy to spend more than $100 in a craft store. The materials you use may not last forever, but snapping a photo for posterity is all it takes to have those memories last a lifetime.
  • Natural art materials are ecofriendly. Glue and paint contain a lot of nasty chemicals. Most glitter and tape are nonbiodegradable. The production of art materials leads to greater CO2 emissions, global warming, and transportation-related pollution. All of this can be avoided with the use of nature’s art materials. By having your kids create using nature’s finest offerings, you are raising a next-generation conservationist.
  • The supplies are versatile. While it can be nice to experiment with an all-in-one craft kit, there are limitations to the projects you can ultimately make. On the other hand, there is an endless range of crafts that can be made using items like acorns, feathers, flowers, leaves, mud, nuts, pinecones, rocks, sand, shells, sticks, and twigs.
  • Nature evokes creativity. Henry David Thoreau once said, “It is the marriage of the soul with nature that makes the intellect fruitful, and gives birth to imagination.” The mind blossoms when it has to seek out something round for eyes, rather than relying on a generic set of store-bought Googly-eyes. It takes creative problem-solving to get the leaf to stick onto a rock without glue.
  • It’s a healthier way to create. Sourcing from nature forces us outdoors. We could all use a bit of sunlight and fresh air this time of year. Grab a sweater and your favorite basket to start collecting a bin of materials you can use today or during the winter.

Natural Alternatives To Common Craft Materials

Consider replacing some of your most commonly-used craft supplies with natural ingredients:

  • Paper – Leaves, bark, rocks, sidewalk
  • Popsicle Sticks – Sticks from trees
  • Pipe Cleaners – Flexible plant stems
  • Beads – Shells or acorns
  • Paint – Clay, berries, vegetable dye, or crushed flowers mixed with water
  • Ribbons – Long grass or plant leaves
  • Googly Eyes – Spotty leaves and a hole puncher
  • Buttons – Branch slices with two holes drilled
  • Glitter – Red bottlebrush flower, Lilly Pilly flowers, mica

Easy, Nature-Inspired Fall Crafts To Try Today

Fall is the perfect time to enjoy these leaf-based arts and crafts:

  • Leaf Butterflies: Use a stick as the body and leaves as the wings, with marker detailing.
  • Leaf Stained Glass: Draw on contact paper, stick leaves overtop, and press to window.
  • Leaf Zoo: Different shape leaves can be made into a whimsical elephant, fox, or parrot.
  • Leaf Fox Faces: Leaves lend themselves to make the perfect fox ornament or magnet.
  • Leaf Prints: Use nature’s stamper; dip leaves into paint and press onto a surface.
  • Leaf People: Rocks, twigs, flowers, leaves, acorns, and whatever you find come to life.
  • Leaf Garland: Dip leaves in wax and string across a doorway for festive décor.
  • Mason Jar Leaf Lanterns: A flameless tea candle and leaf jar is the perfect nightlight.
  • Leaf Crown: Fasten leaves into crowns with staples, floral wire and tape, or string/hole.
  • Pinecone Leaf Turkey: Gear up for Thanksgiving with this great place-setting craft.

If necessary, you can preserve leaves using glycerin or wax paper for better longevity.

Check out our Pinterest board for more fall craft ideas, from Bark Owls to Pumpkin Seed Trees. If you live in the NYC/East End, you can also contact Shine to enroll in one of our classes, workshops, or parties, where you’ll find all the materials and instructions needed to make beautiful natural crafts.

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