The Great Fall Sun Catcher Project

Brenda makes an epoxy sun catcher with fall leaves

A lot of you watched this all go down on Instagram stories. It was quite the saga. I originally set out to make a fall-leaf sun catcher as a craft for alphamom  but it quickly became apparent that this wasn’t a project for kids or the crafter-lite™. No this was a serious commitment for seriously demented crafters like me. But you know what? It was a total blast! I will definitely do this again and again. And I’m going to share it all here for other serious deep-dive crafters like me.

What’s the secret to this wondrous project? Epoxy. Epoxy is magic! You can make so many things with it! Payam has been a fan for a long time but I’ve always been a bit afraid of it. #1 It smells toxic (However I did find a brand that isn’t so bad. See below). #2 It’s sticky. #3 It has a limited time window that you can work within. If you don’t get it right within that time frame you are out of luck. SOL! No pressure or anything!

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So here is what you need:

  • epoxy (I bought this brand – no respirator needed!)
  • a silicone pan* (I went with a circle because I was singing Harvest Moon the whole time.)
  • a silicone mat*
  • fall leaves
  • waxed string
  • popsicle sticks
  • latex gloves
  • translucent beads in fall colors
  • gold dust glitter

I thought I’d have trouble finding fall leaves in Southern California since we are “seasonally challenged” but I was amazed at all the pretty red eucalyptus leaves I found. They aren’t the bright reds and yellows that you find back east but I like to think they are just more subtle with their beauty.

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So pretty right? I’m going to have to keep doing more crafts with these gifts from nature. They are beautiful and they are FREE!

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Next I tied them to a bunch of strings. I had Bug act as a hand model because I am embarrassed of my motley grandma hands.

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After a few hours of stressing out about the mystical magical epoxy and reading all the small print I finally got up the guts to mix up my epoxy potion. It turns out it isn’t that stressful after all. You just empty one bottle and then the next one into your container. No measuring required. The trick is to mix thoroughly for a full three minutes. I may have only mixed my mixture for two point something minutes because the edges of my circle disc didn’t cure 100% and Payam had to come to my rescue with another coat from his shop stash of epoxy. But we’ll get into that later. Anyway, mix, mix, mix! Make sure you get that popsicle stick all over the place, especially the edges.

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Now the fun part: dipping! This was so exciting. The leaf goes into the epoxy mixture dull and comes out looking like a wet shiny jewel. It is truly amazing. I could do this step all day! It’s a bit messy though. It’s important to wear gloves because you get epoxy all over your hands and it doesn’t wash off that easily. In fact, you have better luck just wiping your fingers off with a paper towel and letting the rest wear off naturally. I know. Probably toxic and all that.

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After I dipped them I let the excess epoxy drip off onto a silicone mat. I added glitter at this point. Glitter was definitely not necessary, the leaves glittered just fine by themselves but who’s gonna stop the glitter-fairy? Not me!

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After all the leaves were dipped and set out to dry, I put some remaining leaves into the pan I was dipping in because that would be the round disc base for my sun catcher. I added glitter to that too, of course.

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After an hour or so of dripping onto the mat, the leaves started to get tacky so I lifted them gently off the mat and hung them on my hand dandy Daiso laundry hanger from their strings. A regular clothing line would work too. Just make sure you have some cardboard or paper below to catch any extra drips. You don’t really want to have to scrape epoxy off your floor. But if you do get some drips on your floor or table (like we did) just use a paint scraper and it will come off most surfaces.

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Now the waiting part. Curing took about two days. It was painful. I kept touching it and then instantly regretting touching it because it was still sticky and now I had sticky residue on my hand again that doesn’t wash off easily. But the end result is so worth the wait. I kept looking at how cool and wet it looked and found myself day-dreaming about all the other things I could possibly make. Dreamy!

This is also about when Payam put another layer of epoxy on for me because I had some sticky patches that just wouldn’t dry. Payam has industrial-strength (smelly) epoxy that sets up in way less time. I think it only takes a day to completely cure. I don’t really know the exact particulars on what he used but it was a lot more fussy with measuring 5 parts epoxy to 1 part hardener etc etc… You can ask him.  At the end of the day I had a nice hard disc that was nearly perfect. He sanded off the rough edges for me and then drilled holes where I asked him to.

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You can see that the disc was still a tiny bit flexible. I was actually thankful it was because I was worried it might shatter when it was drilled but Payam, who knows all things epoxy, assured me that it was easy to drill and wouldn’t crack or break at all. I’m still a newbie at this and was skeptical.

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But it worked and now it was time to assemble! Waxy string holder for the top. Waxy string leaf danglers for the bottoms with beads added for extra prettiness…. all good!

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I took it out to a tree to take photos and I thought about leaving it as an outdoor decoration but I was worried that the waxed string wouldn’t hold up to the weather long term so I moved it inside to my kitchen window. Yes, my windows are dirty. Payam is such a wonderful loving person that he actually went out and cleaned them for me but they still look dirty because we have hard water and the lyme residue would take hours to remove. I’m just not a perfectionist about stuff like that.

I prefer to dwell on other things, like my pretty sun catcher!

If you make one too drop me a line! I’d love to see what other people come up with. I’m thinking I might have to make a few for Christmas gifts…

*notates that you probably won’t want to use this for anything else besides non-food related crafts so invest accordingly.

Mermaid Shoot with Neil

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In the spirit of doing crazy photoshoots for fun, I did a thing with my friend, Neil, from New York the other day. You might know him from Citizen of the Month or Neilochka on Instagram. He’s an amazing artist who shoots street photography and really interesting portraits of friends. I was super excited to be on his list.

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When he proposed sitting on a chair in the ocean of course I said yes. What could be more perfect for me? I love the ocean! It’s been a huge part of my life living here by the beach. But I’m not your average beach-going bikini-wearing girl. Nah. I’m more like a business woman wearing a red dress, sitting on a bar stool while the rush of waves washes around me in foggy grays and greens. It could be a metaphor for so many things. Of course we didn’t really flesh out what it could mean. It’s left up for interpretation of course.

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First we met for coffee to catch up and hash out our ideas.  I tried to shoot some photos of Neil with some bags for my Love Your Baggage client. (I’m shooting everyone with these bags if you are interested. Gotta get the word out about how great jute bags are!) And then we headed off to the beach, bar stool in tow.

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We set the barstool as far out into the waves as we could go without getting wet and then I sat. It was a bit exciting as the pointy legs of the stool sunk into the wet sand unevenly and the waves washed all around me. I tilted this way and that, leaning forward and backward to keep my balance and desperately trying to suck in my belly fat at the same time.

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It was exhilarating! I love the waves. Sand and sea don’t bother me. I didn’t care if I got wet. I expected it.

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This is my favorite shot by far.

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This one seemed way cooler in my head.

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Poor Neil though. He got soaked. As is typical for a photographer, he sacrificed his shoes trying to get the shot. He was squatting down to get just the right angle and a big wave came up and soaked him. Thankfully this time of year the water is pretty nice. But sadly he had to walk around the rest of the day wet and sandy.

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Then since he was already wet I made him switch places with me so I could get a shot too.

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I think this would be a great avatar for him, don’t you?