I am working now with Autumn Von Plinsky, a recent Yale Art School grad, on this project and this week we got another type of leaf produced, a maple leaf.
There are still some problems, but there is a lot that is working well. First, the problems: The detail of the leaf is compromised by the printed fabric, but only if it is adhered to the bottom of the leaf, and also by the wax coating. This method sacrifices some of the surface detail of the veins and subtle texture of the leaf for a strong graphic quality. The excellent surface detail is typically why leaves are vacuformed in the first place. Another concern is the quality of the ink used in the printing process. How colorfast will they be? This will have to be researched before any of the new leaves are placed permanently into the dioramas. The selling point of this method is that it is fast, there is no need to paint detail, which in this case could take hours, and the leaves are strongly translucent.
I have yet to put these leaves into the diorama, but I think they will read well and the graphic quality will carry them. Ideally, we might be able to develop this to get both the texture and the graphic qualities.
Autumn found out that one of the graduate students in the Yale Graphics Program is printing on acetate and vacuforming over three-dimensional objects. There is going to be a presentation about this method on Nov 8th. We will be attending with the hope that we might be able to use this process to vacuform printed acetate leaves on our plaster leaf molds. If this works we might be able to achieve a leaf that is quick to make and has the subtle texture of a real leaf.