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The holly and the ivy

Back in the hazy days of summer, art teacher Sheila Calder began to think about Christmas

As an art and design teacher at Balerno High School, in Edinburgh, I run a lunchtime illustration class, from which the school Christmas card is chosen. Until now we have always used fairly conventional illustration techniques covering a variety of media. This year we decided to try something a little different.

In August we visited Malleny Gardens, a local National Trust for Scotland property. There we collected a variety of ivy leaves and searched under holly bushes to find the lacy skeletal remains of fallen leaves and took these treasures back to school.

The leaves were sandwiched between layers of newspaper and drawing boards, weighted with bags of clay and we left them to press for five weeks.

In the meantime, we collected scrap paper from the art department and school office shreder to recycle. We pulped and mixed it, squeezed the water out and flattened it into our own handmade paper.

By now the leaves were well pressed, so we gilded them with specialist gilding wax.

The pupils were good at organising themselves according to their skills. Some used mapping pens to create delicate drawings of the leaves, others scanned the drawings and altered them digitally on a computer. Those who were good at word processing wrote the messages, chose the fonts and planned the layouts for the inserts. We collected apt quotations from carols and Christmas rhymes to add.

Using a selection of fine card, we added to this our own creations, producing contemporary Christmas cards from a range of traditional and modern methods.

Each collage is individual, a miniature work of art, and the students learnt a lot about different production processes along the way.

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