Finding the Path…of Leaves

Aurora, from the leaf team, here. I never got around to talking about our process for creating the leaf path, so here goes. By design, the leaves needed to cover a a large swath of ground in an attractive way, lead visitors through the habitat, and allow young visitors an opportunity for safe interaction. To achieve these ends, the leaves took two different forms: a ground cloth fixed in place and individual loose leaves. Both of these elements needed to glow under black light.

The Finished Installation

My teammate and I knew from the beginning that time, durability, and cost of materials would be major constraints. As much as we would have liked to use real leaves for the loose leaves, we knew they weren’t practical. Laser cutting our own leaves from heavy card stock proved to be an advantageous solution. We could create shapes that mimicked those of the real leaves on site; they would move and rustle similarly to real leaves, and they would eventually biodegrade if they manages to escape our installation.

Our First Sheet of laser Cut Leaves
Testing The Glow of Different Pa

After much thought and testing, we settled on a layered approach to creating the ground cloth. The under layer, a plastic construction fencing, would provide stability and durability without retaining or trapping water. The upper layer, a perforated blue camouflage cloth, would give dimension when expanded and glow under the black light. I came up with the idea of attaching to two layers to each other with a tagging gun, the kind used to affix price tags to clothing.

Construction Fencing
Our First Test

The area underneath the nest structure proved to be its own unique challenge. Our original idea had been to fill that entire space with loose leaves ankle deep, but we could afford neither the time nor the materials to create so many leaves. The groundcloth from outside the nest, wasn’t quite right either; it just wasn’t strong or flat enough to to be a good walking surface in such a high traffic area. What, I thought, if we turned it upside down? That would solve the durability problem, but didn’t look all that great. We changed out the construction fencing for a garden fencing with a more screen like appearance. That did the trick.

It works!