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Ahead of our Holiday Artisan Fair 2017, we would like to introduce you to one of our local vendors, Margaret Dorfman for Turning Leaf Handmade. Margaret makes translucent vessels and jewelry from fresh fruit and vegetables.


Image Credit: Margaret Dorfman

Do you have a vegetable or fruit that is your favorite to work with, and why or why not?

That is a difficult question - like picking a favorite child! And each type of fruit and vegetable - I work with over 45 different varieties - is so different in structure, shape, color, and texture. That`s part of what makes my work so endlessly interesting; even after twenty years!

Here are a few I especially enjoy working with….

Bok Choy is reminiscent of marble with its dark and creamy white striations.

The subtle shading of the Mexican Papaya ranging from orange to flame -colored red always reminds me of a sunset.

Broccoli looks like a moss green miniature forest of tiny trees.

Beet has a rich glowing wine color with what looks like circular stitches.

Watermelon is a deep red contrasted by the shiny dark green rind.

Starfruit is a is shaped like a 6 pointed star.

Thai green papaya looks lot like green sea glass.

The rich saturated colors of red and yellow bell peppers have a texture like colored vinyl.

Snow pea is such a new spring green hue, and one can see the ghostly outlines of baby peas nestled inside the pod.


Image Credit: Margaret Dorfman

Why is it important to you that your business follows sustainable practices?

Because my work celebrates the natural world, it seems especially important that everything involved with making the vessels and jewelry be as green as possible, and equally as important, leave no imprint behind except the piece itself.

My studio uses reclaimed water and recyclable packaging. I don’t ever use anything toxic or hazardous in any part of my work- all glazes are soy based, and no chemicals or dyes are used in the making of the parchments. All components of my jewelry have been tested to ensure that they are lead, cadmium and mercury free, and all meet or exceed all California Prop 65 jewelry requirements.

Most of the vegetables I use are locally sourced from small farms and farmer’s markets. All leftovers are composted, recycled, or donated- often to the local zoo or Food Banks. 


How long does it take to create vegetable parchment and then transform it into jewelry or a vessel?

My work is made by hand, slice by slice, from over 40 different varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables that are cured, dried, pressed, and aged in a multi-step process. I came up with the term Fruit and Vegetable Parchment to describe my work because the texture and translucency calls to mind the vellum parchments of medieval Europe. 

My process is proprietary and takes 10 -14 days .What happens next depends on what I am making. For the Vegetable Parchment Vessels, translucent parchment sheets are then glazed with a sturdy, non toxic semi -gloss glaze and shaped into vessels.

They are allowed to dry for 4-5 days, each bowl assuming its own curves and folds like hand blown glass.

For the necklaces, cuffs, and earrings, the parchments are either fused to hand shaped copper, suspended from 24k gold over sterling clasps and chain, or folded by hand into blossoms and joined to gemstones and pearls.


What drives you to create?

When I found a way to hold and preserve fruit and vegetables at the height of their season, I was captivated by their beauty and complexity. I wanted to share what I saw with others: their intricate botanic structures, their luminous, jewel-like colors, and the incredible variation found in humble everyday produce

It is natural to disregard the beauty in the simple things we see every day- like fruit and vegetables. Because they are ubiquitous, they are easy to overlook. The vessels and jewelry allows us to see these commonplace wonders in a new light.


Image Credit: Margaret Dorfman