As with everything, Valentine's Day is what you make it. Red roses, heart shaped chocolates, 8pm dinner reservations, and/or rigid patriarchal definitions of what constitutes "romance" not your thing? We get that. And. As deep believers that every human is deserving of love and that people should tell everyone who they love that they love them whenever the opportunity presents itself, we are actually quite fond of Valentine's Day. The opportunity is presenting itself!
In the arc of Valentine's tradition we've had our fill of store-bought cardboard valentines, piles of waxy not-so-functional heart-shaped erasers, chalky-yet-oddly-compelling candy hearts (that now say things like TEXT U L8R), and loads of purchased plastic that is destined, almost immediately, for the garbage... we think there's a better way.
Whether there are 27-to-be-confirmed-complete-and-ready-to-be-delivered-to-school-on-or-before-the-14th on the global household to-do radar or you're simply looking for a something sweet to do with your hands that results in a delightful little offering that's just waiting to be tucked into baked goods or love notes, these easy peasy Magnolia Leaf Hearts are just the ticket.
If, like our wordsmith Susannah, you happen to live in a place where magnolia trees are evergreen (hardiness zone ~6a or higher depending on the varietal), making these is as easy as walking down the street to the nearest magnolia and picking up a bunch of still-green leaves off of the ground.
If you don't happen to have this kind of access to, you know, "trees with leaves still on them in the winter", you can often find magnolia leaves in leftover holiday garlands and this is an ideal next chapter for them! Keep in mind that the drier the leaves, the more brittle they will be.
Magnolia leaves are beautiful on their own. Freshly picked, one side is a dark glossy green and and the other side is a rich fawn gold, velvety to the touch. They are supple and feel rich, the fronts feeling almost like patent leather in the hand. As they dry out they lose their green sheen and become a tawny ochre brown on both sides, still beautiful, but the leaf itself is a little more delicate.
To make the leaves into the heart shape, it's as easy as cutting the tops off. If your leaf is still green, you can fold the leaf in half along the center stem, cut a single rounded lobe off of the top, and unfold. If your leaves are drier, just start at the widest part of the leaf on the side and cut a rounded arch up and back down to the center, woop-boop on both sides.
Once you have your heart shape, get out your paints. Of course, we love Beam Paints' indigenous-led and ethically hand-crafted watercolors and their luscious pigments practically sing on the mattifying texture of the back of these leaves. If you are an *artiste*, the velvety leaf back is definitely a surprisingly suitable canvas for a miniature masterpiece with representational detail and iconography. If you're more of an "artist" in the sense that your artistry is decidedly not in italics with *stars* around it and you occasionally feel the need to put it in quotation marks (even though ALL artistic practice is valid hmph) and/or you are 3+ years old, a rich color wash, playing with water, saturation, and the hues and palettes of your choosing ends up being as subtly beautiful as it is fun to experiment with.
Once you have painted all of the leaf hearts your own heart desires, put them on a flat tray out of the way to dry. Once they're dry you can write directly on the back in ink pen or sharpie if you so desire, or tie a TO/FROM note around the stem with twine, or leave them just as-is and tuck them wherever anyone would benefit from a little heart. Place settings, gift tags, bouquet labels, heart-notes for the whole class- with zero plastic waste on the back end...these can be whatever you need them to be.
Of course, if you don't have magnolia leaves, this cut-and-paint "method" also works with plain old paper—we are especially partial to both the texture of the brown paper we use to pack our orders and the feel-good waste-not, want-not vibe of repurposing it.
If you would like any of that particular paper, it's as easy as placing an order ;)