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Rocky reef diorama


There is little more exciting than finding a grotto or cave in a rocky reef. It begs for one to uncover its mysteries.

This project centres around one of Australia's iconic fish, the Leafy Sea Dragon, Phycodurus eques.  This seahorse relative is a graceful creature who moves slowly and relies on their leafy appendages to camouflage them from discovery by predators. The Leafy Seadragon is also the state fish of South Australia and is found across the southern coastline of Australia. View the link here for more information.


Rocky reef diorama cont.


What you need:

  • A box of suitable size (the illustration above is a Kiwi fruit box from the local fruit shop)
  • A variety of seeds (some flat, and spinifex if possible),
  • Seed pods to represent small invertebrate animals (gum nuts come in wonderful different shapes)
  • Find plant leaves that look as if they could be seaweed -- be careful to remember that seaweeds are simpler organisms compared to flowering plants so avoid leaves with lots of veins (the illustration above shows banksia leaves - see link here) One common house plant, maiden hair fern is a good choice
  • Pressed red seaweeds (algae)
  • Scallop or oyster shells (clean) - your local fish monger may have some leftover shells they may be discarding
  • Old shim curtain or fabric suitable for stitchery
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Reference photos of Leafy Seadragons (do a Google search on Phycodurus eques images )
  • Paints
  • Needle, thread and scissors (if appropriate for age)
  • If your clothes drier produces sheets of lint, you will find that sometimes it comes out in interesting colours, and it is already clean!
  • Paper mache or paper making equipment
  • Clean second hand crocheted or knitted pot holder or scarf
  • Craft glue, glue gun


Rocky reef diorama cont


What to do:

  • Using the box, set up your diorama stage
  • Design how you want the final product to look
  • Create your stitchery image of the seadragon on the shim curtain using a sewing hoop - using wing shaped seeds, paint and embroidery threads
  • Remove finished seadragon and secure the fabric to the stage
  • Use pre-pressed seaweeds and other suitable dried and sealed leaves in your collage
  • Create the rocky outline of the grotto using recycled paper you prepared or simply use paper mache - don't forget to do the sandy bottom of the grotto
  • Fold dryer lint in shapes similar to what you might see for a  sponge
  • Do a Google search on ascidian images to see how you might use the knitted or crocheted pieces you have collected to demonstrate these animals (you may have to paint on the high points to get the colour depth you are looking for or poke colourful fabric loops up through the openings)
  • Place the knitted pieces and secure to the stage
  • Add sea urchins (nut clusters or spinifex) and incorporate other animals that you might find, sea stars, anemones
  • Using a glue gun add your re-purposed scallop or oyster shells in the correct places you might find them in this habitat

It is a little hard to evaluate your work when you are so close to it. Periodically stand back from your composition to assess if it is balanced and interesting.

One valuable and important aspect of any successful work of art is whether it tells a story. What story does your piece tell?


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