September 14, 2016

Savour the fading beauty of those long summer months as we move into autumn with Mr Studio London’s guide to flower pressing. From heading out to your local park or forest to simply picking some flowers from your garden, brighten up your interiors this autumn with some pressed flowers. Over to you guys…

We are often asked why we like to work with pressed flowers, how we go about it and if we can share any tips for successful pressing. For us, making pressed flowers is not just about pressing flowers, there are many other elements to the process that make it a worthwhile activity. Going on walks through the forest, looking after, cultivating and watching our own plants grow, learning about new plants and the idiosyncrasies, characters and needs of each one; these are all really important and enjoyable parts for us. Picking and pressing is a small part of the process and one we only try to do in a sustainable and very selective way.

This by no means makes flower pressing a secret though! The accessibility of the process of pressing flowers was one of its biggest draws to us when we first started making work. It’s something that anyone can do at home with a few books, ideally some blotting paper, and enough time to let things dry. For us the beauty is that flower pressing is such a domestic activity and one of the easiest ways to find a connection to the immediate environment around your home.

We’re not really experts in flower pressing, we just found methods that worked for us and invested time exploring the natural environment close to where we live. The more we work with pressed flowers now the more inspiring it becomes to watch the seasons change and to document a passing of time around our home. We think it’s this connection to nature and our surroundings, especially living in a big city, that has become the most inspiring part of the work that we make.

Materials you will need:

-Any flowers, leaves or even weeds that you have found. I love using weeds and the sort of plants and flowers that you wouldn’t usually think of as pretty or appreciate. To me, if they successfully turn into something better or more beautiful than you were expecting that is a joy!

-A very heavy book, something like an encyclopedia.

-Newspaper: with each sheet folded twice to make it into A4 size

-Blotting paper: we use 315gsm blotting paper, so things may take longer to fully dry if using a thinner paper (you could always try doubling up a thinner paper). Cut to a slightly smaller size than the folded newspaper

-Two books: magazines, children’s illustration books etc something not too floppy, that is thick and hard enough would be perfect. It is good to use books that are the same or a slightly bigger size than the blotting paper size you will be using.

-Silica gel sachets if available

-A plastic bag that can fit all of the above apart from the ‘very heavy book’, preferably without holes

The method:

Step 1: Pick the flowers amd leaves that you want to press. I love this process; it’s a great way to feel the season. But if you pick any wild flowers/leaves please respect nature. I always pick only the amount that I actually use, no more.

Step 2: Try pressing them as soon as possible. Once you get all your flowers/leaves place a piece of blotting paper on a piece of folded newspaper and then lay the flowers/leaves on the blotting paper. As none of the flowers and leaves should overlap make sure that they have enough space between them.

Step 3: Carefully sandwich them with another piece of blotting paper & folded newspaper on top. If you have more flowers to press place another piece of blotting paper on this newspaper & repeat.

Step 4: When you finish placing all the flowers between blotting paper, carefully put this pile on a book. Sandwich the pile with another book. Keep this in a plastic bag with a pack of silica gel (if you have one) to help create a dry and stable atmosphere (you can leave out this part if you already have a dry environment to store everything). Rest a heavy book on top of everything and leave it for a week or so. I can understand that you would feel a craving to see how the flowers are doing, but for a beautiful result it’s best not to touch it until it’s ready as things are quite delicate before they fully dry!

Step 5: After a week, you can finally open it! But you still need to make sure that everything is completely dry. If it still feels moist, change the newspaper & add new silica gel if needed. Leave them in to dry for another week or so.

A few final tips:

We are often asked how to keep the flowers’ colours bright when turning them into pressed flowers. I think this ‘trick’ is the use of good blotting paper. Getting rid of the moisture from the flowers quickly is the most important thing in making the colours as fresh as possible. This is why it’s important to press as soon after picking as possible.

This is another popular question that I get asked: how to stick the pressed flowers on paper. Seriously, no tricks or anything special! I use PVA glue- only a small amount but spread over the entire area of the flower/leaf. You need to spread the glue very thinly.

One final thing after everything is stuck down is to varnish your flowers. This helps to protect what you have pressed from handling and also further sticks down any bits that might still be a bit loose after gluing. We use an acrylic matt varnish, this is non-yellowing and affects the flowers the least, you almost can’t tell it’s there!

There are U.V resistant sprays/varnishes that you can buy to reduce the speed pigments in the flowers will fade but you will have to spend a lot and build up many layers to have a noticeable effect. We tend to think more about how the flowers will be stored (keep out of direct sunlight!) and displayed. For example if framing you could consider using a U.V resistant glass to help preserve the colours. This will have a limiting effect on how light changes your work if that is important, although it won’t completely stop things fading. You might just as well embrace the change and delicacy of pressed flower making as part of its beauty and charm!

Happy pressing!

See an exhibition from Mr Studio London at Botany on Chatsworth Road until 9th October.