A TECHNIQUE DRIVEN Blog dedicated to mastery of surface design techniques. First we dye, overdye, paint, stitch, resist, tie, fold, silk screen, stamp, thermofax, batik, bejewel, stretch, shrink, sprinkle, Smooch, fuse, slice, dice, AND then we set it on fire using a variety of heat tools.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Real Thing

Have you ever used the actual plant in your artwork? Although dried plants may not be archival into the next century, there are times when I have used them as records, souvenirs, and art objects.
Years ago, I used my plant press to dry and store ferns, flowers, and leaves for my framed plant and paper collages that I sold at art fairs and from my studio. I see them occasionally in friends’ homes and I kept a few for myself, so I have kept track of their aging processes. The news is good – all have fared well, usually changing over time from their fresh green colors to rich golds and browns. I always posted information on the backs of the framed pieces to the effect that the dried plant material could be expected to transform beautifully.

Fern collage 12+ years after framing
In some cases, I used plants as evidence of place. A few years ago, I was in a group of several professional artists who worked with students at Paul Smiths College in the Adirondack Mountains to combine science and art for an exhibition called “Emerging Patterns.” The project examined forest succession and the related ecological processes. One artist collected lichens, bark, and other forest materials to dye fibers that became her weavings. Another artist created paintings while sitting at the site. My own group of five works developed from a poem the course professor wrote about his sense of the site. I included the five part poem printed on sheer organza, my own site photographs on thin layers of molding paste imprinted with balsam fir and birch twigs, maps of the area, scientific articles written about past research there, and  dry American beech leaves collected from the site and encased in sheer organza. The leaves related to a section of the poem as well as to one of the dominant trees.

One winter while staying in Florida with my mom, I was participating in an online daily creative practice. Each day when I walked in local parks or on the beach, I collected leaves, small plants, and feathers that I embroidered onto my sketchbook pages. I identified each species and painted the backgrounds with watercolor. The 8 or so pages made a nice group that I framed informally together.
These little pieces have held up very well, and now I have a record of my trip. I plan to frame them individually for my gallery.


  1. Very interesting Chris. Thank you for sharing.

  2. thanks for that lovely post. Yesterday i weeded out some ferns and have the intention of using the as a mask for larger fabric i paint. Decades ago i made my own flower and leaf press from an old phone books preserving lots of ferns, interesting leaves and bougainvillea bracs kept color for a while: oleanders in red where the best.

  3. So lovely. I have one of your framed ferns. I am delighted to read this. Colleen

  4. As a quilting botanist myself it's been a fascinating read, thank you !
    A botany book I'd recommend is the Kew Plant Glossary: http://shop.kew.org/the-kew-plant-glossary-an-illustrated-dictionary-of-plant-identification-terms-second-edition-2016.

    Even my non-plant friends have been fascinated by the pattern potential in the illustrations ( eg leaf shapes, margins, diagrams of types of plant hairs)

  5. So many nice comments! We're a tribe, I think. And thanks for reference to the Kews publication. I'll check it out. Love to all.


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