Welcome to my way of preparing botanical materials for use in collage. As the pressing of flowers is a centuries old vocation, many methods have been utilized. After much experimentation, trial and error and corrections, this is the process I have developed to provide me with the materials desired for my collages.
When selecting my materials, respond to color, texture, and form. I use almost all types of botanical materials that can be pressed - leaves, vines, petals, stems, bark, grasses, berries, wildflowers - the list goes on. Pick when the flowers are at their driest on the outside (not in the early morning/evening or after a rain) and press as soon after picking as possible.
When pressing, there are a number of choices to make. Sometimes you press the bloom in its entirety. However, if the center of a flower or blossom is thick and/or moist, this can offset the pressing of the petals. In that case, remove the petals from the center and press them on their own. Sometimes the center of the flower is the point of interest, but it is too thick. If this is the case, I will cut it and get a cross section, or slice it to make it thinner. Experimentation is the first step to creating new experiences with botanical materials.
In order to remove as much moisture from the material as possible (which is how you retain the most color from the growth), you must create a situation in which the moisture can be absorbed. I use layers of cardboard, blotter paper, and paper towel repeated below and above each sheet of materials to be pressed. This is then placed in a center spindle wooden press. The press is tightened as often as possible for a minimum of two weeks to assure that pressure is evenly applied. The results are beautifully thin and dry materials with which to work.
getting to work and creating!
Now the fun begins! Opening the press is like a holiday and birthday combined ! You don't know what gifts will be inside - how the colors may have changed, shapes altered, and aspects of the plant that weren’t visible prior to pressing come to life. Carefully remove the materials from the press. At this point, I am already thinking about how I will use them. Oten, it feels as if I am working on a jigsaw puzzle whose final scene is not evident until the last piece is in place. Similar to a painter using many different tints, tones and shades, botanicals offer endless possibilities in color, texture and shape.