In our home art studio, you will see a tall stack of old phone books. I’d like to say we are fiercely green, dedicated to conscientious recycling—and to some extent we are environmentally aware—but in reality, the only thing that’s really green around here is my mom’s thumb. Mom (known as Evy, my partner on this blog) is notorious for turning the most barren landscape into a beautiful and practical patch of flora.
Whether sweltering in the high desert or shivering in the mountains of southern Oregon, Evy has used her artistic talents to create some amazing gardens: rock gardens, vegetable gardens, rose gardens, and Japanese gardens, to name a few.
About a year ago, I casually asked her if she’d ever tried pressing flowers. As usual, Evy had a story to tell. Apparently, she is a closet flower-presser from way back. She laughed as she recalled the many times her exasperated parents would pick up books lying around the house, only to have dried petals cascading out of them and onto the floor.
You see, since Evy grew up during the Great Depression, pressing flowers was a fun and cost-free way to express one’s artsy side. Through practice with various kinds of flowers and leaves, Evy discovered the tricks of the pressed flower craft: which foliage worked best, how to preserve them, and then how to arrange them for maximum effect.
It sounded cheap and easy, important criteria for hobbies in my current phase of life, so I immediately set out to press into a fat old phone book some rose petals I picked from one of Evy’s gardens. To my delight, it worked--and the effects were stunning! I researched the art and discovered the history of pressed flower craft in America goes back to the Victorian era. But most fascinating, considering our intense interest in Japanese art, is that pressed flowers are used in Japanese handmade paper, multi-media painting, and what is called Oshibana art. Oshibana dates back to the 16th century!
Today, we make pictures, greeting cards, and various gifts and have worked with pressed flowers so much that we can’t pass by any plant life these days without saying, “I’d love to press that!” Currently, we are developing classes in pressed flower craft, so stay tuned for details on that later. Meanwhile, save your old phone books!
For some excellent examples of pressed flower art, go to: http://www.pressed-flowers.com/, http://www.pressedflowerdesigns.com/, http://www.concordart.org/exhibitions/coleman0312/pix-burggraf.html.