Introduction: Dry Flower Art
Ever since I was a little girl I’ve loved making beautiful things with my hands. When I was in school I participated and won many flower arrangement, handicraft and painting contests. I’ve been running a handicraft business for the past 20 years and I also take handicraft classes for children. One of the techniques I’ve developed and perfected over the years is called “dry flower art”. I was fascinated by how the beauty of flowers and leaves can be preserved by dehydrating and compressing them. Various kinds of beautiful designs can be created using these dried leaves and flower petals. In the video I’ve presented to you two designs I’ve made using this technique. One is a floral design and the other is a tableau of a typical Indian village scene.
1) Leaves and flowers:Various kinds of flowers and leaves can be used. But keep in mind that leaves which are very thick and leathery can't be pressed. As for flowers, some just lose their color and turn black after they have been pressed. Some flowers which work very well are: rose, bluebells, cosmos, ixora, bougainvillea. As for leaves the ones I like to use are: wild grass, tender neem leaves, jasmine leaves. I gather these raw materials from various places: my own garden, flower shops and from parks around the area where I live. I am always on the look out.
2) Diluted craft glue: I use fevicol MR. The dilution ratio is 3 portions of glue for every one portion of water.
3) Thick white paper: I’ve used 200 gsm white handmade paper because I like its texture. You could use machine made paper if you like. The design comes out best on white or light shaded colors such as ivory, light blue, lilac, light peach etc...
1) Paint brush:I like using flat, size 6, rough bristled camel paint brushes.
3) News paper
4) A thick hardbound diary or book
Some tools and materials that might be useful (Optional):
1) Plywood (dimensions: 38 cm X 20.5 cm X 1 cm)
2) Cardboard sheets
2) Electric driller
3) 8 nuts and 4 bolts (length: 15.5 cm, diameter: 0.5 cm)
4) Lamination machine
Step 1: Making the Flower Presser
Since I press hundreds of flower petals and leaves at a time, I found it inconvenient to use a hardbound book or diary to do the job. So I made a flower presser. To make this you require:
1) Two planks of plywood (dimensions: 38 cm X 20.5 cm X 1 cm)
2) 8 Nuts 4 bolts (length = 15.5 cm, bolt = 0.5 cm)
These are just the dimensions I used, you could make a flower presser of whatever size you like.
First drill four holes around one or two centimeters away from each of the four corners of the plywood planks. The diameter of the holes should be around 1mm more than the diameter of the bolts. After drilling the holes both the planks should look identical. Put the four bolts through the holes of one of the planks and tighten the nuts completely until they are touching the plank. This is so that the bolts don't shake and remain fixed to one of the planks. When you want to use the presser, fit the other plank of top such that the stuff that needs to be pressed is sandwiched between the planks and tighten the 4 other nuts from top.
Step 2: Pressing the Flowers and Leaves
Before you begin pressing its very important to make sure that the flowers and leaves are dry.If you don't do this they'll get fungus. So leave the flowers and leaves under the fan for around half an hour. Then carefully separate the petals of the flowers with your hands or a pair of scissors and place them on printing paper sheets. Their purpose is to further absorb the moisture (you could also use tissue paper or news paper). The size of the paper sheets should be such that they can fit in your diary or flower presser. Then place one more sheet on top of the petals and insert the sandwiched leaves and petals between the pages of a big hardbound diary or book.
If you are using the flower presser you'll also need thick cardboard sheets of the same dimensions as the paper sheets. You need to put the petals and leaves which are sandwiched between printing paper sheets between these layers of cardboard sheets as you can see in the images above. Then place this composite stack of layers of cardboard, paper and flower petals between the planks of the flower presser and tighten the nuts.
If you are using a diary it would be better to put in under some heavy books or your mattress. For those using the flower presser tightening the bolts should suffice. Leave the flowers and leaves under pressure for three to five days and then you can finally begin to use them to create some beautiful designs.
Step 3: Creating the Design
Now coming to the most fun part. But before you begin you must first prepare all the equipment and your environment. If you have a fan running in the room, switch it off and if you are working beside an open window close the shutters. This will ensure that your precious petals and leaves don't get blown away. Set your work table with a bowl of diluted art glue, brush, pencil, scissors, the dried flower petals and leaves and of course the paper on which you'll be making the design.
You could begin by lightly marking the basic outline of your design on the paper with a pencil. Then you could place the petals and leaves on the paper and see how it looks. Since this is a collage you can keep modifying the design until you are happy with what you have created. Then you have to finalize the design by carefully picking each petal and leaf one by one, applying a little glue on one side and sticking it back in its place. Don't use your hand to lift the leaves and petals. That might damage them and spoil the design. Just dip the tip of the brush in the art glue and deftly lift the petals and leaves using the tip.
You might have noticed that in the video I'm directly sticking the petals without first making the design. That's because I've practiced a lot and can directly create the design I have in my head. You don't need to make the design entirely of petals and leaves you can also use bits of paper. For example in the video in the village scene collage I've used bits of paper to make houses. I have also trimmed the petals and leaves in some places to make things that have geometrical shapes, like the bodies of the animals. If you want you can also add certain details and finishing touches with a marker.
These are all just tips and tricks. There are no hard and fast rules. Be creative, experiment and have fun!
Step 4: Laminating Your Design
Once you are done with your design let it dry and then it might be a good idea to get it laminated, which is the process of covering your design with a thin layer of plastic. This will give your work a good glossy finish and also make it water proof. If you don't have a lamination machine you can get it laminated from a printing shop. And with that your dry flower artwork is complete!
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