Foraging with kids is always and adventure. They see magic in nearly every blade of grass. My kids bring me blooms all spring, delightedly asking what we can do with them. What can we do with them? Make botanical prints, that’s what we can do with them.
What are Botanical Prints?
Apart from the printed, framed and fancy botanical prints you can buy in museum stores by great artists like Pierre Redoute, there are botanical prints you can make in your own backyard. This isn’t rocket science so don’t worry that this is going to get too crafty for you, if you’re not that into crafty or fancy. A homemade botanical print is made by pounding flowers, leaves and even grasses onto paper or fabric. The color from the plants is pounded into the material, leaving behind gorgeous prints made entirely from plants.
I was in kind of funk this week but spent some time one morning reading Kathie Lapcevic’s book, Fiercely DIY Guide to Seasonal Living (which is also included in this year’s Bundle, just so you know), in which she reminds us:
“It’s human nature to wish for something we don’t have, to want something different. That inspires growth in some instances, but I can also prevent us from enjoying this moment right now and blooming in the currently season. This week, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the things we’re wishing for that are not of this season. But, then balance that with a celebration of where we are now, a recognition of things in which we’re blooming.”
There are some things I’ve been wanting to do; needing, really. But I just haven’t been able to do them. Kathie’s words reminded me that morning that it’s ok to be a little disappointed by that, but not to let those feelings prevent me from enjoying what is beautiful and bright and happening right now. In this season.I realized, looking out my door, that what’s beautiful and bright right now are violets. Violets as far as the eye can see in some spots. Violets sweet, unassuming and so quick to fade with summer’s approaching heat. I decided we were going to get jiggy with the violets.
How to Make a Botanical Print
We usually use paper to make these prints that we then use to make birthday cards, bookmarks and small, framed prints. You can use fabric, which is a lot of fun and turns out very lovely, but there are a few steps that need to be done in advance of project day to make the fabric more likely to set and keep the colors from the flowers.
To learn to prepare fabric for pounded art work, visit this link – click here.
What you’ll need to make botanical prints:
- Heavy artist paper, water color works well
- Medium sized mallet, smooth hammer or other pounding-type tool (I used my kraut pounder)
- Parchment paper or a light towel
- Flowers and interesting leaves from around your garden
Procedure for making botanical prints:
- Gather flowers and leaves from around your yard and cut your heavy paper into usable pieces; number of flowers and the size of the paper will depend on your project.
- On a flat, strong surface, lay out a piece of parchment paper, placing your artist paper on top. We usually do this on our concrete patio.
- One by one, place your wild flowers and other botanicals on your paper.
- Cover the flowers with another piece of parchment paper.
- Pound gently but firmly on each flower and leaf. You want to pound out the color but not destroy the paper beneath. You can have your kids practice on scratch paper first.
- When you think you’ve extracted all the color, pull back the top layer of parchment paper and scrape off the mashed plants with your fingernail or tweezers. My son likes to leave bits of plant on the card just too look “messy”, which he says is cool.
Finishing up your botanical prints
- If you’re not satisfied with the print, add some more and pound again. Experiment until you find your favorite flowers and placements.
- After you’ve cleaned your paper of plant bits, you can touch up outlines or add embellishments with crayons, colored pencils or pens.
- Spray lightly with artist fixative, hair spray (not my favorite because its really sticky) or even plain vinegar to help preserve the color of the print as long as possible. I happened to have a vinegar rinse mixed up to spray down my shower after each use, so I used that this time. Just use a light mist of spray and it will dry up nicely.
A note on the vinegar spray
By the way, I found the recipe for that vinegar spray in Chris Dalziel’s stupendous book The Beginner’s Book of Essential Oils, which I’m using ALL THE TIME these days for various things. She doesn’t mention any particular brand of oil at all (what a nice change from most publications) and each recipe and piece of advice is down-to-earth and actionable. Love this book.
More Natural Art
Anyway, back to the flowers. Lest you think that cards are the only thing you can make botanical prints with, feel free to visit these other fine posts:
Pounded Flower Fairy Wings by Mama Rosemary and A Smashed Flower Scarf by Untrained Housewife – just in time for Mother’s Day.
To learn more about violets, including how to identify it while you forage and how to make jelly with it, please visit Common Sense Homesteading – click here. To learn about more things you and your kids can do with violets, please visit our Farm Sprouts blog over at Hobby Farms Online – click here.
Just so you know, should you decide to purchase your own copy of the Fiercely DIY Guide to Seasonal Living soon, you just may snag these snazzy freebies (20 printables in all) to help you along on your fiercely DIY and seasonal living journey:
- Journal & Record Keeping Templates
- Coloring Pages
- Inspirational Quote Printables
- Reference Charts (for herbal medicine, dehydrating & more)