Flower Press Studio’s Colorful Compositions Preserve Botanicals and Bouquets for Posterity
Knowing that flowers only blossom for a short time, there is romance in their ephemerality. Naturally, we want to preserve their characteristics; we bottle up floral fragrances, and the practice of pressing flowers dates back to time immemorial. It’s thought that the Japanese first elevated the process to an art form with a 16th-century tradition known as oshibana. The practice spread worldwide, and by the late 19th century, it was a popular pastime in England and the U.S. Flower Press Studio keeps this tradition alive through preserving delicate petals, stems, and fronds beneath glass.
A thriving small business run by Rachel Parri and Keith Kralik, Flower Press Studio began as a hobby that quickly blossomed into a full-time occupation. In 2019, they purchased a house in Denver and xeriscaped the front yard, a landscaping method that reduces the need for irrigation by planting flora naturally suited to drier climates. They planted vegetables, flowers, and added two beehives. By the summer of 2021, the garden was producing quantities of calendulas, sunflowers, poppies, and other wildflowers, and Kralik began to press them. He then started designing and gluing the flattened blossoms onto paper and constructing hardwood frames. By the end of that year, demand had grown to a point where the business was formally born.
“Wildflowers are our favorite, but that’s probably because we are in a state that grows absolutely sensational wildflowers,” the pair tells Colossal. “But really anything with color—we look for variety. Size, shape of petals, dying flowers, straight stems versus twisty-turny ones, foliages… non-perfect flowers are some of the best.” A bridal bouquet, for example, typically takes about three hours to deconstruct piece by piece, then it takes several days—often weeks—to make sure the flowers have properly dried and flattened into the desired shape: “We check the presses regularly throughout the first week, going through every page of flowers and adjusting petals, changing out all paper, chipboard, cardboard, and using alternative methods to get excess moisture out.”
Parri and Kralik want to make sure their work remains sustainable and environmentally responsible, and they often practice on flowers that would otherwise be discarded after weddings. The pair look forward to working with flower farms both locally and further afield, collaborating with other makers and designers, and focusing on producing limited-edition prints and online workshops.
You can follow updates on Instagram, where the studio often shares before-and-after images of the elaborate, reinterpreted bouquets.
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Through Wasp Nest Sculptures and Encaustic Drawings, Valerie Hammond Preserves the Ephemeral
Nature is replete with layering, as seen in the soft tissues of a flower’s petal, the cellular makeup of human skin, or the paper-thin walls of insect nests. Although delicate themselves, these layers offer protection from the more fragile insides and are subsequently prone to change, often through natural decay and exposure to the elements. Valerie Hammond (previously) is drawn to these fleeting moments of life and their inevitable transformation, which she explores through an artistic practice centered around preservation and its limits.
Now based in the Hudson Valley after decades in the East Village, Hammond has spent nearly twenty years considering how quickly an existence can emerge and perish, a theme that emerged during the AIDS crisis in the U.S. Her practice is largely focused on the corporeal and the inherent ephemerality of the human body, which she merges with botanicals in her ongoing series of encaustic drawings.
Using her own limbs and those of her children, friends, and family, Hammond traces outstretched hands and layers the translucent renderings with fresh flowers, pencil markings, wax, and other materials. She portrays the similarities between the vascular and skeletal systems and the structure of ferns and other botanicals, and many works are scaled to the actual size of the human body, preserving the dimensions of a child’s wrist or woman’s fingers as they were in a particular moment. As the series evolves and grows, the pieces offer insight into “how we experience nature and the many ways we might allow it to change us, and the various skins and outer shells that we shed in order to transition to new, and possibly more whole, selves.”
For a recent exhibition at Planthouse, Hammond debuted a new sculpture titled “Laurel” that features a pair of feet with spindly branches emerging mid-calf. Mirroring the encaustic drawings, the work joins a larger collection of anatomical forms and busts made from wasp nests layered with Japanese paper on an armature that again references the impermanent. The natural material “spoke to what I was really looking for in the sculptures,” Hammond shares. “In the last few years, I’ve been thinking about the chimera…about inserting myself in nature, and that’s what I’ve been thinking about in these sculptures, as a way of being a part of nature in this physical, metaphysical, and metaphorical sense.”
Hammond’s work is included in a group show on view through May 23 at Gallery de Sol in Taipei City, and she has a show opening that same month at September Gallery in Kinderhook, New York. To explore a larger archive of her two- and three-dimensional pieces, visit her site and Instagram.
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Mischievous Dogs, Moldy Fruit, and Crustacean Claws Unsettle Sabrina Bockler’s Still Lifes
Two small dogs with long, silky hair stand atop an elegant table, one pawing at a basket of fruit and the other retrieving a fish from a platter. A bowl of strawberries has already been upturned, flowers pulled from their arrangement, a thickly piped slice of cake squashed by careless gluttony. Rendered in acrylic on linen, the still life (shown below) is titled “Decadence and Disaster,” an apt phrase to describe much of Sabrina Bockler’s body of work.
The Brooklyn-based artist relishes in mischief and disruption, painting scenes of opulence destroyed by pets or unsettled by an uncanny, foreboding feeling. Her works often imply a painstaking labor visible only through the resulting decorations, the crustacean towers, perfectly sliced melon, and floral bouquets cascading from their vases. Given the domestic nature of the settings, those preparations are coded feminine and part of Bockler’s broader inquiry into the value of women’s work.
She shares with Colossal that while she references the history of Dutch still lifes, her uncanny, surreal approach asks viewers “to think beyond the traditional aesthetic, creating a sense of chaos within a decorative still life.” Instead, Bockler strives “to encourage a reexamination of traditional gender assumptions surrounding labor and its division. My practice allows me to directly consider the ways my identity and experiences as a woman inform my identity as an artist.”
If you’re in Los Angeles, stop by Hashimoto Contemporary to see “Old Fruit” and “Decadence and Disaster” as part of the group exhibition Potluck running through March 11. Bockler is also currently preparing for a solo show titled Menagerie that opens on May 13 at BEERS London, which will “(draw) on the notion of animals being used as symbols of social power or for decorative purposes.” Find more of her lavish works on her site and Instagram.
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Azuma Makoto’s Temporary Sculptures Freeze Hundreds of Flowers on a Snow-Coated Lake
On a frozen lake in the Notsuke Peninsula, a tendril of land that juts out from Hokkaido’s east coast, acclaimed floral artist Azuma Makoto (previously) has constructed the third botanical sculpture in an ongoing series called Frozen Flowers. The first edition was composed in this same location in 2019 and again in 2021, and every year, the conditions have been a little bit different. The artist is interested in how variables like temperature, wind, or snowfall can alter the surrounding environment and make every version unique.
An important facet of Makoto’s practice is working alongside and adapting to nature and striking a collaborative balance so that he’s neither trying to control it nor controlled by it. Arranged on a scaffold and surrounded by a field of snow, bunches of flowers and foliage in a range of colors and textures are doused with water before they solidify into thousands of icicles. The artist and a team of assistants worked through the night, waiting until temperatures were at their lowest so that the ice would form quickly. The following morning, the sun revealed the finished composition, and by design, ultimately melted it.
Through the seasons, Makoto sees how the area transforms and over time has witnessed the effects of climate change on the peninsula. He aims to continue installing new versions of the icy blooms for years to come in order to document the ever-evolving environment. Find more of his work on his website and on Instagram.
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Symmetric Flora and Fauna Converge in Kelly Louise Judd’s Dreamlike Paintings
Symmetry and mirroring inform many of Kelly Louise Judd’s paintings, which intertwine flora and fauna in delicate compositions. Ferns overlay the long tails of two cats, a lanky heron gracefully perches among bluebells and sunflowers, and human hands reach upward to reveal sprawling botanicals. Rendered on neutral-toned backdrops, the works evoke the patterns and organic recurrences found throughout the natural world.
Judd, who lives and works in the Midwest, generously shares glimpses into her process on Instagram, and you can shop prints of her pieces on Etsy.
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Art History Illustration Science
Explore Hundreds of Exquisite Botanical Collages Created by an 18th-Century Septuagenarian Artist
At age 72, Mary Delany (1700-1788) devoted herself to her art practice, taking up a form of decoupage to create an exquisite collection of botanical collages from dyed and cut paper. She interpreted many of the delicate specimens she encountered in Buckinghamshire while staying with her friend, the Duchess of Portland, through layered pieces on black backdrops. From the wispy clover-like leaves of an oxalis plant to the wildly splayed petals of the daffodil, the realistic works are both stunning for their beauty and faithfulness to the original lifeforms.
Known for her scientific precision, Delany labeled each specimen with the plant’s taxonomic and common names, the date, location of creation, name of the donor, and a collection number, the latter of which was used to organize all 985 collages in her Flora Delanica series. Together, the works create a vast and diverse florilegium, or compilation of botanicals and writings in the tradition of commonplace books.
The British Museum houses most of Delany’s collages, which you can explore in an interactive archive that has information about the plants, artworks, and the option to zoom in on images of the pieces. You also might enjoy The Paper Garden, a book that delves into the artist’s work and what it means to foster a creative practice.
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