Making Art with Pressed Flowers: A Starter Kit
With all the negative impacts that COVID-19 has brought onto us, we can all agree that it also gave us one positive effect: new hobbies! According to a report by Thomas Insights, consumer spending went up through the roof as people got a knack of new things: learning a musical instrument, taking up gardening, baking banana bread, and playing board games and puzzles. Another activity that surged in popularity during the pandemic is arts and crafts.
Arts and crafts encompass anything from knitting, crocheting, origami, scrapbooking, painting, colouring, and sculpting. One activity that’s quickly gained popularity as well is Oshibana, or the art of pressing flowers and other botanical materials to form an entire picture.
If you’re curious about this art and you want to give it a try, read on to find out how exactly you can kick things off.
First, A Background
As you have clued in by now, Oshibana is a historical craft that originated in 16th century Japan, though some historians believe it can be traced back to ancient civilizations. As trade with Japan increased in the mid-1800s and the craft was introduced to England during the Victorian era, it went to become a well-loved hobby in Western countries. By the end of the 1800s, the art of flower pressing became a favourite pastime in both England and the United States.
Among the most famous art works that involved flower pressing is a floral bouquet from the grave of Abraham Lincoln himself, said to be preserved by the wife of a judge in Ohio in 1865. The Western Reserve Historical Society currently holds this work of art and one might be surprised on how it has remained intact after almost 155 years.
So What Would You Need Exactly?
Well, it can’t be the art of pressing flowers if you lack flowers! So yes, the first thing you need are flowers or any botanical materials like leaves, grasses, herbs, and others. After you’ve gathered these, you’ll need a large book, preferably one that’s not a collector’s item because there’s a risk of staining. Ask your parents if they have any of those encyclopedia books that were hugely popular back in the day, and you’ll be all set to do the pressing.
For arranging, a canvas is ideal, but if you’d like to give yourself a couple of tries before you really showcase your work, a blank sketchbook page will do. If you don’t have a sketchbook, any blank notebook would do or a notecard or postcard. The final items you’ll need are a small or thin paintbrush and glue.
Let’s Get On With It!
To start your first Oshibana project, be sure to gather the botanical materials as fresh as possible. Place them between two pages of the large book, and if you can apply additional weight on the large book, it’s even better. This will ensure there is steady pressure on the pressed samples.
It takes about two to three weeks for flowers or leaves to completely dry, but if you don’t want to wait this long, you can apply advanced drying techniques like ironing or microwaving the flowers before pressing them. Be sure to practice safety precautions if you want to try these two techniques though.
Once the flowers or leaves are completely dry, you can start arranging them to the base of your choice according to the design of your choice. It can be anywhere from a bouquet of flowers to something more elaborate like a woman in a fancy dress or your favourite painting. Make sure to dilute the glue with at least one drop of water. The goal is to ensure the pressed products are properly pasted onto your base but at the same time in a polished way. If you are going for a more intricate design, plot it out on your base first to ensure everything goes smoothly.
Once you’ve done this, wait for 15 minutes, and voila! Your Oshibana is ready for display!
Wonderopolis. “How Do You Press Flowers?” https://wonderopolis.org/wonder/how-do-you-press-flowers
Western Reserve Historical Society. “Pressed Flowers: History and Tutorial.” https://www.wrhs.org/blog/pressed-flowers-history-and-tutorial/
Ross, Laura. “11 Unexpected Products That Boomed During the Pandemic.” Thomas Publishing Company. https://www.thomasnet.com/insights/11-unexpected-products-that-boomed-during-the-pandemic/