DIY Botanicals

13 Sep 2017

{Our homemade pressed botanicals}

Fall feels like it's in full-force here in Virginia which reminded me that I've got to get out into the yard and scavenge for plants to press before they turn brown!! I've gotten lots of messages asking for a tutorial on the DIY botanicals we made for our "Best House on the Block" HGTV show pilot episode and a sleeping baby at the moment so I thought I'd share the story behind them & how we made them.  The most frequently asked question was, "Where did you get your frames?" and the answer is that "we made them!"  There are no true frames so-to-speak, just tape!!

{Kelly & David's finished living room as seen in "Best House on the Block"/ Our HGTV pilot episode}

A few years ago, we bought what might be my favorite set of botanicals from a friend & antiques dealer down at High Point Market.  They were actual specimens that had been made and used by the students of a MidCentury botany class at Lancaster College.  They consisted simply of pressed plants under glass held together by black gaffer's tape.  I fell completely in love with the set and used them to create a big statement point in our studio:

 

 


Most of them were purchased but I was so in love with them that I had to take the remaining ones home.  I used them in the foyer in our last house......


...And they're in our living room now:


When I was a little girl, I used to love going on walks to pick flowers and plants to press in my flower press.  My grandmother still to this day has a set of faded violet botanicals hanging in her kitchen that I made for her one spring.  I'm constantly finding things I've pressed and forgotten about in our larger books and I often try to bring a pressed something home with me when we're on a trip or vacation to remind me of it.  I've always had intentions of making my own version of the Lancaster botanicals for clients and to sell in our store, but they're pretty time-consuming so I hadn't gotten around to it, but when we needed an entire wall of inexpensive art for a focal point in our nature-loving HGTV pilot show clients, Kelly & David's living room, I knew my DIY time to shine had come.  The botanicals are definitely time-consuming but they're really inexpensive and totally worth the elbow grease.  

 

They're so simple to make and you can do them in any size you like.  Here's a list of supplies you'd need:

Cardboard backing

 

Paper 

Black Gaffer's Tape

White Medical Tape

Cut Glass

Pressed Plants of any kind (I love pressed ferns!!)

Pen

Plate Hanger

 

And the directions are pretty straight-forward:

1. SIZING & MATERIALS PREP: Decide on the size you want your botanicals to be and have the glass cut (or pick the size from ready-framing glass).  Cut the cardboard backing & paper to the correct size. (Or buy it in the correct size).  

2. SECURE THE PLANTS: Lay out the pressed plants as you'd like on the paper.  Cut tiny strips of white medical tape (only 1/8" inch or so thick) and use them to tape the plant to the paper.  The tape should go over the plant and use it as needed.

 

3. LABEL THE SPECIMEN:   Create small strips of paper that contrasts slightly with the ground paper (We used ivory ground paper and pure white paper for the labels) and write the name of the plant on the tiny label.  Tape it to the paper.  Don't write perfectly (I couldn't if I tried!!) so that it adds to the interesting "scientific" vibe.  

 

4. PUT IT ALL TOGETHER: Layer in this order: Cardboard backing + paper with botanical + glass.  Then, use the black gaffer's tape to create a "frame" around the entire thing.  You can show as little or as much frame as you like... I probably did around a 1/4 inch but I wasn't super consistent and at no time was a tape measure used.  My collection of Lancaser College botanicals are VERY hand-made-looking, with wrinkles and folds in the tape and inconsistent perimeters, which was part of the reason I was so drawn to them.  They feel raw and hand-made and like functional teaching tools rather than like perfectly framed "art," so that was my constant consolation.

 

5. HANG 'EM UP & LOVE THEM!: Use plate hangers to hang them.  I like them hung in a grid pattern though you could go "random" too.  One is beautiful on its own or tucked into a larger collection or artwork, but I really do love these en masse.  I went with sixteen of them for Kelly & David'd living room and hung them about 2 1/2" apart.  As a quick FYI with the plate hangers- they don't hand perfectly flat and they're usually not perfectly straight, so if that's what you're going for, I'd suggest some sort of picture hanger instead on the back.  I like the quirk of the plate hangers though. 


As far as the actual plant specimens go, you can use pretty much whatever you like!!  Over time, the plants will eventually fade though they'll fade less if you use museum-quality glass.  I happen to looooove how they look once they've aged over time & gone brown (like the ones in my living room) but go with whatever you like best, remembering that plants are natural and will always change at least slightly over time.  You can hunt for specimens and press them yourself in a big fat book (the longer you press them for, the longer they'll hold their color for) or you can buy them.  I can't wait to press some of these beauties I found on our property:

 

It's a great activity for kids- the hunting, the pressing and the displaying- and mine especially love finding specimens for pressing.      

 

{BEST HOUSE ON THE BLOCK Reveal: I used our clients existing white leather sofa and layered with a mix of new pillows on the sofa including LL Textiles' Black "Live Paisley," a seagrass rug with a vintage kilim laid over it, new inexpensive side tables with vintage brass lamps on top }

Anyway, that is that!!  My girl (now 4 weeks old!!) is now awake (she didn't make it all the way through the post!!) so I'm off!  I'll be sure to keep you posted on the status of the HGTV show- so many of you have been so supportive and I can't thank you enough and promise I will post as SOON as I know anything & can share.  If you haven't yet seen the preview video for the show, you can check it out on HGTV's facebook page here.  

And in the wake of the hurricanes & earthquake, we're continuing to pray for and think about everyone who has lost loved ones, their homes and livelihoods...  I can't imagine how it must be for them right now.  It's amazing to see how people are coming together for one another and showing love for strangers, and I hope we can continue on in this spirit.  If you're still looking for ways to help, charity navigator is a great place to start: CHARITY NAVIGATOR  

 

 

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