Thursday, October 29, 2015

Collecting and Pressing Autumn Leaves...

So taking a break from my collage-a-thon to capture some of the leaves while they are still here!  I love to use botanical specimens in my work, and save a few exceptions, they need to be pressed very flat to make them easy to work with.  So every year I spend a chunk of time adding to my ongoing collection so that in the middle of winter (or early spring) i have many colors, size and specimen options to choose from.  

 I used to do my collecting of leaves lots at once, and it would take me and my assistant half a day or more to press them all correctly. They would take up half a table workspace for a couple weeks while they dried. This year I'm approaching it on a smaller scale. Since I already have a pretty big collection, I'm pretty well set, but you never know when you're going to need a certain size or color or shape.  Since I can't do this in this in the middle of the winter, I'm doing it now. For the most part sticking leaves in the old telephone book or book is fine, except for the species that have a really thick stem, then you have to build up on either side of that stem so that everything will dry flat.  
For example, this branch of sumac leaves has a pretty thick stem, so if just stuck it in a book the parts of the leaves right by the stem would not be pressed flat.  

so I lay it on acid free blotter paper

Then build up around the stem with other pieces of paper until tis flush with the stem.  

More blotter paper and cardboard to cushion, then another piece of wood before starting on the next layer of the stack. 
Then I weight the whole thing down more with sand bags. 

Now wait a couple of weeks. Its important that they are thoroughly dry and free of moisture before embedding them in any medium.  

Heres some lovely perfectly flat specimens! 


Once they're dry, then I need to store them in a way that will keep them safe and that I can find them. 
If I have an abundance of one particular type, I like to try and put them in a file folder, like these honey locust leaves. 


Then I organize them by color so I can easily find what i am looking for when adding them to a painting!

How long did that painting take you? I started preparing for it  a year ago ... :) 

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