A Complete Guide to Pressing, Drying and Arranging
by Penny Black
Reviewed by Caroline McCullagh
For some reason, although I’ve never been interested in any other crafts, I’ve always wanted to quilt. Several years ago, I took a class, and it turned out to be as much fun as I thought it would. Since that time, I’ve become aware of other crafts. I’ve written five previous reviews on books about garden crafts: drawing and painting, making leaf prints, and making stacked stone statues. Pressing flowers looks like another endeavor that would be a whole lot of fun.
If you want to try it, I don’t think you could find a better book to guide you than The Book of Pressed Flowers by Penny Black. It’s out of print but available at reasonable prices on the Internet. (It was originally published at $19.95. For some reason, it’s now sold on the Internet anywhere from one cent to twenty-five dollars. No, I don’t understand the system either.)
I think the reason I find this book so appealing is that many of the collages Black has made with her pressed flowers look much like quilts to me, both traditional quilts and art quilts.
Black lives or lived in England where she learned to garden at an early age. She started making and selling flower sachets and then widened her ambitions. She ultimately published a series of five books: this one in 1988, The Book of Potpourri in 1989, The Scented House in 1991, Passion for Flowers in 1992, and The Book of Cards and Collages in 1993. After that, she evidently moved on to other projects.
I pressed flowers when I was a child. We used to flatten them between sections of newspaper and weigh them down with the dictionary, the biggest, heaviest book we had. But that was only one flower at a time, and I don’t remember that we ever did anything with them.
Black takes us the next step and shows us some of the possibilities. She doesn’t limit us to flowers. We can also use leaves, ferns, seaweed, mosses, lichens, fungi, seedheads, bark, and even fruits and vegetables. The possibilities are limited only by our imaginations.
She leads us through the techniques, gives us a quick sketch of the artistic decisions we will have to make regarding color, texture, and composition, and provides us with examples of what we can create.
As a bonus, she gives us short paragraphs on making potpourri, dying fabric with plant dyes, and renovating picture frames for all those collages you’re going to make.
The book has one or more photographs, by Geoff Dann, on almost every page. They’re so colorful and interesting; I’d recommend this book to you on that basis alone. The Book of Pressed Flowers is hardbound, 120 pages long, and includes a useful index.