Flower power! When did you first realize that flowers are magic? Even though I have always loved flowers, I think it was the day we picked out lavender roses for our wedding that I felt the magic from them. That was over 31 years ago!
As a young child, I loved planting flowers with my mother in our flower boxes out back. In middle school, we used flowers in science experiments as we learned botany. In high school we poked flowers through chicken wire to make gorgeous floats for the homecoming parade. Of course, there are so many times when I was given flowers…corsages, get well wishes, and birthday blessings, but I really remember that first lavender rose I held in my hand and felt the magic of beauty and promise… for the days that lay ahead.
Fast forward 20 years later and I “accidentally” discovered a way to use flowers to stain paper and make beautiful art. After a steady five years of devotion to plant elements, I took that technique, which is actually an age-old concept, and developed it into an art, that for the first time in decades of being an artist, actually manifested into a style that was truly mine. Now, plant-staining is on the back burner for me. I have taken that art as far as I want to go with it and I am back to focusing on pottery and teaching art journaling, both art loves that I have embraced for several decades, even before they became hip!
Flowers are a consistent theme in my work. Daisies are my favorite; more specifically, purple daisies. As much as people know my obsession with purple, they know my spirit flower, if there is such a thing, is a daisy. Daisies symbolize innocence and purity a belief that stems from an old Celtic legend. Freya, the goddess of love and beauty in Norse mythology, holds the daisy as her sacred flower. The daisy then is associated with childbirth, motherhood, and new beginnings.
I didn’t have daisies in my wedding bouquet, but it’s one of those many things I feel I have grown into over time, perhaps not worthy of their loveliness until I too became a mother, or at least looked at each day as it was full of new beginnings. In an odd and contradictory way, the more I grew into myself as a woman, the more I grew away from the refined connotation of the lavender rose to the free-spirited barefooted jubilant character of the daisy.
The power of flowers is a whole study that I really just enjoy learning about. I peruse books, read stories, sculpt daisies out of clay, and paint them constantly. I display them, fresh, almost daily, on the bar perched between our kitchen and family room, bringing smiles to my heart as I pass them through multiple trips to my studio.
In our own individual worlds, we give power to what we choose and we energize ourselves by what we choose. I give flowers the power to energize me, whisper sweetness to my heart, and shout beauty to the world on my behalf. I give them the power of my soul to spreading kindness. From flowers, I receive the power of inspiration and nourishment for my individual expression. In my world, true Flower Power is the strength to plant, nurture, and grow my individuality. The true power of Flower Power is blooming, blooming true.
For an extra bonus, below is a link to a watercolor painting tutorial…”Daisy Love!” Come paint with me!
Dried flowers were never on my list for creating. I just kind of fell into it because of having the right supplies on hand and a surplus of flowers. And I had a dehydrator.
I am not a cook. If you read my blog Matzo Tofu, you already know that I prefer to use my stove to boil books rather than cook food. What possessed me to get a food dehydrator a few years ago, I cannot recall. I just remember I had big plans for it. Twice. I used the dehydrator twice for food. I can’t even remember what I made, but it was most likely some kind of fruit. The dehydrator sat on a shelf in the kitchen for several months. I asked my mom if she wanted it and thought about donating it, until one day…eureka…I can dehydrate flowers!
What I was going to do with the dehydrated flowers was yet unknown, but at least I could use my dehydrator. I often have a surplus of flowers that I can’t use for eco-staining from the haul I get on Friday Flower Days. Giving those flowers an opportunity for adventure just seemed like a wonderful thing to do.
Try it at home…
If you have a food dehydrator decorating your kitchen shelf and want to put it to use, here are some tips and tricks I have found that work well for me.
Put the densest flowers on the bottom tray. They take longer to dehydrate than loose petals and leaves, so they need to dry the longest.
Pile up the petal spread. The first time I dehydrated rose petals, I carefully laid each one on the try without overlap thinking they had to have full exposure to dry. They can actually be layered up a good bit. Some flowers and leaves dry so quickly that layering them doesn’t make a difference as the heat easily circulates through.
Arrange the flowers in categories as you are planning on storing them. If you want to store them by color, separate before you lay the flowers on the tray. Section the tray or use a different tray per color. I find it is easier to separate the petals prior to them shrinking.
Store in gallon size freezer bags. The airtight bags not only keep the petals and the plant crumblies (all the little dried bits) organized, but the scent is preserved. When you open a bag to use your dried flowers, the aroma is so lovely.
Dehydrating time varies. Depending on the moisture content or the density of the flower, dehydrating could take a few hours or several. For my particular dehydrator, flower petals take about three to four hours. Denser flowers or full flower heads like a full rose may take overnight. If I have quick drying petals on the top tray and ones that require overnight on the bottom, I simply take off the trays with the quick drying ones and let the other trays continue.
What to Do with Dried Flowers
So now that we have our pretties, all dehydrated and smelling lovely, what do we do with them?
I very rarely have used them in my art. However, I used them in one particular piece of eco-stained wall decor to create a mixed media nature journal effect and I absolutely loved it!
This is crazy, but I haven’t done another. I loved that piece so much that I am waiting for just the right inspiration to compose another one on that level.
Around my studio and house, I fill bowls with assortments of the dehydrated flowers. I sprinkle dried flowers around the bases of candles and fill mesh bags as sachets in my dresser drawers. I have even sewn filled pockets onto bookmarks, making them puffy and aromatic.
What I absolutely love to do with them on a regular basis is include them in the packages I ship out. They fill boxes that hold my pottery pieces and make a great looking mug even lovelier. Stationery and journals wrapped in white tissue are even more elegant on a bed of dried flowers.
Filling gift boxes with dehydrated flowers is a surprise treat for someone special and makes me smile even more when I am wrapping them.
My Eco-Stained Journals, Stationery, and Wall Decor are in my shop and feature a lot of the same flowers I dehydrate. It is so much fun to see those layers of lovely when you open one of the packages I ship. Put them in a bowl near your comfy writing spot and enjoy them along with your journal!
Eco-stained pages in progress are the most fascinating aspect of my creative journey. From the designing to boiling, peeling and drying, I am in awe at the fusion of science and art. I will be sharing about that fusion in the future, but today, I am just basking in the glory of the beauty.
There are few words to describe the intense roll of emotions that sweep through me while I am making my art. I feel fortunate to be able to create for my profession. The long hours and sometimes, overwhelming, responsibility of wearing most of the hats, take a toll on many aspects of my life, but I am grateful for the opportunity to make this my choice. The wonder of the creative process and the beautiful art I create in unity with nature enlivens my soul and refreshes my spirit. Most of all, I cherish the fact that my art inspires others to connect with nature and with themselves.
So please join me for a stroll through some recent eco-stained pages in progress for a glimpse into my world of art making. These pages were still wet when photographed and the plants were slimy! It is all just part of the process!
Eco-Stained Pages in Progress
Daisies, rose leaves, rose petals, and geraniums made the gorgeous stains on these pages. Surprise…pink daisies made the green stains!
The stains are extra vivid just after the flowers are peeled, so there is a shimmer to the design because of the wetness. They the pages dry with the matted hue we love to see!
Sometimes I peel the plant elements off the eco-stained pages without paying attention to what they are. If it is a magnificent combination stain, I dig back through my compost to see what combinations came together to make that particular design. Digging through is a bit of slimy research, but somebody has to do it!
Rose leaves and daisies are lovely together, but then so are ferns and daisies.
Ferns are amazing! They are one of the first plants I started using a good bit in my eco-stained pages. The type of soil they grow in and where they grow effects the stain results. Fern stains can be dark like the ones below, a light tan, or anywhere in between. Sometimes, when they are dark, they tend to influence darkness over the whole page. I love how the other colors appear in contrast to the darkness.
I lost track of where this particular set of pages ended up. They could be one of the Classic, Combo, or Oneside Journals in my shop.
Interested in a scavenger hunt? See if you can find which journal it is by going to my shop at www.rachelleeason.com.
Watch this unveiling of stained designs for pure joy!
Friday Flower Days are the best in my week of creating my eco-stained journals and stationery! Friday is usually the day I get most of my flowers and leaves. They are sustainably sourced locally and getting them makes me giddy with excitement! Of course, getting flowers is always a fabulous way to liven up your day! My cousin was a hairdresser for many years and she always made sure to have a vase of fresh flowers on her workstation counter. I remember her telling me that she would stop in on the way to work to get them and choose just the right ones for her in that moment. Those flowers would not only bring joy to her but also to everyone in the salon. Now mind you, this woman brings joy just by being her, but the flowers just made seeing her even extra special!
Just like in my cousin’s salon, think about places you go and how much more engaging it would be if they had fresh flowers. Fresh flowers around the office, at the dentist, the post office, and even the DMV would be more pleasant. I know that there are many people out there with allergies, but there are several types of fresh flowers that are highly unlikely to trigger those.
WebMD shares a list of better choices of flowers for allergy sufferers and many are types I get on my Friday Flower Days. You can find that list here https://www.webmd.com/allergies/best-worst-plants. My favorites on their list are begonia, iris, periwinkle, and Dusty Miller. They also state lily as being a better choice but those make me sneeze like crazy!
Laura Kenny recently published The Benefits of Adorning Your Home with Fresh Flowers and cited the Home Ecology of Flowers Study done at Harvard in September 2006. The Harvard findings put data behind what we feel. Flowers boost our energy and elevate our happiness. They feed our souls and help us be compassionate. Fresh flowers help balance our mood, chase away the blues, and calm anxieties.
Flowers are eye candy for the soul!
Friday Flower Days spark my creativity and inspire my reflections. Creating my eco-stained papers is quite a process. Between prepping the paper and plant elements, designing each page while keeping in mind to place the elements where they will coexist beautifully, boiling, and peeling off the botanicals for drying, at least 10 hours have been consumed. The fact that fresh flowers and leaves are my art materials is what holds my attention span.
The flowers I use for my eco-stained art are ones that have already served their beauty elsewhere. By the time I get them, they are near the end of their life span; brown tipped and wilted, less desirable than when they are at their prime. Isn’t that a metaphor for what our culture often reflects? However, I love them in this phase! Wilted flowers offer themselves up for sharing. They are ready to give away their color and their secrets as I pick them apart to make designs. Their character and persona are even more alive for now they have stories to share. I get lost in their storytelling as I proceed to tell mine through eco-stained art.
Friday Flower Days not only refresh my spirit after a tough week, but they are an opportunity for me to prolong the beauty of the flowers I get. Many people have commented that my eco-stained papers are like fossils of flowers. I do believe that I have the good fortune of preserving the essence of flowers and leaves. Eco-staining gives these flowers one last hurrah to share their beauty before they head to compost. So essentially, Friday Flower Days are Friday Flower Parties and I adore being the host.
Journal writing is also enriched by a vase of fresh flowers. Sitting down in my comfy writing spot with a bouquet of flowers close by gives me a focus point for reflecting. That picturesque still-life of fresh roses in a vase or hydrangeas in a pottery bowl invites my mind to wonder and reflect. I observe the details of the flowers, the texture of the leaves, and often rub a petal through my thumb and forefingers as I muse over my thoughts. Even when those reflections are sad or worrisome, the flowers are soothing. I find that I write more from my heart when I focus on them rather than venting on the page. Don’t get me wrong, venting is fine if that is what you need. Over the years, however, I have found that I get clarity from writing. Reflecting versus venting helps me get to that clarity.
Pages of my eco-stained journals are the foundation for my reflections. They are hugs from the papers that encourage me to write and embrace my thoughts with grace. My handwriting becomes enchanting on the page, my words become alluring, my pictures breathtaking.
Flowers any day of the week are special!
Friday Flower Days are not the only day this magic happens. Sometimes I get my flower haul other days of the week and sometimes a nature hike or even running errands take me to unexpected beauty. Regardless of when fresh flowers enter my life each week, I count on them coming and it never gets old. It is now something that I know I need more than just depending on them for my business. I am always grateful for having them around me.
A dear friend of mine told me just yesterday that for most of her marriage, she has had fresh flowers in her kitchen every day. Her husband gets them and arranges them quite spectacularly. It is an additional happiness in a home that always brings me joy to visit. Try it, today! Get yourself some flowers! If it is not something you usually do, pay close attention to how it effects you. Put them in a vase or in a bowl of water and enjoy them. Spend moments observing their details and feeling their energy. Engage in the color they share and the light they reflect. I bet you will catch yourself glimpsing over at them just to take in the vision. Spread the joy and give someone else some too!
If you do not have flowers to (legally!) pick around you, go to your local flower shop and just buy a few. They do not have to be expensive, in fact, there may be a loose stem or small bouquet you can buy for just a few dollars. The main thing is to do it. Embrace it. Grow from it. Then journal your reflections.
Plus, you’ll get a head start on one of my upcoming journal writing classes where we use fresh flowers as the lesson theme.
Next Friday, I’ll show you easy ways to further enjoy your flowers and how to get the most out of their beauty in yet another form. Make sure you are subscribed to my newsletter! The next one goes out Monday and in there are 11 Reasons Why You Should Get Yourself Flowers plus a downloadable drawing of flower I drew just for my subscribers!
Oh and Happy Friday!
Check out this video of some flower arranging I did in my pottery vases!
Sources: Best and Worst Flowers for People with Allergies, WebMD, April, 2017 https://www.webmd.com/allergies/best-worst-plants The Benefits of Adorning Your Home with Fresh Flowers, Laura Kenny, February, 2018 https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/benefits-adorning-your-home-fresh-flowers-laura-kenny/