Green Art: An Upcycling Printing Technique from Nature

On Father’s Day, our collage-age daughter presented her dad with a card she made herself. The handmade nature of the card, and especially the sentiments inside, made it more precious and valuable than any purchased gift could be.

nature art printing with plant matter
Nature art: pounded plant matter on linen, accented
with hand stitching, inspired by Cas Holmes.

On the outside, Olivia painted the card using pine needles as a paintbrush. On the inside, she recalled three seemly mundane memories that had an enormous impact on her. Olivia’s thoughts and her card made us realize how often what is simple and basic can really be profound.

Nature art, or art created with items upcycled from nature (like Olivia’s pine needle paintbrush), can be like that. From selecting leaves and flowers for nature art prints, to eco-friendly art techniques, to upcycling natural materials into projects like encaustic art, “green” art can have a big influence on your creativity while leaving a small imprint on the planet.

Two artists who are always experimenting with green art techniques are India Flint and Cas Holmes. India’s book Eco Colour is the most comprehensive natural dyeing handbook I have seen. She gets beautiful and unusual results from natural ingredients. And Cas’s book The Found Object in Textile Art  never ceases to inspire me with it’s spirit of inventiveness.

I have tried experiments in printing with leaves, plants, and flowers using pounding techniques from both artists and had a blast. Pounded prints are fun for kids and adults alike–the perfect summer art exercise.

Here is India’s version of the technique:

Hapa-zome Technique by India Flint

Materials

  • Leaves
  • A small hammer or mallet
  • Some cloth of fairly dense weave (not too flimsy)
  • Thin cardboard or thick paper (such as cardstock)

1. Place the paper or cardstock on your work surface (such as a sturdy bench or uncarpeted floor) and place your cloth on the paper.

hapa zome leaf print nature art
My hapa-zome nature art experiment.

2. Arrange your leaves on the fabric. You could make a discrete array of leaves, overlap them slightly, or chop and scatter them over the surface of the fabric.

3. Fold over the cloth and place another piece of paper on top of the cloth and apply the hammer. It can take a little practice to get the hammer strokes just right, so experiment.

4. Remove the plant material and let the cloth dry thoroughly. Then press with a steam iron or heat press to set the color. (Despite this, the color will probably fade over time. Consider it part of the natural process.)

Ever impatient, I used the bottom edge of a jar to make my hapa-zome prints. This resulted in my nature printing looking like it was made by a series of lines, and I quite like it.

The hapa-zome technique can be used to decorate T-shirts, an interesting and less messy alternative to tie-dyeing. Both Eco Colour and The Found Object in Textile Art will give you ideas for nature art and eco-friendly art projects you can use now or in any season.

P.S. Have you made leaf prints before? How did you do it? What other ways do you like to upcycle nature into your art? Leave a comment below.

Categories

Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques

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