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  • Writer's picturePauline Greuell

My practice of printing plants and weeds

Updated: Jul 15, 2023

Piece of stencil printed fabric with a pattern in green and turquoise inspired by sweet pea
Stencil printed pattern inspired by sweet pea

Many of you have been following my practice of 'printing plants and weeds' on Instagram this year. I thought it would be nice to tell you a little bit of what this practice has brought me. I’ve always been a lover of floral prints and have been making a lot of them, but before you know it you are repeating yourself over and over with slight variations. In many ways covid has given me the time to dive deeper and discover new ways of approaching these prints.

In the many days of our lockdown this year I have been taking daily walks near our house, into the fields and through a little wooded area. As spring blossomed and turned into summer I discovered new plants and flowers every day by the roadside. I took some of them home, started a sketchbook and used the sketches to design new prints. I also used plants that were growing in our garden.

I found that the process of design really started even as I was walking. I looked really closely at the plants that stood out to me and observed where they grew and how. There was often one characteristic that stood out to me most. For example the hawthorn bush grows in a really dark spot in the wooded area of my walk. When they started to blossom the lightness of the blooms really stood out. They were like little lights amid the dark leaves. So that would be the intention of my design: showing this lightness and the contrast with the darkness of the leaves. For the dandelion it was similar: as they start to bloom a whole field lights up with this golden yellow that is so beautiful, so here is was the colour that would be the focus.

I also loved the grassed because of their movement with the wind or breeze and would try to catch that in my prints. The wig tree or smoke tree has such a lovely contrast between the dark and solid shape of the leaves and the airy almost floating quality of the blooms, which was not at all easy to reproduce.

Three pieces of stencil printed fabric with prints inspired by dandelion, clematis and grasses
A selection of stencil printed patterns inspired by dandelion, clematis and grasses

After I took my cuttings home there were new things to notice. I put them in a jug on my desk and I would look more closely at the way the plant grew. For the clematis I noticed the elegance of the sprigs that wound their way around the wooded stem always turning their leaves and flowers in one direction only, so I used that as the basic idea of my print.

Some flowers, especially the more elegant ones like the iris, reminded me of a design style, in this case Art Deco. This made me look into this style and see how my iris would look in an Art Deco print.

I’ve made about than 20 printed patterns, some didn’t make it onto IG and I still continue to make them at a slower pace. The practice has brought me three things: a much deeper way of looking at a plant and at its characteristics that go beyond the shape of the leaves and flowers; a way to stretch my technical skills both in making stencilled motifs and in making patterns and it has also given me a collection of printed patterns that is representative of this time spent in nature. Quite a few of the prints are now available on my website both as fabric for your own projects and also on the lampshades and lampshade kits that are now being produced in a collaboration with the Belgian brand Launchroom.

Of course, making all this new work has also influenced my teaching and I’ve been teaching bits and pieces of it in my current Complete Stencil Printing Course, but I’ve also had some requests to teach workshops specifically about printing plants and flowers. I’m going to love that! The workshops will be for people who have already taken my courses and have some printing experience and I’m planning to do the first one when it is spring here and autumn in the southern hemisphere, a time when everyone will be able to find a lot of beauty outside. Looking forward to it!

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