How did you get started with resin and pressed flowers?
I have been working with pressed flowers since 1990 when a dear friend gave me a tiny 4x4" flower press. I pressed a few things, put them away and kind of forgot about them for awhile...then finally got them out and put a small picture bouquet together with a little bow. I remember being somewhat amazed at how easily it "came together"...it even seemed a bit momentous personally.
I am a committed follower of Jesus Christ and constantly seek to know what He wants me to do and be involved in. So...I felt like this was His "gift" to me--not only the beautiful flowers He's created, but also the ability to create beauty with them.
What kind of presses do you use?
Right after I "discovered" the art of pressing and designing with pressed flowers, I realized one tiny little press was not going to cut it. My dad (who is almost 94 now) helped me design a flower press that I think works the best of any I've seen or used. Here's a picture of it...
( I began to make and package them for sale when others asked for them). I have about 20 of these to accommodate all the pressing I do during flower season. The slide-off slats make it easy to loosen and remove instead of having to put nuts and bolts back in place. I found these presses quick and easy to use--which helps when you are doing millions of flowers! The flowers also dry more quickly as this press has holes in the outside pieces and can be stood on end so that air gets all the way around the press. I put a sticky note on the outside detailing the contents and date of entry, then wait for 2 weeks to open them--then it's like Christmas! I love to try all kinds of plant materials--to experiment--and have made enough mistakes through the years to learn a few things anyway!
Do you grow your own flowers to press?
Gradually, I have planted and now grow virtually all the flowers I use in my artwork. And HERE is the fun part! The gardening! I absolutely love to plant and nurture and GROW things!! Right now I am struggling with my yearly bout of "acute floral deprivation"--a disease I get every year about this time! All is under several feet of snow up here in the mountains of northeast Washington state.
I especially like to combine my pressed flower artwork with sweet verse or Scripture...they seem to compliment each other and provide not only beauty for the eyes, but encouragement for the soul. That has been very gratifying to me over the years, as customers have shared what a blessing the piece has been to a relative or friend or themselves. "Say it with flowers"...I always did like that slogan!
Do you do custom work?
Yes, I have done lots and lots of it through the years--pieces for weddings, anniversaries, funerals, births, graduations, photos, etc. etc. I love to design a custom piece around the style of the invitation or whatever I'm embellishing. I work with people who have a very personal, specialized gift they want to give or memory to keep.
How have you marketed your artwork?
Over the past 20 years I have tried every avenue imaginable to market my pressed flower artwork...local shows, shows throughout the Northwest (both fine art and arts & craft shows), consignment sales through galleries & retail shops, art shows in conjunction with a yearly Garden Open House here at Mingo Gardens, giving how-to classes, having a small shop in my home, putting them in beauty parlors and wedding shops, and some lame attempts at internet sales (which is almost impossible to do on a dial-up connection!!). I have had only minimal "success" in all these ventures and finally realized I could not physically continue to haul all my artwork and booth set-up all around kingdom come any more. After finally getting a little faster internet connection through the phone line, I launched my etsy.com shop about a month ago. I have 50 items listed at present--a variety of framed work, allbums, boxes, jewelry, bookmarks, tea trays, etc. You are invited to come and visit! www.etsy.com/shop/mingogardens Now I'm on a new adventure in search of a way to share and sell my work.
How did you get into working with jewelry and resin?
About the jewelry thing...Probably about 9 or 10 years ago I was searching for a way to make pressed flowers touchable and, yes, wearable. I had made some brooches years ago, but not with resin. I was not real techy so hadn't been on the internet to maybe see what else was being done out there, so I just remembered the resin stuff we used to use in the 70's and found some at a craft store. The kind I found (and the only kind I have ever used) is the kind where you mix equal amounts of the stuff in two different bottles that come with the kit. I have not ever molded it--only painted it on, or poured it over my flower designs on tea trays. I found it challenging to work with since there is definitely a time limit as the resin begins to harden. And there were those little bubbles to get out. At first I just blew over the resin as it sat on the flowers--popping the tiny bubbles that kept coming up from under the flower petals in the design. After almost hyperventilating ;O) I started using a blow drier. I don't do a lot with resin, but I sure like what I've seen by the floral artists on etsy--very, very nice! I especially like the glass that magnifies the flowers. Besides, how cool is that to wear your garden!!!
What are your favorite flowers to work with?
I love forget me nots and put them in almost everything I design. I have them all over my gardens and love it when they bloom each early summer. Of course, there are the pansies--I have gradually learned which ones hold their colors best and keep those growing in the garden. I like to use black mondo grass for my more modern black and white pieces--so dramatic and classy! I like toad flax for it's great spire shape. I use grape tendrils (as well as lots of other kinds of tendrils) which will totally change the natural look of a design. Double blue columbine and hydrangea are fantastic to press--but have to picked at just the right stage of bloom. Larkspur are wonderful too--especially the white (one of the few flowers that press white white). I could go on and on...(I already have, for goodness sake!)...
What resin challenges have you encountered and how have you overcome some?
I mentioned some above...It is very tricky to work with when attaching a flower to a bead (for a pendant or earring). One has to be very careful not to plug up the beading hole with the runny resin. Also, on larger applications, it is a problem that the resin may over time become a little yellowish instead of crystal clear...not sure what to do about that--except make sure when you pour your resin is fresh and hasn't been on the shelf for a long time.
What are your plans for the future?
The main reason I have continued to do this artwork for commerce is that we needed the extra income. My husband and I have always been involved in Christian ministries (first at a group home for delinquent boys and then teaching at a small Christian school) for most of our nearly 43 years of marriage, so any extra income I could bring in was definitely helpful and needful. This remains the case. So, I keep at it. I love the gardening, and I do very much enjoy the artistic outlet that this is for me. And it IS something God has given me to do and to share with others. Of course, I use the artwork for gifts and to bless other people as I feel led. I am teaching my 4 granddaughters to do this artwork too. They are all little flower lovers and SO creative. It is a joy to share this with them! I will continue to try to figure out the etsy shop thing and hope to be able to sell online.
Every spring I work at a local nursery--which is my favorite job I've ever had in the whole world! Talk about being in your element!!! I have learned SO much about plants, trees, and shrubs from my boss and his wife and can sometimes even help others (perennials are my specialty). I really appreciate the opportunity to work there for the 3-4 month "window" we have up here in the mountains. We also have an outdoor wedding venue here at Mingo Gardens. We end up having usually several wedding each summer--so, there's another good excuse to garden!!
Thank you so much!
Tip of the day: when you put packing tape on the back pendants to protect them from a resin coating, don't use the cheapest packing tape! I generally use a good brand and a thicker tape (Scotch makes one). I decided to "save some money" with a cheaper brand and ended
up ruining some pendants because i couldn't get the sticky stuff off the back. I tried using (1) adhesive remover, (2) nail polish remover and finally gave up. Even sanding doesn't work, it only clogs up the sandpaper.
I love comments and suggestions. Thanks, Chris