So, how do you heat press flowers without an actual heat press machine? So I did a residency with The Weaving Mill a few years ago and had the pleasure of experimenting with their heat press machine. However, after the residency I got back home and wondered - is there a way to do this with materials at home? To my satisfaction there absolutely is!
It's quite simple; our trusty iron does the job. I like heat pressing flowers because it always feels like you are getting the ghost print or the essence of the flower. When I'm done heat pressing them I will usually use the flowers in other pieces of artwork or glue them down to the paper for more texture using a matte medium.
As always I encourage experimentation! Try it out, make some heat pressed flower cards, turn them into art, add some natural inks to them, see what happens, and explore the material as a way to connect with the plants you are using.
Supplies you will need:
- Iron (irons with a steam option work great)
- 1 cup of white vinegar
- 4 cups cold water
- Spray bottle
- Tray for soaking your paper in
- Fabric (to lay on top of your paper)
- Optional: 2-4 Iron tablets (to change the color of your paper)
- Coffee or anything else high in tannins that you'd like to soak your paper in
I always encourage a well ventilated area especially if you are sensitive to different smells
Iron supplement tablets crushed and in water are a skin irritant (if you do choose to use iron tablets please wear latex gloves, a face mask, make sure you are in a well ventilated area as well) If you have sensitive skin I don't recommend using iron tablets
If you are sourcing your own flowers always confirm that it is not poisonous as heat can release different toxins. Confirm with someone or an online community or with a plant identifying app (I like iNaturalist).
How to press flowers with an iron
Below is a picture of my setup.
Step 1: Start by filling your tray with enough water to cover your paper, this could be around 2-4 cups or more, add your white vinegar to the water. Ratio of vinegar to water is one part to four parts water.
Step 2: Soak your paper in the vinegar water for 15 to 20 mins (make sure the paper has been soaked evenly) - this is known as mordanting
Step 3: Place one paper on your surface and lay fresh flower petals on the paper (dry petals will work if you soak them in vinegar water for an hour 1:4 ratio)
Step 4: Cover the flower petal sheet with another mordanted piece of paper (some people refer to this as a blanket sheet), or a paper flower sandwich.
Step 5: Lay some fabric on top of your paper sandwich (so the iron is not in direct contact with the paper)
Fill your spray bottle with one part vinegar 4 part water and spray your fabric with the solution.
It is now time to iron! (I like having my iron on medium heat - it will take a while but it is gentle for the delicate wet paper)
Step 6: Gently press the iron on the different parts of the paper and be mindful of ironing too hard, you don't want to rip the paper with the stems of the plants. I usually iron mine for 2-5 minutes depending on how much of a print I want. Experiment, see what flowers are easy for you to print with and see what happens!
Optional: Create different colored sheets using iron or coffee or any other material high in tannins.
Step 1: Fill a tray with water (enough to cover your paper)
Add 2-4 crushed iron tablets (this will mordant the paper with the iron)
Step 2: Repeat the Steps above through Step 3, instead of covering the flower sheet with another vinegar mordanted paper use the iron mordanted paper instead) - Cover with cloth, dampen it and iron.
Step 3: Reveal! The paper on the left is mordanted with vinegar, the paper on the right is mordanted with iron
Optional; try soaking your blanket paper in coffee or tea or any other pigment that is high in tannins, try it out with your heat pressed plants and see what happens.
If you have a go I would love to see what you creat! Share and tag my instagram account @abenaart or via my webpage Abenaart.com happy heat pressing!