Gathering

So, hedgerow season is now upon us. The hawthorn trees aren't quite in blossom yet and I haven't spotted any elder flowers. But there are lots of ferns and interesting bits of foliage. And, of course, bluebells - whole swathes of them if you know where to look.

We've already been out picking wild garlic and young nettle tops (and enjoyed the delicious soup we made from them). But it's now time to go out collecting for creative purposes.

I take my inspiration from nature and love how, particularly where mono printing is concerned, a little bit of each leaf and plant I use is preserved before drying and fading and crumbling away to nothing. The prints are little memories of where and when I gathered; what the weather was like, what was growing at the time.

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Ferns are perfect for pressing and printing. They're robust and have beautiful shapes and detail. Some other plants, lovely as they are, just don't lend themselves to the process. It's all about experimentation. 

I tend to go out and find things then come home and identify them using various illustrated field guides. I suppose that justifies my weakness for old nature books; there's now quite a collection dotted around the house.

It's interesting to see what people buy from me, too: umbellifer types (particularly the pretty, airy, delicate ones like cow parsley) are always popular. I personally prefer the slightly more graphic or substantial-looking plants. Last year I brought home some Garlic Mustard (again, identified using a trusty old guidebook) and it printed beautifully.

Some species of grass work well too. So that often means a wander across the fields a little later in the year, when the wildflowers are in bloom and haymaking isn't far off. But for me, it's all about the woods. I love to escape to the quiet places and collect green things ready to bring home. Some will be pressed, others placed in a jam jar of water ready to be sketched (or simply admired).

I'm pretty resourceful when it comes to the kitchen. Skills passed down from my grandmother and mum: shopping for fresh produce at the market, making stock, saving jars and bottles, drying herbs and so on. And there's something of that in my little plant-collecting expeditions. Preserving them ready to use once the summer's gone, gathering in.