This is the story of my journey into Flower Pounding or as it is known in Japan, Tataki Zome. Both terms describe the process of hammering flowers and leaves into fabric. It was a journey that began quite accidentally for me when in spring 2018 I found what was then a rare pin on pinterest that showed fabric with flowers pounded into its surface. There were few practitioners then and it had not yet become the trend that has captivated people all over the world . Because of that I felt rather like a rural pioneer striding out into very uncharted territory. I was immediately struck by the beauty and simplicity of the idea and I still am enthralled by the instant alchemy that occurs after very little effort. When the fabric is drawn back and a perfect imprint is visible next to the fragile paper thin plant that has given its ghost away to the textile, it is still a revelation for me.
Two summers later I have found myself a new term to satisfactorily explain the vagrant nature of the colours you can achieve “Flower Ghosts” and have, piled neatly in an antique bookcase in the study, metres and metres of carefully designed painstakingly laboured fabric waiting to be digitised and printed. Hours of work and instinctive design have gone into each piece you see below. Through trial and error I have come to know the flowers that colour well and the ones that don’t. I know the shapes that have structure and the ones that lose their form. I know how the blue of the forget-me-not instantaneously turns brown the moment it comes into contact with the fabric. I will never forget the first disappointment of that brown, sitting next to the pulverized blue of the minature petals. However, I will also not forget the many many more, often most unlikely, flowers and leaves that work so well they still make me gasp when I see them. Some are wild some are not. Most I now cultivate sustainably in the small dye garden I made outside my Studio in February 2019, so I could save the time spent rambling and foraging in the the countryside and actually hammer.
Time is of course the issue with this process. It can take up to a week to fill a metre square of calico with colour in this way. My arm aches like a drummers by the time the summer wanes, but it is a happy ache. Time intervenes in another way too because many flowers have a small lifespan and only a short window in which to commit them all to fabric. I spent months looking forward to the London Pride and the Smoke Bush to flower last year, only to be caught immediately in a race to transfer them all to calico. The hammering could be heard all over the village, but I knew that if I didn’t fix them whilst they bloomed they would be gone, and I would have to wait a whole year before I could use them again. It is only now after two years experience that I can approach the spring with designs in mind before the flowers emerge. Now I know how they behave, how they endure and when they come into flower, I can begin to imagine design combinations before the winter has even ended so that what I produce in the summer has more and more coherency. I find myself waiting for my favourites, poised with a hammer in my hand to commit them to cloth. It is less spontaneous but still a free process because the individual shape of each flower, stalk and leaf means that there is never a consistent replication and each print is original.