Flower Ghosting

  • This is a photo-story of my journey into flower pounding or Hapa Zome (the latter term coined by India Flint in her book Eco Colour to 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. I was immediately struck by the beauty and simplicity of the idea and I still am enthralled by the instant alchemy of that moment of revelation, when the fabric is pulled back and an perfect imprint is visible next to the fragile paper thin plant that has given its ghost away to the textile. At the time I thought it would be a good way to keep the children entertained in the holidays involving as it did a small amount of violence, a hammer and the wild outdoors. Eadlin and Lufian enjoyed it momentarily, but it turned out I enjoyed it more. 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 work and the ones that don’t, like the forget-me-not, the blue of which instantaneously turns brown the moment it comes into contact with the weave. I will never forget the 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 Shed-studio in February 2019, so I could save the time spent rambling in the the countryside, probably breaking the law, 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 and was not gratefully received in all quarters, 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 appear, I can begin to imagine design combinations before the winter has even ended that give what I produce in the summer more coherency. 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 direct replication and what you think you will get is always superceded by something more original than you could have hoped for.
2019. Eco-Printed Cloth hammered with wild geranium leaves.
Flowers hammered between fabric and paper.
Eco printed fabric hammered with individual pansy petals
Forsythia. a fugitive but beautiful print, the colours fade within weeks.
These were some of the first Flowerghosts I made and inspired the name because the dyes extracted from the petals faded before my eyes. They did, however, prompt two years research through the local flora to find leaves and petals with dye that had more stamina to stay fixed.
April 2018. The first flowery victims. Copper beech and rapeseed.

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