The Making of an Herbarium, Part III

It's been colorful on my desk the last few days: all the flowers came out of blotters livened up the paper-covered case I made for the book. Even normal vellum is a little transparent, and must be backed with paper—this skin is so transparent you can read writing on the back of a piece of paper through it. And so the case had to be covered in paper first, to make it all white, then the flowers were pasted to that, then the vellum pasted on top. A ton of pressure in the press first, to sink the flowers into the boards, then I pasted them into their shallow beds. In the end I thought it would be best not to lay flowers over the joints, although it looked really satisfying, because I doubt they'll stand up to the stress of folding as the book opens.

I think the pale blue iris is the best; it grows no taller than the stem it has here, and is the first to come out. All the veins in the petals and stem came out in such detail. The big poppy on the front board is another favorite—poppies already look like tissue paper when they're alive, and it retained all of that character pressed. Also present (amongst some long-forgotten ones): crocus, primrose, winter aconite, anemone, nasturtium, nigella, forget-me-not, viola, ceropegia woodii, campanula, passion flower, lewisia, heuchera, osteospermum, bleeding heart.

Some small pictures, to tide over until I get the "real" ones off the camera:

The Making of an Herbarium, Part II

My herbarium is coming along between treatment proposals and lecture writing: I chose really beautiful handmade paper made by Chris Petrone of the Womens' Studio Workshop, with nonpareil marbled endpapers from Payhembury. I dyed Pergamena vellum green for the tapes. I've worked on a few green vellum account bindings and the color is really satisfying. And then I took a last look at the deckle edges—lovely but uneven & difficult to turn—and plowed them right off. I found immense satisfaction in putting the trimmings in my vermicomposting bin, though! The worms will eat them, which enrich the soil, which will grow new plants, which will become pressed specimens for the herbarium. It's too perfect.

I wasn't sure what to do with the head edge, and colored it yellow with gamboge first, but on second thought rubbed some Prussian blue in and made them the same green as the vellum supports. More or less exactly the same green. That was pretty satisfying, and with a little wax & burnishing they're super shiny. Endbands are green, blue-green, & a pale blue over alum taw & vellum cores. I made the vellum long to lace it into the case with the sewing support slips. 

The next step is done, making the case Bradel-style, to be covered in white vellum. I was planning on making it go transparent by soaking it in potassium carbonate & pressing hard, à la Edwards of Halifax, but no matter how I've tried to do it, I haven't managed to affect any change in the skin. Plan B has just come to me in writing this, though, so stay tuned for covering & lacing in. 

Now, if only the sun would stay out a little longer, & get my plants growing faster...

The Making of an Herbarium

One of the last things I did when I worked at Columbia was mounting sheets from an herbarium. I love these old specimens, taped flat to support sheets, especially when labels are handwritten. I didn't know until recently that herbaria are still made, although it makes sense to preserve primary source material for future research.  

I've been pressing flowers and foliage in my book press for months now, between blotter and Bondina (nonwoven polyester), under whatever conservation or binding work is in there. And recently I thought about a ream of nice paper I have, and my pile of pressed plant bits from my rooftop garden & window boxes, and decided I should make my own herbarium. 

It's kind of amazing which plants keep their color—canary creeper leaves still look beautiful with mottled yellow & green; heuchera kept the rainbow of autumn colors. The bright purple campanula flowers have almost no color left. The fluorescent magenta delosperma flower turned sort of faded orange. And the red poppy, the reddest red there is, is still a rich color but more of a crimson. I think the poppy is my favorite whisper-thin specimen so far, but there are always new ones waiting in the press: