A striking work of art created out of dried botanicals seems to float on the wall above this desk.
One of my favorite artists, Jim Hodges, uses artificial flowers pinned to the wall in his piece Changing Things. His delicate and poetic art is a reflection of the frailty of life and a freezing of time. His work was an inspiration in the creation of this project.
The flowers for this project are real, not artificial, but they’re dried in sand for two weeks and mounted on a wall using dressmaker pins. You can dry just about any type of flower in sand, but certain flowers will be a little more fragile. I used flowers collected from the garden and meadow near my home: California sunflowers, two clematis ‘Madame Julia Correvon’ and ‘Etoile Violette’, nasturtiums, hellebores, Queen Anne’s lace, and rose campion. Flowers like poppies and nasturtiums can be used, but they’re delicate, so they need to be removed from the sand very carefully. Other flowers that dry easily include evening primrose, hydrangea, roses, sweet peas, pansies, violets, zinnias, echinacea, delphinium, hollyhocks, yarrow, thistle, cornflower, bachelor buttons, nigella, anemones, calendulas, daisies, and craspedia. I dried my flowers in batches—it reduced the amount of sand and number of boxes needed for drying.
Since the flowers will be attached to a wall with dressmaking pins that will be hammered into the wall, you’ll want to think about the overall picture you want to make before picking up a hammer. You can make any pattern you like, using as large or small of an area as you like. Be creative: make a grid, a random drift, a nebula, or small cluster. I did a fairly large spray that used around 100 flowers. I also varied the depth of the pins that the flowers are mounted on, so some of the pins are hammered in closer to the wall, and others jut out to further emphasize the three-dimensional nature of the piece.
In order to maintain the appearance of the dried flowers, this project should be installed in a room with low sunlight—the darker the room the flowers are in the longer they will last. The room should also have low humidity. If you place dried flowers or leaves in a room or spot exposed to moisture they will rehydrate and wilt—the flowers will remain attached to the pins, but the look of the piece will change significantly.
- Horticultural or aquarium sand
- 1 or 2 sturdy cardboard boxes or large plastic bins (I used 11- × 14-inch boxes) (A)
- 50 to 100 fresh flowers (B)
- Large sheet of paper (optional)
- Dressmaking pins (C)
- Super glue (D)
- Small paintbrush
- Painter’s tape (E)
- Hammer (F)
Pour a 1/2-inch layer of sand into the box and spread it out evenly.
Put the flowers face down on the sand, and gently pour more sand around and over them until they are completely covered. Use the end of a paintbrush or a chopstick to provide some support under the petals as you pour sand over them. The additional support can prevent the petals from breaking off from the weight of the sand falling on them. Leave the ends of the stems sticking out so you can locate the flowers when you come back to retrieve them. Set the box aside for two weeks for the flowers to dry.
After two weeks, uncover the flowers one at a time. Begin by brushing away sand with a small paintbrush until you can see the outline of the flower. Continue to gently brush away sand until the flower can be lifted out. If you feel resistance while lifting the flower, stop and remove more sand with the paintbrush.
Gently remove any excess sand with a small paintbrush. Set the dried flowers aside and continue removing the remaining flowers from the sand.
Arrange your flower design. Lay the flowers on a large piece of paper on a flat surface first, rearranging them until you have a composition that you like with regard to the colors and sizes. Give each flower a number. (If you don’t have any paper, you could also lay the flowers on a flat surface or table and use small pieces of paper or painter’s tape to place numbers next to them.)
Apply small pieces of painter’s tape to the wall in the same arrangement that you’ve made out of your flowers, and number them to correspond with the numbers of the of the flowers, so that you’ll know exactly which flower will go where. Applying the painter’s tape to the wall will also give you a sense of what the finished design will look like. You can work in sections if the wall area is bigger than your tabletop workspace.
Mount the flowers, varying the depth of the pins to emphasize the project’s three-dimensional nature. There are two ways of mounting the flowers on pins. Some flowers are soft enough to push a pin through the center, while others will fall apart. A good way to know if you can push a pin through a flower is to test the flower. Often very thick or hard-centered flowers, such as Echinacea, will be hard to stick a pin through. Also, if the flowers are too delicate they might break apart (for example, clematis will fall apart). If you are not able to push a pin through the center the other option is to glue the flower to the pin once the pin is hammered into the wall.
MOUNTING WITH GLUE
A). Hammer the pin into the wall to the desired distance.
B). Put a spot of super glue or super glue gel on the tip of the pin or on the back of the flower.
C). Place the flower on the tip of the pin.
D). Gently place painter’s tape across the top of the flower to hold it in place until the glue has dried. You must remove the tape slowly in order to not tear the flower petals.
MOUNTING WITH PINS
A). Push the pin through the flower’s center.
B). Pull the flower to the lower part of the pin and gently hammer the pin in the wall with the flower at the bottom of the pin.
C). Once the pin is secure pull the flower to the top of the pin until the tip of the pin disappears.
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