Who’d have thought that pressing flowers, something that carried the stigma of being beyond uncool when I was a teenager, would come back and be a thing in 2018? Jam Jar flowers, that’s who, run by the inspiring grown up woman, Melissa Richardson.
I first discovered Melissa via the Rake’s Progress pop up, where her exquisite pressed flower wallpaper caught my eye in that (obviously deluded) “I could do that!’ kind of way. It looked so beautiful and was all over Insta and suddenly pressed flowers became a thing. The roll of wallpaper took two people two days to make, from Melissa’s bank of stored pressed flowers and is remarkably robust. (btw Mellisa’s fab cardigan coat above, is from Etro should you be wondering)
She also of interest to TWR because her florist business is her second career, she ran the model agency Take 2 Model Management for 27 years, before deciding in 2010 she wanted to do something else for the next stage of life. Inspired by a nostalgia for her childhood and a love of flowers, Jam Jar Flowers was born and – possibly due to her great contact book and her free-flowing, unfussy sense of style – has thrived ever since.
Her first pressed flower project was for a major fashion house, who wanted thousands of blooms pressed to insert in vintage books for an event. ‘How hard could it be?’ she thought, and accepted the job, it was only when she was filling her fan oven with cow parsley, trying to figure out how to press and dry flowers in bulk in less than two weeks that she began to develop her own methods to guarantee success. Now she and her team run workshops on pressing flowers and sell pressed flower pictures (which they struggle to keep in stock due to the demand) for those can’t be arsed doing it themselves.
I have pressed flowers since I was big enough to pick them. I’ve got old diaries from my teenage years filled with scrappy buttercups and unidentifiable brownish foliage which meant something at some point and adds a decorative edge to the inky scrawl. I’ve kept on pressing, and last year my sons bought me a press as an alternative to filling every book in the house with squished flowers. But things can go wrong; rot seeps in, once beautiful bloom flatten to a brown mass and vibrant colour is frequently lost. So I signed up to a Jam Jar workshop to learn stuff.
JJF HQ is in Peacock Yard*, the sort of charming workshop courtyard that makes you love living in London, a hidden space with lots of small creative businesses doing interesting stuff. The workshop is a dream; the windows are shelved to hold the extensive, artfully colour coordinated vase collection, there were huge bunches of flowers on every surface ready for us to press and a huge selection of ‘ones we did earlier’ pressed flowers for us to play with.
Melissa’s team are also wonderful teachers, we learned a lot and had a loads of fun and it was SO GOOD to immerse yourself for a couple of hours in something that was not digital. Melissa thinks the huge success of her workshops is due to people wanting to be creative with something physical and that’s a long way away from a computer screen.
Until you need to Instagram everything, obvs. Below are the highlights of what I learnt.
1) Only press light, airy flowers, do not try peonies, roses, camellias or any of layered, juicy flower heads because they will rot and never look as good when they press. Dog roses and simple single layered roses can work.
2) Press flowers fresh, don’t let them hang around in vases looking pretty until they fade. The colour will keep much better if you press them ASAP after picking.
3) Layer flowers between two sheets of blotting paper, but add sheet of glossy, non absorbent card between each blotting paper section to stop any excess moisture spreading. Cass Art do A1 sheets of blotting paper if you want to go big.
4) Press the flower head onto the paper first, to get the best out of the bloom, then secure the foliage decoratively around it. Look for flower heads and stems that have character, kinks and bends in stems and leaves add interest.
5) Flower presses are easy to buy and not hard to make; four wingnut screws to pull together two bits of solid MDF or ply – with holes at each corner -will do it.
6) Once you’ve layered up your flowers, press together with force, screw the wingnuts tight, and leave for one week in a cool dry place. Do not fiddle about with the pressing before this as you will damage the blooms.
7) Check for rotting after a week, and tighten the wingnuts a bit further on remaining blooms.
8) When you are happy with the drying, two weeks should do it for most plants, then you can start to use the flowers on cards, floating frames etc.
9) Mod Podge craft glue is the best for sticking the flowers on card, the Rake’s Progress wallpaper had a layer of glue spread thinly over each plant as a type of varnish, which helps keep the colour and protect the flower if you are not framing them under glass.
It was a fabulous evening and one I’d recommend, it would make a great present for a gardener or if you are looking for something creative to do that is simple and rewarding. Not everyone wants to sew, knit or be an artist.
Flower pressing is something quietly satisfying you can do just for yourself, as a way of recording the best of your garden or as a means to make more original greeting cards. Whatever. Discover more here and remember the workshops sell out very fast.
*Peacock Yard holds an open day annually where all the business put on a show of what they do, with food trucks and bunting and all that. I’m going this year, it’s on the 9th and 10th of June.