Artist Nina Nightingale presented an hour-long virtual live session, through Atlas Obscura, on botanical textiles and prints – wildcrafting – on 25 August 2021.
Nina Nightingale began with information on plant collecting. Collections of plant specimens are called herbariums or ‘horti sicci.’ One of the oldest still in existence, since 1532, is from Italy. Italian artist and herbalist Ulisse Severini da Cingoli illustrated and collected plants. Nina Nightingale also presented information on well-known botanists, from the Bauer Brothers in the late 18th century to Anne Pratt and Marianne North in the 19th century to contemporary artist Kate Kato, and more.
Franz (1758–1840) and Ferdinand (1760–1826) Bauer collected plant specimens and drew the entire plant in flower, as well as the bud and fruit, often dissected to show the internal structure. The Bauer Brothers were born in Feldsberg, Austria (now Valtice in Czech Republic). Dr. Norbert Boccius, the Feldsberg monastery’s medicinal gardener, trained the Bauer Brothers, and they continued their training at the Vienna University.
Following a visit to England in 1788, Sir Joseph Banks, the first resident artist at the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in London, hired Franz to draw orchid species. Banks recruited Ferdinand to be the natural history artist on the HMS Investigator sea voyage during its circumnavigation of Australia from 1801–1805.
Anne Pratt (1806–1893), botanical and bird illustrator from Kent, England, is one of the best-known botanical illustrators of the Victorian age. She wrote and published over 20 books.
Marianne North(1830–1890) has a gallery at the Kew Royal Botanical Gardens in London, named after her since 1882. She was born in England and began flower painting after the death of her mother in 1855. With her sister, she travelled extensively, including to Syria and along the Nile in 1865–1867, and spent a year in Brazil. In 1875, she began a journey round the world. At Charles Darwin’s suggestion, Marianne North went to Australia in 1880, and painted there and in New Zealand for a year before going to South Africa in 1883.
Kate Kato was born and raised in Bristol, and completed her Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design at the University of the West of England in 2006. Now living in the Welsh Boarders, she uses recycled paper and wire to create life-sized sculptures and arrange them into collections, moving from 2D to 3D artwork. For her, experimenting is one of the most important stages of the process. She uses a range of techniques including carving, wire work and embroidery. For example, the butterflies’ wings are embroidered by hand to keep their patterns accurate and the threads close together.
Nina Nightingale’s course on botanical textiles and prints focused on the technique of hammering to release the excess water and colour from the collected plant specimens.
Fresh flowers, leaves, and plant sections
Watercolour paper, cardboard, or handmade paper
Cotton fabric, such as cotton linen (tea cloth or T-shirt)
Cutting board or piece of wood
Boil your fabric in 4 cups of water, 1 cup of vinegar, and 1/4 cup of salt
Other types of hammers, such as a tack or rubber mallet
Iron, Scissors, and Tape
Nina Nightingale says that cotton linen is the best, or even a cotton fabric such as a tea cloth or T-shirt. However, if you print onto the fabric you have to fixate it first to get the dyes to stick to the cloth or they could wash out like grass stains. So, boil the fabric in four cups of water to one cup of vinegar with a quarter cup of salt. Then wring out the fabric and let it dry.
You can get extremely deep prints from hammering leaves and flowers hoping that one of these dyes will stick –some will turn a little brown but some, like roses, won’t. The leaves or flowers are peeled off the fabric or paper and the imprint remains.
Photographer: Martina Nicolls