Dig in: Botanical artist whose unusual work is highly collectible
Capturing that perfect moment in the garden
The intricate work of British botanical artist Rachel Dein. Photograph: Andrew Montgomery
Have you ever wanted to preserve a gardening moment in time? To capture, for example, the sculptural qualities of autumnal seed-heads before they fade and fall, or the fond memories associated with a handpicked bouquet?
The British botanical artist Rachel Dein does exactly this, albeit in a very unusual way, foregoing the more traditional mediums of photography, drawing and painting for handmade plaster or concrete plaques onto which she imprints or casts the delicate, complex forms of many different flowers, foliage and seedheads.
The resulting pieces are exquisite, not just in the way that they succeed in capturing the rich botanical detail of each fragile stem, leaf, bloom and swollen seedhead, but also as art works that reflect the tactile beauty of the plant world.
In one of her plaques, for example, Dein has used the globe-shaped flowers and seed-heads of ornamental alliums, in another, the autumn flowers of Japanese anemones. In other pieces, she has used dicentra, ferns, Welsh poppies, lilac, willow, aquilegia, fritillarias, lavender, marigolds, daisies, Solomon’s seal, sweet pea, honesty, nasturtiums, bluebells, hellebores, cosmos, achillea, heuchera, clematis, snowdrops, sage and kniphofia, as well as dandelions, pea pods, radishes and carrots.
Botanical fossilsIn some ways, the resulting work calls to mind the dried, pressed specimens of botanic gardens’ herbariums where plant parts are preserved for future scientific study. It’s also reminiscent of botanical fossils, and indeed Dein has referred to her work as “fossils from everyday life”.
Equally, its pared-back, poetic aesthetic calls to mind the work of earlier botanical artists, from Durer and Basilius Besler to the German photographer Karl Blossfeldt. But it is also innately modern, bringing to mind the pictorial meadows and perennial-rich plantings that feature in the work of many of the world’s best-known contemporary garden designers.
Dein’s work is increasingly in demand: this summer, she exhibited at both the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and at the RHS Hampton Court show, where she held her first solo exhibition. She has also been commissioned to create a series of art works using material from the famous kitchen gardens of Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire, run by chef patron Raymond Blanc. Her work features in the new book, In Bloom: Creating and Living with Flowers, by the New York-based photographer Ngoc Minh Ngo.
Bewilderingly, she’s not (yet) represented by a gallery, so to buy one of Dein’s large plaster pieces, or any of the smaller, more affordable pieces, visit the artist’s online Etsy shop or email her to discuss once-off commissions. See racheldein.com and @racheldein