Art Diaries

“The preservation of a life form by making something new” – the intricate pressed-fern art of Helen Ahpornsiri

When I first saw Helen Ahpornsiri’s “Seahorse” (see below) I remember gazing at it, wondering, amazed, at the artist behind the artwork who must have had such incredible patience and intricate aesthetic skill.  I’m delighted to be introducing Helen to our site, and thank her not only for a beautifully written article, but also the stunning images that accompany it. -Beck

I thought I’d share the process of my work from scratch to final product, from nature to picture.

"Seahorse" by Helen Ahpornsiri

“Seahorse” by Helen Ahpornsiri

The way I start my pressed fern pictures, is with the ferns themselves. Mainly from my garden or responsibly picked in forests around the countryside in Sussex. This has required me to learn about the medium to a level that most people wouldn’t need to with inks, pencils or paints. The fronds of the fern change through the seasons, in colour and size, thus keeping a variety in stock is vital.

"Wren" by Helen Ahpornsiri

“Wren” by Helen Ahpornsiri

Once I have picked the ferns, I press them in traditional fashion over a few months (Except when I forget to take one from a book I was carrying around at the time and discover it years later). When they come out of the press I organise them, slightly obsessively, into sizes, types and colours. They then stay in photo albums to make it easy to flick through them as I work.

"Aviary - detail" by Helen Ahpornsiri

“Aviary – detail” by Helen Ahpornsiri

The level of intricacy in my work with fern has risen as I’ve developed my understanding of the plants and how to press them properly. Balancing detail with the overall design is a challenge that has helped me find a style that suits me. Beyond the fern and after sketching out the design lightly in pencil, all I use is a sharp scalpel, paper and glue.

"Little Bee" by Helen Ahpornsiri

“Little Bee” by Helen Ahpornsiri

 

"Work In Progress" by Helen Ahpornsiri

“Work In Progress” by Helen Ahpornsiri

The actual sitting at the desk duration it takes for these pictures of course varies depending on size, but a square inch can take 2-3 hours of time. Keeping a steady hand is essential to the technique, being patient and not rushing, considering which segments of the ferns to use, requires a discipline. I keep myself disciplined, by constantly seeking to improve, picture by picture. It all comes down to little steps, decisions and practice.

"Mini Set" by Helen Ahpornsiri

“Mini Set” by Helen Ahpornsiri

I’ll end with how I probably should have started – the reason I use fern, which is simple; it is common and overlooked by most in favour of flowering plants. That interests me, but perhaps it’s the preservation of a form of life by means of making something new that sticks with me most.

 

 

Words, Photography and Artworks:  Helen Ahpornsiri

Twitter: @HelenAhpornsiri

Website: helenahpornsiri.com

 

Additional words and editing: Beck @artistscribbles

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