By Calie Brummer
Inspired by an unused flower press in her drawing studio, artist Susan McChesney discovered a new medium in pressed fresh flowers, blending color and texture together to create euphoric landscapes inspired by the blossoms and her surroundings.
Pressing the petals and layering them as she would a stroke of paint, McChesney has fine-tuned the art of flower collage and painting. She works closely with Emily Copus, grower and designer at Carolina Flowers in Marshall, where flowers are grown year-round. McChesney uses fresh flowers gathered from Copus’ farm for her pressed designs.
“I started pressing flowers last summer and began collaging shortly thereafter,” says McChesney. “I am entranced by the whole process, from the vase of fresh flowers, to disassembling each blossom to press, to storing them a few weeks later, and then to collaging. Becoming immersed in the stages brings me a sense of peace and joy.”
McChesney draws inspiration from the 16th-century art of Oshibana, the Japanese tradition of pressing flowers to preserve their colors. Colors are usually preserved by vacuum sealing or laminating the finished designs to remove the oxygen, which causes colors to fade in the process. Once sealed, the flowers can hold color for years and elicit magical combinations of blossoming palettes.
“I begin by deconstructing and pressing local flowers from Carolina Flowers farm, whose blossoms are colored and varied, then collaging mountain landscapes reminiscent of Western North Carolina, focusing on elements of sky, air and water,” McChesney says. “I regard each pressed bit of color and texture as I would a stroke of paint, building layers for a sense of depth.”
McChesney’s designs come in many forms, from framed and sealed 5” x 7” originals to prints and notecards. Larger prints show intricate detail, displaying vibrant colors, and can be shipped upon purchase. McChesney’s works are available for viewing at local galleries, and may be purchased through her website.
She also leads art workshops for artists of all ages and experience levels. The private and small group Journey Journal workshops integrate basic drawing techniques with lessons on sewing watercolor paper into a journal and then creating impressions with watercolor pencils from the artists’ surroundings and imagination.
McChesney is currently showing her flower petal artwork at Flow Gallery in Marshall and at Miya Gallery in Weaverville. For those interested in creating their own flower arrangements, Carolina Flowers is a vendor at the seasonal Asheville City Market, held every Saturday, April through October, from 8 a.m. to noon in downtown Asheville. Carolina Flowers offers fresh cut, locally grown flowers at the market and designs floral arrangements for weddings.
Miya Gallery is located at 20 North Main Street in Weaverville. Flow Gallery is located at 14 South Main Street in Marshall. To learn more about Susan McChesney’s art, visit McChesneyArt.com. For more on Carolina Flowers, visit FlowersNC.com.