The works of Rachel Dein immortalizes plants and natural products that have a short shelf life, creating replicas of them that could last for eternity.
Rachel Dein enjoys the “magic of plaster casting to create fossils from everyday life.” This stands true whether it’s a shell she finds on holiday, a grandmother’s treasured lace, or flowers from a wedding.
It is this idea of preserving the ephemeral that Dein is so fascinated by. In her latest body of work, she immortalizes plants and natural products that have a short shelf life, creating replicas of them that could last for eternity.
Dein’s work is a modern take of the old tradition of nature printing, where botanists and artists created moulds of plants and flowers to index and study. But, even though Dein’s pieces are necessarily a scientific collection, they still touch on nature’s fragile identity and use the age-old technique of using the natural product itself to create a print.
It is her deep interest in nature — in particular, its transience and tenacity — that inspires Dein’s pieces. Each plaster cast records the unique texture, patterns, and intricate details of plant species in a variety of different compositions. In some pieces, a single flower might dominate the entire image, while another might depict the wild shapes of a complex field.
Each flower is carefully selected depending on its print-worthiness. Dein tends to use a lot of curly ferns, poppies, and bleeding hearts, capturing the fleeting glory of these short-lived species. She steers clear of flowers that won’t show up well, like pansies and forget-me-nots. “Large roses aren’t very beautiful as they just look like round balls on a stem,” says Dein, adding that “Peonies are too messy and camellias are to fleshy.” Tulips and crocuses tend to sprawl out into unrecognizable shapes but, for the most part, all flowers create interesting silhouettes once cast into a clay mould.
To create each piece, Dein follows a simple process. She arranges her chosen plants and flowers before pressing them into wet clay. Afterwards, she frames them before pouring in the plaster and leaving it to set in the natural grooves.
When the piece is ready, Dein will carefully peel away the clay mould which reveals the immortalized plants in all their glory. At first glance, it appears that the plants themselves have been folded into the plaster casting thanks to the intricate detail of the stems, petals, and leaves.
It is this still suspension that makes Dein’s work so mesmerizing. Every graceful line and curve is captured, preserving a fleeting moment of life long after the death of the flowers used.
For Dein, it is all about getting the specimens right and feeling in the right frame of mind to create a piece. “It doesn’t always come out well,” she says, “it is hit and miss. But that’s the magic of anything creative. You can’t accurately sum up why something works and therefore you can’t control the success rate.”
This is perhaps what makes Dein’s work so special: the idea that the end result is an unknown — much like the constantly-changing, ephemeral state of nature itself.