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How to Make Complex Real Flower Resin Cabochons and Pendants | Plant Suggestions - Garden and Neighborhood Foraging


I knew early on I would never enjoy field work so I never did any in my entire scientific career - samples always came to the laboratory for analysis!  That's because the mandatory one week ecological field trip I endured in the UK during my first year at university was definitely not my cup of tea.

Imagine this tropical island- bred, international student, crouched miserably on a wet British spring day trying to count the tiny barnacles within a grid on a seaside rock. Or the terrible case of hay fever after a day on the marram grass covered sand dunes. Or the hours spent in a damp woodland looking for the elusive and very small British bee orchid. 

Fast forward a few decades, and I am again foraging in a manner that would make my old botany professor proud.  Granted, I go out on dry, sunny days! I ignore puzzled looks from neighbors and neighborhood walkers out for a stroll, as I get down low to pick likely specimens from my garden, lawn, sidewalks and community patches of greenery. All to make real flower resin jewelry! 

Unlike my previous tutorial using single blooms, these are more complex compositions. Here are my tips!

PLANT TIPS

One big issue of making real flower resin jewelry is finding small flowers and leaves to fit molds.  There are plenty if you are prepared to look and many are free. 

Foraging for botanical material usually involves collection over several months as the plants come into flower at different times. Spring offers the richest pickings. But you can still find useful specimens right into the fall. 

I first thought the flower on the left below, might be a dandelion mutant because it was small but had  similar looking leaves. Its petals were also serrated. I found it in two locations in my neighborhood, growing wild. But using the free version of the Plantsnap app, I discovered it is the meadow hawkweed (Pilosella caespitosa). The plant has usually tall floral stalks but mowing had made the flowers grow lower. It's not as thick as dandelions so this flower can be pressed flat. 


White clover (Trifolium repens) presses dry very well. A "ripe" specimen with petals top and bottom,  presses flat and can be lovely on its own as shown in my Craftagems design. Some specimens have pinkish tips. 


But keep your eyes out for fully pink version (Trifolium pratense), which for some reason is called red clover. It's commonly used as a fodder crop.  I am not surprised to see this in my lawn and in the neighborhood as we are not far from farmland.


The Bird's Foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) is a very small yellow flower- I found it growing in a poorly tended patch of ground near the entrance to my local strip mall. It is an invasive species in North America. It was planted on roadsides for erosion control or in pastures as forage and has naturalized. This yellow flower provides bright spots of color. Doesn't seem to be affected by resin.


Grass rarely goes to seed in our lawns because of the constant mowing. I found tall grass stalks near a local bus stop which the city hadn't mowed yet. The little seed clusters are ideal in resin jewelry making.


Some of my garden favorites include the bleeding heart perennial for both leaves and flowers. Be sure you do not overdo the microwave pressing of the flowers - otherwise you will lose the pink color.  Been there, done that.


Also consider separating flowers and leaves into smaller components - like the leaflets in the bleeding heart above or removing the lower part of columbine flowers shown below  (the top is excellent when dried in silica for round cabochon molds - see this tutorial). 


The small spirea shrub is a hardy garden staple - pretty much everything growing in my Canadian  garden has to be hardy!


Pick spirea flowers when they are still in bud - some of them are dark red which look like little berries in resin jewelry! Do not microwave press the spirea leaves too long as they can go brown easily.


Some garden flowers are naturally small like moss pink or creeping phlox and are thus ideal for resin jewelry work. 


Trumpet shaped flowers are usually too big and don't look good flattened. One exception is the honeysuckle - some specimens will be smaller than others :


The needle-like leaves of conifers also work if they are small enough. Sometime the actively growing tips are yellowish in the spring which makes a small sprig pretty. I took this photo after the yellow had gone. 
 

No gardener likes to have goutweed growing in their yard unless they are trying to fill a difficult area. But like the flowers of carrots, celery, parsnip, cumin, dill, coriander, they are in the family of umbellifers (Apiaceae). Wildflowers such as Queen's Anne Lace (wild carrot) are also umbellifers. 

All their dainty flower clusters have that distinctive umbrella shape, hence the name.  Definitely collect umbellifer flowers of any kind for resin flower jewelry!  They press down flat very well and are excellent in the background. You can use as little or as much as you want. I have come across commercial dried umbellifer flowers which have been dyed different colors. 


Another leaf suggestion is the yarrow (Achiella) perennial. Its small serrated leaves are delicate and fern-like. 


Choose the right plants for a container garden if you do not have a yard. White bacopa and purple lobelia are some of my trailing flower favorites which I plant every year on either side of my front door. The latter is a workhorse in my floral resin designs. 



MICROWAVE PRESSING

Once you collect your specimens - preferably in late morning after the dew has evaporated and before the flowers wilt from the heat - microwave press them ASAP.  You will need a microwave press like this one - mine is a ceramic one made in Canada. Experiment with the time as different microwaves and presses will need different times. I aim for 50 s on High for my press but adjust down for delicate flowers.  See this past tutorial for more info. 

Here is what the dried and pressed material looks like after a microwave session. I usually place the flowers upside down, with the stalks up. 


SILICONE MOLDS

Pick preferably silicone molds which allows you to work from bottom up. It's difficult to work in reverse with some of the molds I have seen. The top two oval molds below are from Little Windows (Readers get a 15% discount from them - use BG1516).

There is a wide selection of commercial molds. Some are cabochons like those from Little Windows. Others are pre-holed which makes it convenient if you want to make pendants but don't want to drill. 


RESIN

I highly recommend Brilliant Resin from Little Windows - it's safe (made in California which has strong safety regulations), very clear with a long shelf life.   Having said that, you should try to use up resin within the year. It's also a low bubble producer.

You can either use the cups given or a small weighing scale to make up the resin mix according to instructions.  The latter is more accurate if your eyes are struggling to see the marks - that is why I use a marker pen here!


You will have to work in multiple sessions. Just like painting, you start with the background.  I use different types of colorants for the first thin as possible background layer in each mold.  Little Windows has opaque white and black as well as some dichroish film. Castin Craft has opaque blue pigment as well as transparent blue both of which will look great with floral designs.  It's like flowers against a blue sky.

Alcohol inks such as the Pinata line offer a wide variety of transparent hues - you can make these solid and lighter by adding white colorant.

My favorite colorants are the mica powders - I often use Ranger's Perfect Pearl in white. Looks far more luxuriant than plain white.


Once the background layer has cured overnight, (remember to cover the molds), mix up a batch of clear resin and add a very thin layer to the cured layer. This second layer serves as glue to hold your floral composition. 

I then add either leaves, grass seed clusters or umbellifer flowers for the background before loading up with the main flowers. Any leftover gaps are filled with little bits of spirea flower buds or even broken off petals from flowers. You can tell I favor the English country garden style of "pack them all in" rather than a formal composed look. 

The birds' foot trefoil (bright yellow flowers at the top right of the picture below is another good candidate to help fill all the available spaces.  Below the trefoil is the umbellifer pressing.



Again, let this second layer cure overnight. The third layer is to completely cover the creations so no botanical material is exposed.  

See the comparison below?  The large round but flat mold on the left yielded a thin cabochon compared to the thicker cabochon using the Little Windows oval molds. The latter allowed me to use a combination of glass chips and resin for the foundation layer and also silica dried flowers rather than flattened in the microwave ones.  

Which you use is entirely up to you. It will depend on how you are going to use the cabochons and the look you are going for.  Bead bezeling? Wire bezels?  Drill a hole for a bail etc?


RESULTS

It is nigh impossible to make two identical pieces for earrings as you can see from my two attempts below. So once the edges are sanded, the trapezoid shapes will either become pendants for Craftagems or available as a handmade supply in Beadinggem

The pink silicone mold I use had rather large holes. So I used really pretty TierraCast bails  for these small round pendants below. The botanical design not only suits the floral composition but also allows for thicker cords to be used. 

I am not overly fond of black backgrounds - the flowers and leaves do not stand out as well even when they are well contrasted.


I am still pondering on whether to add more clear resin to dome up these larger flat rounds a bit more. The large yellow flower in the lower one is a marsh marigold (cowslip), a native plant in the buttercup family which I bought from a garden center earlier this year.  The rationale being, native plants have a better chance of survival in our harsh winters!


Only one of these three cabochons below are left in my shop after I put them up for sale just days ago. The lowest layer is composed of transparent light turquoise glass chips which give these cabochons a hint of color and depth. 





These three cabochons (also in my shop) show a lot more depth due to the foundation layer of darker blue glass chips. Reminiscent of a coral reef?



I drilled holes for the tear drop pendants which have a clear background. These are available in my Craftagems



Photography 
I used  my iPhone 8+ for final product photography in natural light. I used  the Orangemonkie studio which comes equipped with LED lights - for artificial light photography in my windowless basement studio. The Foldio2 Plus is excellent . I use the Foldio3 because I need the room for tutorial photography. My online class Easy Guide to Smartphone Jewelry Photography is now available. Read more about it here.  

Before You Go:

Disclosure 

 This blog may contain affiliate links. I do receive a small fee for any products purchased through affiliate links. This goes towards the support of this blog and to provide resource information to readers. The opinions expressed are solely my own. They would be the same whether or not I receive any compensation. 
 ______________________________ 
Original Post by THE BEADING GEM 

10 comments:

  1. I knew someone who left a biology program in the US with a master's degree rather than completing a PhD because her thesis work involved counting microbes and other small organisms in tree hollows in a forest in Alabama after rainstorms. I guess field work was not her thing either. (The people I know who looked for interesting secondary metabolites in sea organisms in Fiji enjoyed their work a bit more...)

    I was also a lab person for my graduate work (I worked with short lengths of synthetic DNA). I like all your resin ideas with flowers but have no access to fresh flowers so will probably have to buy some one Etsy and hope it works out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It’s important to know early on in one’s career white one likes or dislikes.

      Delete
    2. ...whoops. What one likes or dislikes!

      You should be fine with professional supplies.

      Delete
  2. I've ordered dried flowers from Amazon to get a bigger, and tinier, variety. I can't seem to find many tiny flowers to dry! when I drive to and from work, or any place, I'm scanning the side of the road looking for flowers to pick. We live in a rural area, no shoulder on the roads, so I also have to locate a place to pull off the road! I've been making a lot of flower and resin jewelry lately. can't get enough!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Try going for a nature trail walk – if you’re allowed to pick those wildflowers. Flowers the best found when you are walking, not in a car.

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  3. Thank you for the lovely botany lesson! I am, sadly, not much of a gardener, but I keep trying. Here in the US, red clover grows wild along the side of the road around May and June. Individually, they look like your photo, but driving along the road, it just looks like a lovely wash of red. Your resin pieces are absolutely beautiful!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for your compliments - Keep trying.

      Delete
  4. Beautiful pieces Pearl, and I so appreciate your shared knowledge for these individual plants and techniques to making resin castings as lovely as possible! Thank you, thank you :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wonderful article Pearl. Stunning pieces! ❤️
    I love using wild flowers in my resin. I’m still working on getting them look good. Think I am over cooking some of them.
    Do you treat the flowers before putting into resin?

    Thanks again for all you do for us Pearl. We really appreciate you and all your hard work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Vicki,
      I was away and didn't get a chance to reply until now. I did not treat the flowers in this session. I just stuck them on with resin and there is the final layer above. That is why the white lowers on the black background pendants are translucent here and there. You could try sealing the flowers if you wish. Add Mod Podge on the cured bottom layer to glue on the flowers. Them more Mod Podge over the flowers to seal them. I would do this in two steps, allowing the glue to dry each time.

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