Friday, January 26, 2007

Virtual Pressed Flowers?

You know the drill: if you are a proper Victorian lady, you pluck a pretty here and a pretty there from your garden and carefully place them in the middle pages of a large, heavy book to dry. If you caught the bridesmaid's bouquet at a wedding, you might do the same with one of the blossoms (although roses are mighty hard to really flatten!) And if you are a botanist gathering field specimens, you have special papers and pressing frames to lug out into the field -- or at least to your camp.

What happens to carefully selected and pressed flowers? Often, they are forgotten and found by a grandchild exploring grandma's library for the first time. Rarely, they are arranged and framed, like the displays above. One was made by my mother-in-law, the other by my husband. The botanists' finds join others in one herbarium or another.

A more modern form of the classic pressed botanic specimen is this collection of autumn leaves my nephew's wife sealed between two layers of sticky shelf plastic. I've had this panel on my office doorway for well over 15 years. Much of the color has faded, tho the reds still make their presence known.
For the up-to-date version of pressed flowers, take a look above. One day, the late husband had this bright idea and sent me out to my potted garden to gather flowers and leaves. He arranged the specimens on the platen of our new HP scanner and let her rip. I guess you could call the result virtual pressed flowers (and leaves.) Here are some of the scans I found in the archives:

Virtual advantages: the colors are almost as brilliant as the original (and can always be PhotoShopped to outshine Nature.) Why not just settle for photographs? At the time these were made, LH was still working with film which took t-i-m-e (finish the roll, take it to be processed, wait a couple of days, pick it up, scan it. Ugh.) Today? I'm not so sure; specimens can rapidly be arranged, photographed and downloaded tho a real herbarium specimen offers the botanist DNA for potential study in the future. However, for the lay person direct scanning is an interesting design approach. It certainly isn't limited to plant material!
At the time we were playing around, scanning was new to us. In retrospect, I am reminded of the early days of that ubiquitous office scanner of the 60s, the Xerox machine. Youngsters who never had to cope with purple ditto masters or correcting typos on a mimeograph stencil will never ever understand in their guts what a Revolution the Xerox brought to the world. Or what a great new toy it was. Office wags made copies of their bare bottoms; prissier ladies copied their keys, and the kids -- their hands and anything they could lay their hands on. Suddenly everybody was a publisher. Which probably helped bring down the USSR.

I already have a couple of projects in mind dealing with material that is difficult to light properly. When I get my own, comfy computer back. (I still feel like I am working in a motel room and forgot to bring along all the right gear.)


Anonymous said...

I would like to see some flowers here. Pressed or not.

Granny J said...

The lack of winter water here is very worrying. Not only are we going to miss our mountain wildflowers (most of which are perennials with deep roots) but far more important, the forest fire season is likely to be very bad.

Kate said...

Sigh...those are beautiful. Makes me remember dad. We'll have to try that this year.

Karen of Scottsdale said...

What great idea! Love your take on the down fall of the USSR. LOL

I'm only 40 something, but I do remember purple ditto masters. There's never been a smell like it, but I distinctly remember in grade school and even high school smelling those as teachers prepared our exams or handouts for the day.

Granny J said...

Kate -- not having my big backlog of pictures that's on my own computer's hard drive is the reason I've dipped into your dad's archives. In fact, I'm thinking of getting a slide/neg scanner because there are so many wonderful pictures.

Karen-- not only do I recall the ditto copies, but far worse were carbon copies-- especially making corrections on five copies!

k said...

I remember that ditto smell as if it were yesterday. In fact, I think of it surprisingly often.

And what a purple!


k (age 48)

Granny J said...

We didn't use ditto in our office much -- mimeo was a lot classier (but you couldn't draw on it the way school teachers did with ditto.) I also recall really, really way back when my Dad filled a loaf tin with thick gelatin & pressed a ditto master against it to run off a small supply of QSL cards (he was a radio amateur.)

Publisher said...

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