MR Studio London breathe fresh life into the historic craft of flower pressing. Mike Pollard and Rika Yamasaki (hence the M and R in their collaborative moniker) create strikingly pretty, pressed-floral prints that give new perspectives to the foliage they collect from their garden and on walks through nearby Epping Forest. Prints which we’re very excited to say can now be picked from their new Papier collection.
Before joining floral-forces, both halves of MR Studio London worked separately in the fine arts, with Rika creating artworks that looked at nature, fairy tales and the female form, while Mike’s work focused on natural materials, processes, and finding beauty in small things. So when it came to teaming up, pressed flowers seemed very natural.
“Nature was always a big inspiration to both our work as artists and as we began to work together collaboratively, we found there was more of a coupling of both our ideals the more we worked directly in the environment," they say. "Pressing flowers was something that allowed us to collaborate and make work together whilst still exploring and being faithful to each of our different interests.”
For Mike and Rika, working in the environment starts in their own back garden. The creative duo plant a variety of plants and flowers that they can then use in their work. Growing things that they wouldn’t necessarily find in their surrounding woodland. Their passion for design feeding into their interest in botany. Nothing is overly prescribed though: “We have no definite rules about what we do and don’t grow. Occasionally we will start to seed things based on requests from commissions as long as the time and space might suit what we are trying to do.”
“We’re quite fond of rescuing plants we find in various shops too, plants that would probably just die or be thrown out if nobody bought them. We have something of a plant hospital at times (all lined up in pots) in the hope that these plants will find a new lease of life, whether originally wonky or shrivelled, and grow into something healthy and strong with a bit more care and nurture.”
Beyond this A&E for injured foliage, the green-fingered pair turn their fondness for long walks in the woods into picking adventures. “We are really lucky to be surrounded by a lot of natural woodland. From just around the corner we are at the start of Epping Forest and can walk for miles, ending up somewhere that feels completely detached from the city we live in. It sometimes feels like being in a different world — going from the noise and traffic of a busy street to being somewhere you can only hear birdsong in the background.” When you hear of the woods as acting like a magical gateway, you can see where Rika’s interest in fairy tales and the natural world comes from.
All of MR Studio London’s prints hold their own personal meaning to the pair: “It tends to be that our favourite spots for picking flowers are the ones closest to home (whether woodland or roadside) as it’s never been about picking things in abundance from lush green and beautiful pastures for us (these often are spaces to enjoy in themselves) but really noticing intricacies of a space and selecting small elements from places we know, care for and can enjoy before they disappear again.”
The appearance and disappearance of plants and flowers in the local environment, the circle of life — and the preservation of youth and beauty — is what enriches pressed flowers with a meaning which is deeper than just the pretty pictures that Mike and Rika make with them. “Rearranging and selecting elements of foliage that we find, playing with scale and combinations, means the work we create becomes a documentation of place and time as well as a poetic way to work with the landscape.”
“We especially love to find inspiration or materials in unexpected cracks and corners like flowers growing out of crumbling walls or bits of the forest creeping into neglected alleyways. It feels really rewarding to turn something that would be mostly overlooked into something beautiful that will be cherished. As long as the means we use to create work fits into a basic ethos of sustainability and ecology, it feels a justified way to spread a love and appreciation of the surrounding natural environment.”
That message of sustainability is something that is integral to their work: “With our reliance on nature as a raw material and working so much in our local environment it’s so important that we can work, grow and help maintain our surroundings. We try not to be wasteful in our practice whether that's through ecological printing processes, the way we source, limit or recycle our use of materials or being incredibly selective and respectful with the foliage that we pick — we rarely come back from a walk with more than a small handful of flowers and leaves.”
Picking flowers is only the start of the process, the work really starts when it comes to the pressing. If you're keen to have a go yourself, Mike and Rika, have generously shared their expert methods below. Or, if you'd rather just pick your favourite MR Studio London design, take a scroll through their Papier collection page.
Materials you will need:
Any flowers, leaves or even weeds that you have found. We love using weeds & the sort of plants & flowers that you wouldn’t usually think of as pretty or otherwise appreciate. To us if they successfully turn into something better or more beautiful than you were expecting that is a joy.
A very heavy book, something like an encyclopaedia to use as a weight.
Newspaper: with each sheet folded twice to make it into about A4 size.
Blotting paper: we use 315gsm blotting paper, so things may take longer to fully dry if using a thinner paper (you could always try doubling up a thinner paper). Cut to a slightly smaller size than the folded newspaper.
Two books, or thick magazines, children’s illustration books etc. Something not too floppy that is thick and hard enough would be perfect. It's good to use books that are the same or a slightly bigger size than the blotting paper you will be using.
Step 1: Pick the flowers and leaves that you want to press. We love this process; it’s a great way to feel the season. But if you pick any wild flowers/foliage please respect nature. We always pick only the amount that we actually use, no more. Try to start pressing everything as soon as possible after picking to help preserve the natural colours and shapes.
Step 2: Once you have got all your flowers/foliage, place a piece of blotting paper on a piece of folded newspaper and then lay the flowers/leaves on the blotting paper. None of the flowers and leaves should overlap, so make sure that they have enough space between them.
Step 3: Carefully sandwich them with another piece of blotting paper and folded newspaper on top. If you have more flowers/foliage to press, place another piece of blotting paper on this newspaper and repeat.
Step 4: When you finish placing all the flowers/leaves between blotting paper, carefully put this pile on a book (or magazine, children’s book etc) and sandwich the pile with another book. This should make everything easier to handle without disturbing the flowers/leaves if you have to move things.
Rest your big heavy book on top of this pile somewhere flat, preferably in a dry out-of-the-way environment and leave it for a week or so. We understand that you may feel a craving to see how the flowers/leaves are doing but for a beautiful result it’s the best not to touch it until it’s ready as things are quite delicate before fully dry!
Step 5: After a week, you can finally open it! But you still need to make sure that everything is completely dry — so have a careful peek first. If it still feels moist, carefully remove and change the newspaper from your pile (this way you can leave the flowers/leaves mostly undisturbed between the blotting paper) and leave for another week or so.
After this and everything is completely dry you should have a selection of beautiful pressed flowers! How flat and thin they are will depend on how much weight you put on top of your pile, but we find this is a matter of preference that you will pick up as you go.
This method is only an example of how we press flowers. It’s not definitive and there are a few other techniques that can be found. (You can of course substitute the books in this guide with your own D.I.Y or professional press/other kind of flat-weight/object, but books are more readily available and how we started!) This is just a method that worked well for us so we hope it helps if you are looking to start pressing your own flowers :)
If after reading this, you do find yourself setting off into the wild to pick and then press some flowers of your own, we'd love to see your results on Instagram @papier