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Gardener, Ecoprinter, Bookbinder

Welcome! I’m a passionate gardener and I use the flowers I grow in my garden and the leaves I forage in my favourite green spaces to create ecoprints – also known as botanical contact prints – on paper. I’m also a bookbinder and I transform my one-of-a-kind prints into hand bound journals. I love the seasonality of my practice, gardening and printing in the warmer months and creating and binding books in the winter.

Ever since I was a little girl, I planted flowers and tended a vegetable garden. I dread the fall frost and can’t wait for spring so I can start seedlings under lights and see the first tentative shoots emerge. Each year I plant too many seeds and somehow manage to squeeze more plants into my garden. I can never pass a nursery without stopping and I love visiting other people’s gardens. I relish weeding, deadheading and getting dirt under my finger nails. So it’s no surprise that my art is all about the colours and patterns I extract from flowers and leaves, mostly grown in my own garden. 

So how do I capture the colours in flowers and leaves on paper? Simply put, I arrange plant materials between damp sheets of paper that have been soaked in water and alum. Then I stack the pages, press them with a heavy weight and steam them. Afterwards, I rinse, dry and iron each page. The dyes and pigments are trapped on the paper and what’s left of the plants goes into my compost heap to nourish next year’s garden.

Of course, it’s more complicated than that. Not all plants print, not all papers cooperate, and the colours and patterns depend on the variety and combination of leaves and flowers I use as well as the time of year. But, most importantly, all the colours in my prints come from plants – I don’t use synthetic dyes, inks or paints – and every print is one of a kind.

One of the most surprising things about ecoprintings is that flowers rarely print the colours they display in the garden. For example, orange and red day lily petals print gorgeous shades of blue.

I’m also a bookbinder and I transform my original prints into hand bound sketchbooks, journals and notebooks. Nothing goes to waste in my studio: offcuts from bookbinding become note cards, bookmarks, papercraft ornaments and more.

My handcrafted books are made to be used. I seal the covers with a special Japanese starch to make them more durable. I use strong Irish waxed linen thread to hand stitch the Coptic binding, which allows the pages to lie flat when the book is opened, and I always use high-quality acid-free paper for the inside pages.

Choose a book that inspires your creativity and write, draw, paint, sketch, collage, doodle, journal and more in it!

Peta Bailey

Kingston, Ontario Canada