Soft and fibrous, the leaves of the stinging nettle are infamous for their minuscule hairs that produce burning sensations when touched. The plant, though, is also a striking example of nature’s penchant for structural patterns and texture, with small, serrated edges and delicate ribbed veins. It’s not easy to study or touch these intricate forms without exposing a finger or hand to potential pain, a barrier made less formidable by London-based artist Rachel Dein.
For the last 11 years, Dein (previously) has plucked herbs, flowers, and other foliage from the soil and arranged her findings into new assemblages. She’s an early cultivator of the botanical bas relief technique, which involves pressing the compositions into clay and filling the impressions with plaster, concrete, and most recently, iron powder and resin. The resulting tiles, which have grown in scale from 40-centimeter squares to two-meters-long, preserve the supple shapes of sage, snowdrops, and ripe blackberries, immortalizing their unique contours and network-like systems long after they’ve withered and wilted.
Dein has multiple projects in progress at the moment: one casting Alpine plants from Switzerland and another working with the garden plants at Nunnington Hall in Yorkshire, which will culminate in an exhibition in February 2023. She’s also creating limited-edition embossed prints and exploring additional materials, like glass, iron, and copper. Shop available pieces on Etsy, and keep an eye on Instagram for new releases.
Left: Geum. Right: Ribes, leucojum, and muscari
Rosemary, sage, betony, ribwort, astragalus gummifer, and alchemila