Rachel Dein, Part 1 of 3: (Mostly) Botanical Bas Reliefs

Rachel Dein, Part 1 of 3: (Mostly) Botanical Bas Reliefs

This is the first in a three part series about Rachel Dein, one of our contributing artists, who specializes in plaster and concrete botanical bas reliefs.

Process

Dein's work is made using a direct and low-tech approach to casting: she presses objects (usually plants) into clay, removes them, and then pours plaster into the imprints left by the plants. 

This is obviously an oversimplification - if it was that easy, everyone would make work this beautiful. The point is, the magic Rachel Dein creates isn't dependent on elaborate technology, crazy moldmaking, or cutting edge materials. It's her deep understanding of her materials and process, her sense of composition, and her understanding of the natural world that come together to create these enchanting panels.

 Pressing flowers into a bed of clay to create a single-use mold, also known as a "waste mold."  Photo courtesy of the artist.

Pressing flowers into a bed of clay to create a single-use mold, also known as a "waste mold."  Photo courtesy of the artist.

 Plaster partially filling the mold. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Plaster partially filling the mold. Photo courtesy of the artist.

 A wood frame is placed around the clay waste mold and then Rachel pours plaster into the cavity. Photo by Gerard Wiseman, courtesy of the artist.

A wood frame is placed around the clay waste mold and then Rachel pours plaster into the cavity. Photo by Gerard Wiseman, courtesy of the artist.

 Peeling the clay waste mold off the hardened plaster. Photo by Andrew Montgomery, courtesy of the artist.

Peeling the clay waste mold off the hardened plaster. Photo by Andrew Montgomery, courtesy of the artist.

 Finished plaster panel, 39.4" x 25.6" x 0.6". Photo courtesy of the artist.

Finished plaster panel, 39.4" x 25.6" x 0.6". Photo courtesy of the artist.


The Work

On a technical front, the work is exquisite. The surface fidelity is so fine that every vein in every leaf, the texture of each stem, the delicacy of the finest tissue of poppy petals, and even the tiny hairs on fiddleheads stand out against the smooth plane of the backgrounds.

 Ferns and Solomon's Seal, plaster panel. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Ferns and Solomon's Seal, plaster panel. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Dein's sense of composition, her sensitivity to form, and visual hierarchy all add to the work being successful from a formal perspective.

 Plaster panel, photo courtesy of the artist.

Plaster panel, photo courtesy of the artist.

The perfect imperfection of the natural world isn't easy to mimic but Dein somehow captures the rhythms, the density, and the right combinations of plants to evoke an enchanted fairyland. 


Wallpaper!

  Late Summer  wallpaper by Area Environments. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Late Summer wallpaper by Area Environments. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Rachel has begun working with a US based company called Area Environments that creates wall coverings based on artists' work. So far, she has four patterns available. This is so much fun - what a great new application for casting... (I want this...)

 Here's another example of the Area Environments wallpaper being used in Rachel's booth at the Chelsea Flower show. (Congratulations, Rachel! So exciting!) Photo courtesy of the artist.

Here's another example of the Area Environments wallpaper being used in Rachel's booth at the Chelsea Flower show. (Congratulations, Rachel! So exciting!) Photo courtesy of the artist.


Commissions

Rachel not only creates pieces of her own imagining but she works with clients as well to create custom pieces. These can range from preserving wedding flowers to family portraits and sentimental objects.

  Cat's Wedding . Photo courtesy of the artist.

Cat's Wedding. Photo courtesy of the artist.

 A group of commissioned panels: on the right and left, two panels from a family portrait including objects dear to family members; in the middle, a dress from the 1930s with sentimental value to the client.

A group of commissioned panels: on the right and left, two panels from a family portrait including objects dear to family members; in the middle, a dress from the 1930s with sentimental value to the client.

Next Time...

Rachel Dein also creates large scale commissions. She has been working recently with interior designers and architectural design firms and has just finished significant projects for a restaurant and a fashion atelier. The next two posts in this series will focus on these magnificent commissions, so stay tuned - the impact of Rachel's work on these spaces is incredible.

Learn more about Rachel Dein

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