Rachel Dein makes casts of incredibly fragile flowers, plants and even vegetables, then turns them into extraordinary Wedgewood-style decorative tiles. To create these wonderfully tactile, gossamer images, Dein has adapted a glass casting technique she learned at Middlesex University by pressing her plants into wet clay, then carefully pouring over them a mixture of plaster and concrete. This painstaking process preserves even the most delicate details on these fantastic tiles. The magical moment is the reveal; when Rachel Dein lifts the clay clear to reveal the plaster plants in all their glory.
Working from an attic studio in her north London home, Rachel Dein is following an age-old tradition of nature printing, which Leonardo da Vinci described in his Codice Atlantico of 1508, Notable exponents have included Henry Bradbury who used a similar technique – pressing the plants onto soft lead to make an intaglio impression – for his magnum opus The Ferns of Great Britain and Ireland.
Rachel Dein’s composition can be as simple as a single stem or as complex as a melange of wildflowers, leaves and grasses. The resultant tiles preserve a fleeting moment of natural perfection for the future: both a celebration and a memorial.
Rachel Dein’s mesmeric botanical castings reflect a desire to capture the ephemeral. Cast without colours with their form and texture captured in white plaster, the stems, leaves and flowers are utterly transformed; the results both highly naturalistic and yet possessed of an otherworldly abstraction.
It is also possible to tint or colour the sculpted tile surface, like illustrations from ancient manuscripts or limited edition books.
However, left unpainted, the tiles have the quality of an early black and white photograph; with a layering of light and shade, and impressive clarity of detail.
This year witnessed Rachel Dein’s fourth participation in RHS Chelsea Flower Show; the world’s most prestigious flower show that inspires millions through showcasing the best in garden design. As well as having a stand selling her work, she has created a unique collection for the Jardin Blanc restaurant at Chelsea. All the pieces in this collection are cast using the plants and vegetables grown at Le Manoir for the restaurant.
All the square tiles shown above are from the gallery on Rachel Dein’s website. The tiles shown all measure 400 by 400 by 15mm. The photographs were taken by Gerard Wiseman, Rachel Dein and Andrew Montgomery. Tile Addicts interested in commissions should phone Rachel on 07986 821 559 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A new post by Joe Simpson, Diary of a Tile Addict, July 2017.