Dried flower petals become colorful artwork in the hands of an artist with a vintage flower press.
Written by Leslie Criss | Photographed by Joe Worthem
April Ford Beasley has had a penchant for picking petals since she was a little girl in Itawamba County. Just ask her artist mom.
“From the time she could walk, she was always drawn to flowers,” Laura Summerford said. “She’d pick tiny wildflower bouquets.”
Beasley doesn’t mind her mom’s reminiscence of her childhood. In fact, she nods in agreement.
“I do like to call myself a flower child,” Beasley said. “I love flowers, always have. My favorites? Sunflowers and daisies.”
The 27-year-old Beasley has, in the past year, parlayed her love of flowers into an artistic preservation project. After a serendipitous discovery of a vintage flower press in an antique shop, Beasley made a purchase, went home and began making silhouettes from dried, pressed flower petals.
Her first silhouette was of the state of Mississippi. Since her initial piece, Beasley has done silhouettes of animals, paw prints, children’s handprints, cardinals, koi fish and much more. Silhouettes of the Ole Miss Colonel Rebel have been very popular. Beasley has done commissioned pieces, and her work is on display in her hometown of Fulton at Farmhouse and also at Farmhouse in Tupelo.
Working with dried flower petals has been a learning experience that has involved lots of trial and error.
“Spring and summer are the best times to work,” Beasley said. “It’s just hard to find flowers growing in the winter, though not impossible.”
Beasley grows some flowers herself and makes use of those growing in her mother’s yard, but others she finds on roadsides. She has decided pansies work the best for her projects.
“We’ll be riding down the road, and April will yell, ‘Stop, stop,’” Summerford said. “And she’ll jump out and pick flowers.”
After finding the flowers, they have to be dried, which takes one to two weeks, depending on the size of the flowers. Beasley said she can press about 10 layers of flowers at a time in her flower press.
Once the flowers are dried and pressed, creating the petal-filled silhouette can be completed in two to three hours. The silhouette is cut and placed on a background, and the dried flowers are affixed inside the silhouette with Mod Podge, a combination glue, sealer and finisher.
“Once it’s framed and signed, it’s really very pretty,” said Beasley’s proud mom.
As her work becomes more popular, Beasley has begun doing keepsake pieces made from special flowers. For example, she made a silhouette of a child’s handprint out of Mother’s Day roses. She hopes to do more custom work using flowers from bridal bouquets.
“I absolutely love getting to work with flowers and nature,” Beasley said. “I enjoy both commissioned pieces and freelance. Mostly, I love making others happy with whatever pieces I do.”
Her pressed petal pieces are not Beasley’s first foray in art. She graduated from the University of Mississippi in the spring of 2019 with a degree in imaging art and photography. Her mom hoped her daughter would fall in love with watercolor as Summerford had, but it was not to be.
“She can do it, but it does not make her happy,” Summerford said. “For her it was the camera.”
Beasley was the only person in her film class who did not have to be taught composition.
“Composition always was easy to do,” she said. “It came easily to me.”
While taking a black and white film class at UM, Beasley began a film series documenting the South. It’s a project she’s continued, but in Polaroid format.
“I tend to photograph things that it’s not evident if they were taken in 1980 or 2020,” she said. “Such as buildings and vintage signage and typography.”
In addition to creating art for her own enjoyment, Beasley is the art teacher for students in grades 1 through 12 at Fairview Attendance Center and Tremont High School. She is the first art teacher in these schools in more than a decade, and she’s loving the job.
“I believe there’s some kind of creativity in everybody,” Beasley said. “And everyone can learn about art to some degree, if they have the desire. I’m getting some amazing work out of these kids, and it’s exciting to see.”
See more of April Ford Beasley’s pressed flower petal silhouettes on Instagram @applefork.