We catch up with Rachel Dein, botanical artist who makes concrete casts of plants and flowers, recording the texture, pattern, and delicacy in exquisite details.
Written by Jenny Garcia.
Arts and crafts like most things in our lives boil down to personal taste. That’s not to say we can’t be persuaded or even change our minds having made a previous judgement or decision about a piece we’ve seen, but on the whole it’s in that first glance that a connection is made, or not. These connections often come from our deep subconscious, ignited by a colour, a smell, the feel or mood of a piece or in my case with Rachel Dein’s botanical art, the spark of a childhood memory.
Rachel’s work captures mother nature‘s plants and flowers in a moment of time,
preserved forever, displaying the grace and beauty in a timeless cast to be enjoyed and absorbed over and over.
Read on to discover more about this deeply appealing artist and what fills her home.
Photo: Andrew Montgomery
When did you first know you were creative?
When I was a child growing up I loved drawing and being outside playing with plants and bits and pieces I found in the garden. We had a great book with craft suggestions which I loved. I was following in my older sisters' footsteps as they were both very good at making things from the book. I loved being given a new set of felt tip pens and I still remember the ones I was given.
Did you find it easy or difficult to follow a creative path?
Not an easy choice actually and I found it difficult at times.
What sparked your love and interest in nature and plants?
I was always interested in nature and plants from early on. I remember planting little cacti in tiny terracotta pots and giving them as presents to friends. I had plants in my bedroom as a teenager and have always had them wherever I've lived since then. Probably my mother has been the source behind all this as she's always gardened ever since I can remember.
Which artists have been your biggest inspiration?
I've been drawn to sculpture a lot. The British museum has been a big influence
especially the Parthenon Frieze. At college I came across Andy Goldsworthy who works with nature and I'm very inspired by his work. I love Rodin and Michelangelo. My favourite contemporary artist is Cornelia Parker. But I have so many favourites it's hard to narrow it down.
Why do you think people connect with your work so much?
I think somehow my work is quite timeless and classical which appeals to people. If you love plants then being able to see them in my casts with all the detail captured (forever) is attractive.
Where is your studio and what’s it like?
My studio is in my home, up in the loft. There is plenty of room and lots of light. It's just floorboards so I don't have to worry too much about mess. There is no plumbing in the loft so I use buckets of water to clean and jugs of water for making up the plaster. At the end of the day I push the pull down ladder up and can leave work behind.
Photo: Gerard Wiseman
Photo: Andrew Montgomery
Where are you happiest?
In my studio and the garden.
What made you decide to partner with Maze?
I like the style and ethos of Maze. Hannah got in touch a few years ago and pretty quickly after that I sent her my work. I don't choose to have many outlets, and I quite like to keep it simple that way. My main work is through commissions and doing the Chelsea Flower Show.
How do you choose which plants and flowers to represent?
I love all plants so I'm never stuck for a subject matter. Some plants and flowers do come out better than others. But I like the variety and think the contrast just adds to the richness of the final piece.
How long does each piece take to make?
That's impossible to answer as it depends on the size. Not all pieces are successful. For Maze the pieces are all made with concrete and created using a silicon mould. The mould was made from the original plaster cast.
Photo: Tayla Nebesky
What arts and crafts fill your own home?
I love glass, ceramics and textiles so my home has pieces which I've collected over the years. I've inherited some favourite pieces from my Finnish grandmother
What are you reading/watching/listening to at the moment?
I'm listening to radio and records. Mainly folk music but some reggae and music from Africa.
How would your friends describe you in 3 words?
Creative, thoughtful, motivated.
What or who makes you laugh?
My husband (sometimes), my daughter Natasha is a great mimic!
Being an artist can be quite solitary, how do you keep connected?
I'm pretty good on my own and see friends sometimes. I'm happy with the balance generally.
Biscuits, cake or savoury?
Both (too much!)
Do you believe in life balance? If so how do you try and achieve it?
Yes, I do believe in life balance. It's really difficult and forever trying to achieve it. Being self employed it's hard not to over do it. When the commissions are coming thick and fast I have to say yes to everything and hope to be able to manage.
Tea or coffee?
Top sustainable tip?
Re-use, natural drying, keeping traveling by plane minimal.
Cat or dog?
I used to have a cat I loved many years ago and now we have two dogs, which keep everyone grounded.
Maze is deeply grateful to Rachel for sharing some of her inspirations, passions, memories and thoughts in our recent conversation. We are proud to partner with her and subsequently share her incredible work with you. Which one is your favourite?
Photo: Toby Mitchell