Herbarium – behind the scenes

The nature prints in my Herbarium series are incredibly simple.  You coat a sheet of watercolor paper – I use Fabriano Artistico – with a salt solution and let it dry. Then when it is time to make the print you paint silver nitrate on your specimen – mine are leaves – with a foam brush.  Place the subject on the salted paper – silver coated side down, put a salted cover sheet over it, and use a print maker’s brayer to press the two sheets together with the subject between them.

Then flip the “sandwich” over – lift the bottom (now on top) sheet off, place both sheets face up being careful not to move the subject off of the bottom (formerly top) sheet.

Carefully place the sheets in the UV light box and expose. Do not look at the UV light any more than absolutely necessary.  When the prints seem dark enough – they will seem too dark – which is something learned by experience and practice. My exposures are usually 5 to 10 minutes.

Then rinse the prints in copious amounts of water for about 5 minutes. Insufficient first rinse will cause staining of the highlights. Then fix in sodium thiosulphate, and then wash thoroughly. Squeegee the prints and place them face up on a drying screen.  When dry flatten them in a hot dry mount press.