Last week we met with Rika Yamasaki, a flower press artist. She is part of a design duo with Mike Pollard, called ‘MR Studio London’. In this interview, Rika tells us about her inspirations and what led her to work with the craft of flower pressing. Their work is currently being exhibited at ‘Botany’until the 9th of October. We recommend all our readers to go and see their beautiful and delicate works of art.
What did you study, before starting MR Studio London?
I have a background in Fine Art, studying at Foundation and BA level. Before starting MR Studio London I worked a lot with photography and installation. MR Studio has been a really valuable extension of ideas that relate well to my work as an artist over the years, having created artworks that explore nature, fairytales, and the female form.
What inspired you to get into the craft of flower pressing and preserving?
The accessibility of the process of pressing flowers is a big draw. It’s something that anyone can do at home with a few books, ideally some blotting paper, and enough time to let things dry. (We created a tutorial for this on our website). For me, the beauty is that flower pressing is quite domestic and connects you to the immediate environment around your home.
We’re not really experts in flower pressing, we just found methods that worked for us and invested time that connected us to the natural environment close to where we live. The more we work with pressed flowers now the more inspiring it becomes to watch the seasons change and to document a passing of time around our home. I think its this connection to nature and our surroundings, especially living in a big city, that has become the most inspiring part of our work.
How did you get interested in setting up your studio together with your partner?
We have always been artists and makers and MR Studio London came about through a sharing and balance of both our interests. Mike is very interested in natural materials and processes and I love documenting and creating work connected to nature. This was an ideal way to work together and push each other to develop a practice that meant something to both of us and hopefully other people as a result.
What kind of products do you make?
We make a series of artworks and cards using real pressed flowers, either as natural ‘arrangements’ or as bespoke writing commissions- these make really nice and personal gifts.
We also create designs based on our pressed flowers to make digital/riso/lino prints as well as developing an ongoing photography series based on our interactions with our local and natural environment.
I read that the plants you use are based on seasons. Are there any particular plants or flowers that are your favourite to work with, or for that matter a season you prefer the most to work with?
Our work is a little bit dictated by the seasons, given the timing and availability of different flowers and foliage. Its part of our enjoyment exploring the change in landscape, throughout the year and getting to know the different characters that appear each year.
Spring and summer are obviously the most abundant for finding and pressing flowers but Winter requires a level of thought, close looking and consideration that can be challenging in a positive way! There is a delay in pressing that means we never really run out of flowers/foliage, given enough forward planning, but things are definitely influenced by the landscape as it appears at the time.
It’s hard to pick a specific favourite plant or flower as each one is so different and in a way it’s just getting to know the intricacies of a plant that make them fun to work with. Having said that we have had a fondness for Cow Parsley since we started, it is something we’ve worked with quite a lot- and maybe a soft spot for the different varieties of Vetch that are appearing at the moment 🙂
We ask this question in particular to all our interviewees because we work in fashion. We are curious to know how clothes play a role in your daily life?
I suppose I’m pretty specific with what I do and don’t like to wear. I love vintage clothes and enjoy up-cycling/altering them, making them comfortable to wear on a day to day basis.
I’m not too interested in being connected with any particular kind of trend or style and I don’t like the wasteful and throwaway side of fashion, that’s why I am drawn so much more to vintage clothing. I get much more satisfaction from being able to recycle something or to breath a new bit of life into something worn and well loved.
I really love old embroidered fabrics and costume type dress, so perhaps there is an inherent connection to craft in the things that I like. I don’t wear any jewellery, mainly because I’m pretty allergic to most metals & I never really felt comfortable wearing metal against my skin anyway, but I love the idea and craft involved in jewellery too.
How would you want to be perceived by people, and how do you feel this aligns with your personal style?
The sense of making something to be loved that would otherwise be overlooked or thrown away is something that means a lot to me and as an idea features throughout our work.
I would hope to put across a sense of enjoyment and appreciation for the materials that we use. In both fashion and in making work we try not to be wasteful and try to consider the impact we have on the environment; whether that’s through ecological printing processes, recycling fabric or being incredibly selective and respectful with the flowers/foliage that we pick.
I see a similarity between your work and ours — a sense of nostalgia in capturing nature. I tend to dissect and abstract nature, in the forms/shapes of flowers and leaves. What is it that fascinates you about using elements of nature to express yourself?
For us working with nature has become a really important part of finding solace and places of calm in a busy and fast paced city. It’s a way of slowing down and respecting the pockets of nature that exist around us. Closely watching the environment subtly change and grow, in sometimes unexpected cracks and corners, is a really inspiring thing to do in terms of creating work. Rearranging and selecting elements of flowers/foliage that we find, playing with scale and combinations, the work we create becomes a documentation of place and time as well as a poetic way to work with the landscape. Working with nature feels increasingly valuable and rich as a medium and it feels inexhaustible to work with because of this.
As a craftsperson and as a company, where do you see yourselves going few years down the line? Do you have any intention to explore other mediums/fields as well?
As a craftsperson, I love the idea of having our images and designs on a wider range of products- as long as we can produce things sustainably and merge our process well with what we produce. I would love to begin printing on fabric as a way to broaden the things that we produce.
Something else we want to do is to pursue and develop our Fine Art interests to sit as part of the work we do as MR Studio London. Developing my recent photography series has been really inspiring for me to really engage and think about the work we make and the reasons we do what we do. I’d love for this instilled sense of reflection and consideration to have a more prominent place alongside our more crafty leanings.