This week I made a flower vase out of flowers. I thought the description was pretty clever, and I had a wedding present to make for my soon to be married best friend who would definitely appreciate the wittiness, but I knew nothing about the way epoxy would react to living flower petals,

Design and Preparation

I was excited to work with burlap for the first time (I actually didn't really know what it was until then) and I thought that the detail of making my best friend a wedding present to put her flowers in that was modeled after, or born out of, the very vase that I used for my flowers would mean a lot to her. I used my original vase below and hacked together a foam stand for it to stand on while I draped the layers of composites over it later.

I also knew that, being a small town girl from Virgina (there's actually only one street, Main Street, in her whole town of Berryville....yep...the one from the Wendy's commercial...), she woudl appreciate the simplicity and nature-inspired aesthetic of deflowered white flowers (symbolic) against a burlap background:

Layering the Composite Material

I began to deflower the petals and measured the area each layer of burlap would have to be in order to drape over the vase and conver it entirely.

I addded epoxy to each layer, one at a time, and then, after being soaked in epoxy, went ahead and added them all on to the vase.

I tried getting the flower petals to stick to the burlap's outermost coat but they did not want to stick. I thought that with breather film pressed against it so hard, there would be a natural way for them to come together and stay onto there. I was not only wrong, I was setting myself up for ugly yellow flowers!

Tips for execution

  • Our year we had two epoxies, each with a different finish and cure time. I chose the epoxy that would look the most clear and transparent (not yellow-ish) so that you could appreciate the white flower petals. Unfortunately, this also drove my cure time up from ~4-7 hours to 24 hours. This was not timely because we were all sharing the same vacuum pump and trying to coordinate those cure times.
  • To be resourceful, I used the ShopVac as a source of vacuum.

    While this might seem ingenious at first (no leaks with mastic tape, nice fit onto the vacuum bag's aperture), we foudn out the hard way that the ShopVac is really not built to pull so much for such an extended period of time. This ShopVac's plastic on-off switch ended up melting and caving in. The on-off switch is now pulling the plug from the wall. Sorry about that.
  • Eventhough they epoxy was clear, it was clear that the beatufiul white flower petals did not like all the chemicals in the epoxy because they turned yellow almost immediately after contact.
  • Demolding

    After seeing Sarah's tutorial on making her pot, I imagined that mine would turn out similar, but that the added height of the foam would make the burlap drape the bottom, following the contour of the glass, and leave just the right height for me to come later and cut off. Unfortunately, I missed the nuance of workign with fabric: it folds and wrinkles. Instead of flowing perfectly throughout the glass waves, the leftover burlap wrinkled onto itself making some very prominent creases:

    What I should have done was cutting the excess material aroudn the mold until the burlap fits snugly in a tight overlap, not in a wrinkled fold. When I pulled the part out of the vacuum bag, it was clear the epoxy had gone everywhere in a very uncontrolled manner and gotten under the pink foam to bind all of the materials together, making it that much harder to demold.

    The absorbent layer of cotton peeled back nicely:

    but it was the breathable film that put up a fight. I put my part in the vice grip and began a long list of attempts to break into my part, take out the inner mold, and regain control:

    After multiple hours and attempts with our limited tools (and whilst trying to save the glass mold inside, another reason why you should just desing a mold that you can also sacrifice later), I decided to call this one in and appreciate the variety of materials that I had summoned together, materials that would otherwise not have met each other before:
    In the future, I would be more careful to think ahead to where the epoxy might settle and apply breathable fabric there, too, not just where the burlap falls since gravity is at play here, too.