No Thanks
Let
Keep In Touch With MarthaStewart.com

Sign up and we'll send inspiration straight to you.

Martha Stewart takes your privacy seriously. To learn more, please read our Privacy Policy.

Composing a Mushroom Print

Martha Stewart Living, November 2000

Subtle adjustments of subject and arrangement, the color of reproductive deposits and the shade of paper can make mushroom prints call to mind exotic or ordinary images, such as flapping undersea flowers or Sunday-morning bagels. Select your paper after making a test print, half on white, half on black paper, to determine the color of the spore deposit. Thin art papers or newsprint can rumple attractively from the moisture concentrated under the glass; colored art papers can marry your prints to a room's color scheme.

Study the compositions at left: Experimenting with combinations allows for surprising pictures, such as the planet and its faithful moon created by printing mushrooms of two different sizes. The embryonic shape, diaphanous structure, and creamy spores of an amanita make it a good solo subject; this one recalls a Surrealist photogram. Stacking mushrooms of one species, like broad portobellos, emphasizes subtle distinctions while suggesting a lush pattern. Small mushrooms such as lawn mower's -- their diminutive stature makes them invulnerable to mower blades -- are delicate images for treatment in the round. Natural deformity can add interest to the shape of a mushroom, and sometimes spray fixative results in an attractively wispy smudging of spores.

Comments (12)

  • jaclyngood 10 Nov, 2008

    I've done this in a biology class, it's easier than it sounds and yields really interesting results.
    First do the test. You may be able to just tap out some spores or leave the mushroom sitting gills down on top of paper until some are deposited. Using both a dark and white paper will allow you to see the spores colour to plan out your print.
    The spores just drop out of the mushroom which makes the print.
    Putting a glass bowl over the mushroom ensures the spores stay put.
    Try it!

  • deebeee 10 Oct, 2008

    I guess I'll dare to be the one dissenting voice -- I do not like the mushroom prints at all. Leaf prints great. Potato prints fun. But mushrooms as art objects, guess it's just not for everyone. Have fun.

  • Anna_Marie 8 Oct, 2008

    The complete and thorough instructions are found by clicking on the blue-green link (Mushroom Prints) below the last photo with a black background. I have missed detailed instructions, myself, by not scrolling all the way down and looking for another link. Thanks, hlk1968, for taking the time to copy and paste the instructions for those who missed seeing the link. The resulting prints are pretty contemporary in style...but really intriguing! Good kid's craft...SUPERVISED.

  • Anna_Marie 8 Oct, 2008

    The complete and thorough instructions are found by clicking on the blue-green link (Mushroom Prints) below the last photo with a black background. I have missed detailed instructions, myself, by not scrolling all the way down and looking for another link. Thanks, hlk1968, for taking the time to copy and paste the instructions for those who missed seeing the link. The resulting prints are pretty contemporary in style...but really intriguing! Good kid's craft...SUPERVISED.

  • Encee 8 Oct, 2008

    These are incredible! I just love them! I spent a year as a Fine Arts Major and I am looking for something to take me back to my artistic youth! This could be just the vehicle!
    I am wondering how the mushrooms are dried though. Can a flower press be of any use here?
    Since seeing some of Jane Seymour's paintings I have been itching to express myself in a medium of some kind, I am happy I saw this!......I'll post info after I do more research!

  • hlk1968 8 Oct, 2008

    Mature mushrooms are rich with spores, and you can make several prints with a single cap. Gills should be fully visible; avoid prospects with bruises, dried edges around the cap, or gills that are darkening or covered by a membrane. The printing process brings out the moisture in the mushroom, which can damage wood, so protect work surfaces with waterproof covering.

    First, make a test print to determine the color of the spore deposit and help you decide what color paper to use. Cut off the cap of the mushroom, and lay it gill-side down, half on white, half on black paper. Cover with a bowl or glass to keep spores from blowing away and to allow humidity to increase. Let sit for at least an hour.

    To make the print you will keep, choose your paper: You can print on any kind -- newsprint, cardboard, or colored art paper. If printing several mushrooms together, do so at the same time. Follow process described above, but for a denser deposit leave mushroom on paper longer -- up to overnight.

    The spore print will be fragile and dusty. Preserve it with two to three coats of spray fixative. We suggest you try aerosol hair spray; it worked as well as spray fixative for us, and it's less expensive, less toxic, dries faster, and leaves no film. The spray can blow spores around, sometimes creating an appealing soft edge, sometimes ruining the print, so be patient.

    Expect some trial and error in printing; it's difficult for an amateur to determine a mushroom's state of maturity, and sometimes you might not get a print at all; take heart and move on to another sample.

  • fredalee 8 Oct, 2008

    If you reread the directions carefully, you'll see that it tells you to do a test "to determine the color of the spore deposit". The mushrooms are pressed onto fabric/paper, to transfer the spores.
    Do you really thinj that Martha actually writes these??

  • nemommy 8 Oct, 2008

    This is very cool looking but I agree with everyone else, I don't completely follow how to do it. I

  • B2designmarketing 8 Oct, 2008

    This is gorgeous, Martha, but you need to provide more direction on this one.
    Thanks!

  • impulse2create 8 Oct, 2008

    I totally agree with the previous comment... love some of Martha's ideas, but they lack complete direction, half of the time, leaving you guessing! Martha is better at explaining projects, its as if someone else is writing these.

  • blondie2 8 Oct, 2008

    Ok, I may be having a senior/blonde moment, but are they using the mushrooms under the glass (messy), painting them or using the natural juices in them to make the print on the paper? I love some of Martha's ideas, but they lack complete direction, half of the time, leaving you guessing! I think the kids would have fun making these as presents for the holidays!!