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Mushroom Prints

Martha Stewart Living, November 2000

The gills of a mushroom -- leaf-like, radiating plates on the underside of cap-and-stem varieties -- teem with microscopic reproductive spores. When a mature specimen is placed on paper, the spores drop directly beneath, leaving a virtually photographic record of the gills' folds and spokes. Mycologists, scholars of the vast kingdom of fungi, are interested mainly in the color of the deposits, which can reveal, when printed on white or black paper, the critical distinction between mushrooms identical to the naked eye. For the amateur, however, the rewards of the literally dirt-simple process of spore printing -- when combined with an eye for composition and an aesthetic rather than scientific paper choice -- are decidedly modernist, somewhat otherworldly works of art.

The process comes with a few cautions. Many mushrooms are toxic so never eat any wild ones without an expert's definitive identification. And after handling them, wash hands and any dishes or baskets with which they came in contact. Now you're ready to embark on one of the easiest and most interesting crafts you can imagine.

How to Print Mushrooms
Composing a Print