Whole-Flower Mandalas

Design a mandala as a focus for the head and heart.

  • A flower mandala can help create a sacred space, or be used as an aid to meditation.
    Photo by Rory Earnshaw
  • “Foraged Art” by Peter Cole and Leslie Jonath is about making art from what you find and finding art in what you see.
    Cover courtesy BlueStreak

The following text has been excerpted from Foraged Art: Creating Projects Using Blooms, Branches, Leaves, Stones, and Other Elements Discovered in Nature by Peter Cole and Leslie Jonath, (BlueStreak, 2018). Art, meditation, and nature meet in this adult focused activity book, with projects that take inspiration from the natural environment, using blooms, pods, branches, stones, and other natural elements.

In Hindu and Buddhist traditions, mandalas are spiritual and ritual symbols that represent the wholeness of the universe. The outer ring of a mandala symbolizes wisdom; the inner rings are reminders of the impermanence of life.

This rhythmic arrangement places whole flowers in a circular, radiant pattern embellished with leaves, grasses, and other natural materials. A Flower Mandala can help create a sacred space, or be used as an aid to meditation. The more harmonious mandalas have a restrained palette of three colors but an unlimited number of hues. Ours was made in warm tones of reds, pinks, and purples, with undertones made from white petals.

Making a mandala from whole flowers takes time and patience. Unlike the sparse elegance of the Petal Mandala, whole-flower structures have a dimensionality that adds to the challenge — and to the beauty — of the final product. Since whole head flower mandalas require an abundance of plant material, we recommend buying flowers at a farmers market or a flower shop where you can gather local blooms.

Tools and Techniques

  • Big circular frames such as a hula hoop work well for whole flower head mandalas.
  • Small circular embroidery can be used for tiny flowers or petal designs.
  • Use small scissors to trim off the stems of the flower heads, so they will lie flat.
  • Be gentle as you work. Flower petals bruise easily.
  • The background is as important as the flower, so choose surfaces with high contrast.

Field Guide

  1. Gather: Look for flowers with big features and broad petals that are fully open and at their peak, or just beyond peak. Use whole flower heads — the more complex, the better. Good subjects are dahlias, carnations, roses, peonies, sunflowers, and clematis, but even the humble dandelion can be beautiful as a deconstructed creation.
  2. Compose: This project is best done on a flat concrete or stone surface out of the wind. Keep the outside petals on the edges of your composition spaced evenly for maximum effect.
  3. Create: Keeping the whole flower heads intact, clip as much of the stem as possible to assure that the flower will lie flat when face up. Place the flower heads in piles by color and or size, then put the circular frame in place. If you have large whole flowers, a hula hoop works particularly well for big projects. You can begin building at the center and work outwards or the other way around. If you begin building at the center, start by creating a strong focal point. Then from the center, add flowers and elements by color and size to radiate outwards to the edge of the frame. If you start from the outside and work inwards, begin with a ring and work inwards toward the center. Feel free to move, add, or delete elements as the design evolves.
  4. Leave No Trace: The flowers will naturally decompose in a few days.

More from Foraged Art:

This text has been excerpted from Foraged Art: Creating Projects Using Blooms, Branches, Leaves, Stones, and Other Elements Discovered in Nature by Peter Cole and Leslie Jonath, (BlueStreak, 2018).

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