Frequently Asked Questions

How can I purchase your artwork?

I currently do not ship 3D original pieces due to concerns of damage during shipping. Instead, I usually sell at central Illinois arts and crafts markets. I usually post on social media about any upcoming shows. If you are located around Champaign county, I can also work to get a piece delivered directly to you. I usually post all available pieces as I finish them on social media, so be sure to follow me!
You can follow me on:
Instagram ( https://www.instagram.com/secretgardenscu/ )
Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/secretgardenscu )

Gift Certificates: For the perfect custom gift, purchase a gift certificate for a one-of-a-kind 3D floral & faunal composition. This price includes the artist consultation, original custom artwork, and shadowbox frame. Custom pieces can even incorporate flowers from the patron’s own garden! Can be redeemed within 1 year of purchase. Contact Cris directly for more information and/or purchase (secretgardenscu@gmail.com)

Prints for Local Pickup: Photographic prints of the one-of-a-kind 3D compositions can be purchased as 8 x 10 or larger, printed to order on acid free, Rainforest Alliance Certified 100# paper. For examples of available works, visit www.secretgardenscu.com and contact Cris directly to place an order (secretgardenscu@gmail.com)

Product Design: Prints of my work are available on a variety of products (mugs, clocks, pillows) on Redbubble: https://www.redbubble.com/people/secretgardenscu/

Do you take commissions?

Yes! I would love to work with you on a piece. I’ve done a variety of commissions that can be as personalized as you like, from sourcing all the materials from a person’s home garden for the piece to using only a few special items with significance. Wedding bouquets or blooms from an heirloom plant work great, and can be included along with my own materials for the final piece. I can also do a piece for you with my own collection of materials, so no worries if you don’t have anything in particular that you’d like to have incorporated. Please email me at secretgardenscu@gmail.com for commission inquiries.

How do I care for my original piece?

While the mounting of the materials is stable, shipment or jostling of this piece is not recommended. Because this piece is made from natural flora and fauna, the piece will change over time. The pigmentation and general product preservation is best maintained by avoiding UV exposure and humidity

When did you start making this kind of art?

I started this endeavor in the spring of 2016. I was deeply inspired by the seasonal bulb blooms, and had recently come across Anne Ten Donkelaar’s body of floral work.  

What is your collection strategy for flora and fauna?

The biggest goal with my foraging process is to respect the plants and animals I use. Any insect I have collected myself was found already dead. The first one I found was during a back roads collection, and I was on my bike and I spotted a butterfly on the side of the road. There were dozens just on a single mile of road that had been hit by cars. Sometimes we found them barely alive and would just be with them until they pass. It is pretty heartbreaking to witness. Some of the other insects have been donated to me by individuals with cherished entomology collections. Rather than being stored in a closet, I try to give new meaning to these insects too.

With flowers, I try to collect only a few blossoms of a plant, and only those that are prolific. I appreciate all the things that people find and think to give to me for my art, from wasp nests to feathers to cicadas, and those of you who have opened up your own gardens for me to collect in.

How do you preserve the flowers?

I use a series of desiccants, including fine sand, cornmeal, and semolina flour. These are lightweight and fine enough that they don’t damage the flowers. These materials simultaneously dry out the flowers and allow me to arrange the position of the stems, leaves, and petals how I want them to be when dried. For example, a lot of flower blooms face upward, and I prefer for them to face perpendicular to the stem so that the full bloom can be seen in a composition. 

How long does it take for the flowers to dry?

It really depends on the flower. Finer, smaller flowers can take a couple days, while flowers with lots of petal layers like ranunculus can take weeks.  If I take them out too early, the petals and stems go limp and it’s nearly impossible to get them back in the desiccant in a way that works. There’s been a lot of trial and error!

How do you dry the other stuff, like mushrooms and ferns?

Ferns dry like flowers, but the mushrooms are a different story. Because they have so much water in them, it’s super important to dry them out as quickly as possible, otherwise they rot. So, the best tool I found for this is a food dehydrator that I set up in the garage. I’ve also used just a standing fan, and that works as well!

How do the flowers maintain their colors so vividly?

The drying process I use allows for optimal desiccation without leaching out the pigments. Because this piece is made from natural flora and fauna, the piece will change over time. However, many of the flowers I use are still maintaining their colors for years after drying. Beyond my drying technique, I use no other preservatives. I encourage people to place their art pieces in cool, dry places and not in direct sunlight, which all help to maintain the quality of the piece.

How do you mount the flowers?

I primarily use stainless steel insect specimen pens, which are thin enough that they are essentially invisible in the final art pieces. I also use a clear glue for stabilization for some of them. For objects that I can’t get a pin through (like walnut shells), I use glue.

What is the process of coming up with a composition for a piece?

Usually I start with a single natural object, such as a bright piece of moss or a huge bloom, and then I start to build a piece around that. Then from there, it’s about details and balance. I have to balance the colors, and the empty spaces. The details often take the form of tiny flowers in secret places that I often wonder if others will ever see. I peruse through my collection of dried flowers for inspiration!