There are beautiful patterns to be found in nature.   With this project you can preserve some of them as permanent works of art! (Adult supervision recommended.)

Spore Prints

What You Need:

  • Fresh mushrooms from a grocery store or found in the wild (just be sure that it is a non-poisonous variety!)
  • Sharp knife
  • Bowl
  • Dark-colored construction paper or cardstock*
  • Art fixative or hairspray

*Note: if you decide to use a Portobello mushroom (like the one shown in the picture), choose a white or light-colored piece of cardstock, as Portobellos have dark brown spores, unlike most mushrooms.

What You Do:

  1. Cut the stem of the mushroom off so it is even with the cap or top part. Be careful with the knife so as not to damage the delicate structure of the mushroom.
  2. Gently turn the mushroom cap upside down onto the dark-colored paper. Place the bowl over the mushroom, so air currents will not disturb the spores.
  3. Leave the project overnight, being careful not to disturb the mushroom cap in any way.
  4. In the morning, remove the bowl, and then very carefully lift the mushroom cap away from the paper.   The pattern you see is a result of the mushroom’s spores falling away from the cap, and staying on the paper where they fell since there is no wind to blow them away.
  5. To make the design you see lasting, spray it with art fixative  or hairspray. Be sure to follow all the instructions on the can, and spray in a well-ventilated area.

What Happened:

Mushrooms are part of an underground structure of fungi called a mycelium. The part that we see is just a small part of the huge mycelium which it grows on. The spores that fell onto the page are a mushroom’s seeds that get carried by the wind to plant new mycelium. The spores cannot get blown away, since the bowl is covering up the mushroom, so they simply stay where they dropped, making a lovely print.

Create a Preserved Spider Web

What You Need:

  • Spider web that is in good condition
  • Sheet of newspaper or newsprint
  • Can of white or black spray paint
  • Art fixative or hairspray
  • White or black poster board or cardstock that contrasts with your color of paint
  • Scissors

What You Do:

  1. Find a spider web outside that you like, and bring the other materials to where it is.
  2. Hold the newspaper up so that it is behind the web, then spray evenly and lightly on both sides of the spider web, using the newspaper as a backdrop so you don’t get paint over everything. Leave the paint to dry for an hour, or the time recommended on the spray can.
  3. After it is dry, spray on another coat and let it dry. Spray one even coat of hairspray or art fixative to both sides of the web so that it is sticky. (If using art fixative, be sure to read and follow the instructions on the can carefully).
  4. Working quickly, so that the fixative spray does not dry, line up the cardstock and carefully push it against the web, making sure not to break any silk strands.
  5. Cut the outside strands supporting the web to remove your masterpiece and take it home.
  6. To ensure that the lovely design stays in place, lay it flat in a clean, well-ventilated area and spray with another coat of fixative.

More about spiders’ webs:

You probably noticed how flexible the web was when you were spray-painting it, as it vibrated back and forth slightly. What makes this substance so amazing is its strength. Although a single strand is not very hard to cut or break, a rope as thick as a garden hose made of pure spider silk can support as much weight as two full Boeing 737 airplanes!

A spider produces this unique material in its silk glands, and then spins it into a thin silk thread with its spinnerets located on its posterior. Different spiders weave different kinds of webs. Webs that are randomly designed with criss-crossing spider silk shapes are called tangle webs. Webs that are beautifully designed with one geometric shape inside another, held together by long strands stretching from the center to a nearby tree branch, are called orb webs.