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Nature at Home Series: Hapa Zome

Updated: May 3, 2020

The Japanese Art of Leaf and Flower Bashing

Hapa Zome is the name of the Japanese art of leaf and flower bashing to extract the colours from the natural world and capture these on fabric. This is a fun activity for all ages. Read on to find out how to do this yourself and for our tips for creating a fantastic nature artwork.

You will need

  • A collection of brightly coloured, fresh leaves and flowers. The fresher and brighter the better.

  • A hammer, or stone for a more traditional method.

  • A hard, flat surface. We find wood works well, such as a wooden chopping board.

  • A piece of plain, light coloured, cloth, such as an old cotton sheet or shirt cut up. You will want to use thin fabric to help the colours come through.

Step 1

Collect a selection of colourful natural materials. A combination of green and red leaves and brightly coloured flowers work well. Ensure they are fairly fresh as they need some moisture in them for the pigments to transfer to the cloth. We find that ixoras, butterfly peas, yellow trumpet flowers and bougainvillia all work well and are readily available in Singapore.

At Wildlings we encourage the children to collect their own materials and only materials that nature is ready to give us, meaning we take from the ground and do not pick flowers that are still living and growing unless they are our own and we give our permission, leaving plenty left for the bees and butterflies.

Step 2

Choose a hard, flat surface that can withstand hammering. Large wooden log slices or a naturally flat stone surface are ideal. However, if you are at home or on the move a chopping board or clip board work just as well. Make sure the surface is larger than your cloth.

Step 3

Organise your leaf and flower collection into a pattern or design you are happy with on your flat surface. Make sure it is slightly smaller than the cloth you will be using.

Whilst calico material is widely recommended this craft can be done using t-shirts, bed sheets, canvas bags, paper and many other materials you may already have. Making this a very cost-effective activity to try at home.

Step 4

Cover the design with the cloth and start hammering away, the aim is to tap until the cloth is stained and colours and outlines are visible.

The cloth can also be folded in half and the leaves and petal placed inside, creating a mirror image art work.

If you find the materials move during the process they can be secured to the back of the cloth with masking tape. It will not affect the overall design and may contribute to a clearer print. A small piece of masking tape around the edge of the cloth may also do the job.

At Wildlings we provide a safety talk before issuing the hammers, reminding children these are real tools and to be spatially aware, keeping our own fingers and our friends around us safe. Our tool talks follow a similar format which you can use when introducing tools to your children:

  1. Describe the tool: This is a hammer. This is the hammer head and this is the handle.

  2. Describe how you use the tool: You use a hammer to hit something with when you need to make a big impact, or make something hard to move move in the way you want it to (a tent peg into the ground for example). You use the tool away from other people. You have a bare hand on the tool (no safety gloves are needed). You hold the hammer by the handle and use the hammer head to hit your target. Always look at what you want to hit, keep your helping hand out of the way and use short, strong and controlled movements.

  3. Describe how you move with and pass the tool:: When walking with a hammer you hold the hammer head towards the ground. You pass the tool handle first. When you are still using the tool but taking a break, you place the tool down next to you where you can reach it but where it won't fall onto you or anyone else.

  4. Describe what to do with it when you are finished: When you are finished with the hammer you place it back inside the tool box.

The main risks of using hammers are crushing fingers, hitting other people, and dropping the hammer on feet and toes. We only use small, light-weight hammers with young children during our sessions.

Step 5

Peel off your cloth and admire your natural handmade masterpiece!

Ask your child to notice which colours, shapes and flora transferred best.

If you tried both, which was easiest to tap with, the hammer or the stone?

How did they feel during the activity? Does the print look like they imagined?

These cloth prints are wonderful creations on their own. They can be framed, hung up or added to to make further crafts such as cards, bunting or flags.

See our Hapa Zome heart for Valentine’s Day. We simply cut a heart shape from the printed cloth, created two small holes at the top of the heart and fed a thin stick through. A clove hitch knot secured a plaited piece of string for the handle and a selection of dried, pressed leaves were the final touch. A perfect gift for a loved one, with love from nature.


About Kelly

New to Singapore Kelly is an experienced Forest School practitioner from the UK. Kelly loves the outdoors, hiking and flapjacks (they're a kind of energy bar....). With experience in nature therapy, Kelly most loves the special moment of surprise and the wonder of discovery in a child when encountering something new for the very first time.


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