Blog, Exhibitions

Chihuly at Kew

Visit Kew Gardens to see the iridescent glass sculptures of Dale Chihuly and the magnificent Hive installation by Wolfgang Buttress.

At the end of Chelsea Flower show and the opening of many Gardens under the International Garden Scheme it seemed like a good time to visit Kew gardens. If like me, you choose a bank holiday Monday, go by public transport as it is near impossible to find a place to park. Having said that, once you are in the gardens they are so vast even with the large numbers of visitors it feels tranquil and not crowded.

         I had two reasons to visit, beside all the magnificent plant specimens, the first was the Hive the 17 meter high Installation and the second was to see the work of glass artist Dale Chihuly in the natural surroundings for which it was intended.

   From a distance the hive looks like a swarm of bees, as you get closer you can see the honey comb structure. The hive is made up of 169,300 pieces of aluminium and steel. You can climb up and see the sky through the hole in the top  of the structure or look down through the glass floor beneath your feet.

         The Hive, a symbol of UK creativity and innovation was commissioned by the UK Government for 2015 Milan Expo. It was created by Wolfgang Buttress, Simmonds Studio, Stage One and BDP. It gives a glimpse into the life of a bee colony.

         Honey bees communicate through smells and vibration, different pulses translate into different messages. Installed in the hive are 1,000 LED lights that connect to one of Kew’s bee hives. The illumination of the lights represent the bees’ ‘communications’ and the vibrational changes occurring within Kew’s hive.

         Accompanying the dazzling display  is a beautiful symphony of orchestral sounds performed in the key of C – the same key that bees buzz in.

        

         Chihuly is one of the most daring and innovative artists working in glass. You may already know his work, as his Chandelier ice Blue and Spring hangs under the glass rotunda at the entrance to the V&A museum in South Kensington.

Chihuly’s dazzling sculptures transform Kew Gardens and glasshouses into a contemporary outdoor gallery space.

Unique art installations are situated across the grounds, including the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art. Here you can see his Drawings and Rotolo series – the most technically challenging work Chihuly has ever created – and Seaforms, undulating forms that conjure underwater life. 

One of the highlights is the film that is shown in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery. it includes Chihuly’s progression as an artist , his working methods and how each piece is conceived made and installed. His ambitious site specific  projects include Chihuly over Venice, Chihuly in the light of Jerusalem and his current work in Kew.

There are many outstandingly beautiful pieces to see.

The celestial vibrant blue masterpiece Sapphire Star welcomes you as you walk through Victoria Gate.

The Temperate House is home to a brand new, specially designed sculpture inspired by the cathedral space it inhabits until the end of October. 

I want my work to appear like it came from nature, so that if someone found it on a beach or in the forest they might think it belonged there. Dale Chihuly

Kew is decidedly family friendly and amongst other things there is a Family trail following the art works with a booklet for children. The Chihuly exhibition runs until 27th October 2019 kew.org

Blog, book review, Book Reviews, Uncategorized

The Art of Pressed Flowers and Leaves

By Jennie Ashmore Published by Batsford £16.99 Artworks by Jennie Ashmore, photographs by Euan Adamson.

This is the most unusual and beautiful pressed flower book I have ever seen. It is full of amazing compositions that are reminiscent of traditional American Quilts.

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Early leafwork (1998) using sycamore leaves and fennel seed heads. 15 x 15cm (6 x 6in)

As the publisher describes it, this is a contemporary twist on a traditional craft. It is a must-have guide to pressing flowers and leaves packed with exciting ideas and practical information for creating beautiful botanical works of art.



Kirklea Garden (2017). Rich summer colours using iris and poppy petals with small leaves and flowers. 30 x 30cm (12 x 12in)
 

         Jennie Ashmore, flower artist, breathes new life into traditional flower-pressing techniques with a unique and spectacular kaleidoscope of floral and plant designs, using everything from flower petals and leaves to seaweed and lichen.

 Jennie studied painting and printmaking at Exeter College of Art and for many years taught in art schools and worked in environmental education, conservation and gardening. Her work has always concerned the natural world and she has a strong interest in surface texture, pattern and geometry, which are key to her designs. She teaches workshops and sells her work.


Threave Garden Quilt (2016). This intricate design features plants collected in Threave Garden, a National Trust property in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. 40 x 40cm (16 x 16in)

         The leaf works, guide and inspire through every stage of the process, from working seasonally and selecting the right plants for a vibrant colour, to experimenting with interesting texture and pattern. There are also tips for incorporating watercolour, gouache and other exciting materials into beautiful botanical creations.


Simple landscape using variegated balsam poplar leaves (1998).
13 x 18cm (5 x 7in)
 
 

The art of pressed flowers and leaves will inspire readers to celebrate the beauty of their local landscape, a favourite walk or garden, or even capture special memories through eternalizing wedding bouquets or plants collected on a holiday.

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

Living with flowers by Rowan Blossom

Blooms and Bouquets for the Home

Rowan Blossom is a studio-based florist who works on fashion events, parties and weddings, and arranging flowers for private clients in their homes.

She has written this book very much with the beginner in mind. The basics such as tool kit, creating the best conditions for different kinds of flowers, and vessels in which to show them off are all explained. There are step- by-step images showing how to create perfect bouquets.

Flowers are used to make wreaths, decorate cakes and place settings for dinner parties.

Rowan worked in fashion before becoming a floral expert and there is a beautiful big bold blowsy flower crown and a corsage.  Blossom is shown entwined in a long plait. There are some very pretty flowers used as a form of body and face decorating. This look would be fabulous at a summer party or on holiday.

There is a gorgeous floral chandelier and a wonderful flower curtain. I particularly like the Meadow box that Rowan uses as a centrepiece along a dinner table. Flowers are used as a way of embellishing gift-wrap and also pressed to create greetings cards.

Again, very much, with the novice flower arranger in mind, there is a very useful list of Rowan’s seasonal Heroes.

A very pretty book, and a great gift for a flower lover.

Published by Laurence King £19.99

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

A tree in the House

Flowers for your home, special occasions and every day byhttps://www.annabellehickson.com/ Annabelle Hickson published by Hardie Grant

It was the name and the cover shot that made me want to review this book. Both capture the imagination.

The author is a writer, photographer, former-city-slicker who now lives with her husband on a pecan farm in the Dumaresq Valley on the New South Wales Queensland border. She has three children and combines all that entails with being a gardener cook reader and celebrator in the beauty of life.

The book is interspersed with gorgeous snapshots of Annabelle’s picturesque rural life. Above is a lovely shot of her tall willowy figure walking with her beautiful children and followed by a trusty family dog.        

I would not describe this as a practical manual of flower arranging it is far to beautiful to be just that, and you will want to display its beauty on your coffee table. It is a useful book too, with practical hints and tips including images of what to do and not do when it comes to flower to vase proportions. Preparing both vessels and flowers are covered, as is making flower friendly water.

The chapter ‘around the table’ has beautiful images especially of outside dining. The book is shot in Australia so obviously the seasons are different to the Northern Hemisphere. All kinds of celebrations are covered including weddings and funerals. It is so lovely to see something  intimate and less formal than usual, to decorate a coffin. 

I think when you have read this and taken in all the lovely shots you will want to be Annabelle and to own her life.  Her husband is rather yummy too. He features holding a bunch of freshly picked cotton he has grown just before the big harvest begins.

A lovely and inspiring book that truly celebrate the joy that flowers bring into our lives. Published by Hardie Grant. £25

Blog, Makes

Upgrade your dining chairs

I was lucky enough to find a couple of mid century modern dining chairs on ebay, but the covers were dull as ditchwater and needed replacing. I found a great upholstery fabric at https://www.craftysewer.com/ that gives more than a nod to mid century. I loved the colours on the underside of the fabric so I have used it reverse side up.

You will need

Screw driver

Fabric

Stapler

Scissors

Tape measure

Step 1

Unscrew the seat from the frame.

Step 2

Place seat on fabric, and cut out the fabric including a 4in overlap.

Step 3

Staple on the fabric at each of the 4 corners, as shown in the picture.

Step 4

Fold and turn the edge fabric over each side of the chair and staple into position. Screw the newly covered seat back onto the chair.

book review, Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Wreaths by Katie Smyth and Terri Chandler from Worm London

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My last blog post was on making a floral headband wreath for Midsummer day celebrated in Sweden. This post is for those who wish to go larger and make a wreath for their home.

Wreath  Fresh, Foraged & Dried Floral Arrangements

It was the architect, flower loving,  boyfriend of my daughter Alice, who first introduced me to Worm London, the young hip flower designers and stylists.  They  design flowers for weddings, supper clubs and parties. They also work as stylists for magazines, books and TV Shoots. Katie Smyth and Terri  Chandler are inspired by seasonal wild, foraged materials and the meaning for flowers.

This is Katie and Terri’s introduction to making your own seasonal decorations. With natural materials and foraging having a renaissance at the moment, this book shows you how to use your finds in a most creative way. As they say in their introduction

“Nurturing that connection with the world around us and its changing seasons is important to us, and we want to encourage you to experience this too.”

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The authors use the experience of their global travels where they have  studied garlic garlands on the first day of May across the Greek islands, midsummer  wildflower wreaths in Scandanavia and flamboyant adornments to celebrate Thanksgiving in the US, wreaths can be a warn welcome, an original gift or simply a beautiful addition to your home.

Most of the projects in the book are relatively straightforward to make. The materials and methods of making are accessible and it looks very different from traditional formal floristry.

The book is divided into  four main sections, Fresh, foraged, dried  and  festive wreaths. Their is an introduction and basics on tools materials and making basic shapes. The book finishes with a  glossary, suppliers list and index. The midsummer wreath is glorious and I particularly like  the mobile made from honesty the enormous Christmas wreath and the kitchen herb bundles. I really enjoyed this book, particularly the lovely photos by Kristin Perers and very much look forward to making some wreaths.170724_Worm8645

Worm London

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Makes, Uncategorized

Frida Kahlo inspired floral headdress

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The much anticipated ‘Frida Kahlo Making Herself Up‘ exhibition is starting  at the V&A in three days time. Here I show how to make a floral head dress in fifteen to twenty minutes. This headdress is constructed on a bought head band but if a more angelic look is your style you could add flowers to a wire halo. The first headdress is in Kahlo colours, rich and bold.

Step1

You will need

Flowers in lots of different colours and sizes

Florists wire

Headband

Florists tape

Scissors

Instructions

Using the florists tape pull it tight and bind it round the headband until all but the ends are covered.

Step2

Choose the flowers you are going to add, and cut them with a 7-8cm stem. Start with the larger flowers in the center and work outwards so the smaller flowers are on the sides  creating  a tiara effect. Starting in the center of the headband, wind florists wire round a stem and attach the flower to the band. Add the next flower in the same way covering the previous stem as you work outwards towards the edge of the band. Step3

Finish by covering the last pieces of wire and the ends of the headband with more florists tape.

Step4

The  21st of June it is the Swedish Midsummer, when the Swedes really celebrate. Traditionally it was considered to be a time of magic, and anything to do with nature was thought to have a special power. Gathering flowers to weave into wreaths and crowns was a way to harness nature’s magic to ensure good health throughout the year. Even though most people these days probably are unaware of the magical origins of the tradition, weaving crowns of flowers is still a major part of any Midsummer observance.

The headdress below has been inspired by those soft pastel hues so beloved by  Swedes.

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My daughter’s beau recently showed me a book on wreath making called Wreaths by Katie Smyth and Terri Chandler who together make up Worm London and so with flowers in mind, I shall be reviewing it soon on the blog.

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