Since you asked:

"Therefore, to be possess'd with double pomp, to guard a title that was rich before, to gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
to throw a perfume on the violet, to smooth the ice, or add another hue unto the rainbow, or with taper-light
to seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish, is wasteful and ridiculous excess."

~William Shakespeare,
ca. 1595

Yup, that's us.

January 06, 2015

Obsessed: Millinery Flowers

Is the anything quite as beautiful as the old millinery flowers? Even the 'newer' ones dating from the fifties and forward are cherished now, and I can remember when I turned my nose up at them, and kept on looking for the older ones...

I've sold some astounding flowers in my day, and get wistful over them sometimes. But I can't keep them all, and so I release them back into the world so some one else can cherish them. I know of few things that  bring so much delight to so many. Walking into a room and seeing one perched on a hat, laid across a small pillow, or gracing a lampshade is enough to make a smile play across one's face.

The process for creating these works of art brings value and appreciation to their care and collection. I still have a few of the flowers and compositions shown above, many layered with intricacy and texture; many tiny cloth stems tipped with diminutive buds, each one studded with a hand dipped composition stamen. In contrast, the larger flowers burst forth with fringed petals hand painted in varying hues, and larger stamens wreathed in hazy halos. Even the leaves on one garland are tinted with darker tones to the outer boundaries of the serrated leaves. It is, to my mind, perfection.

And how to choose our favorites? Don't try. Put them in rotation, so they all get their due. Roses reign supreme, but the real holy grail of flower collecting has become the velvets...oh, the velvet flowers. Roses that include velvet petals offer a lovely contrast, and an all velvet spray is hard to come by these days. You'll spy some velvet pansies at the bottom of this photo, one of them a deep claret color that draws you in and doesn't want to let you go.

What about caring for your faux blooms? Steam is the only way to revive these beauties. I have two steamers now, one at the shop and one at home, but I still have my old copper kettle that I started out with, a huge Revere copper piece missing it's lid. We would fill it with water and sit a saucer on the top, and as the water came to boil, it would send a good spout of steam out, and we would dangle the flowers above it with kitchen tongs. It's an amazing little process, and was a favorite pastime of my daughter and her friend Lexi, who would always wait to work the 'magic'...the slow unfurling of petals and leaves that was tantamount to time lapse photography. 

Nothing surpasses nature's offerings, but when you consider the time spent by craftsmen in setting each curl and dip in a petal, wiring the leaves so they could be shaped, and constructing the entire composition, given where credit is due. These little botanical wonders are worthy of our veneration.


Kelly Snelling said...

Those are surely gorgeous! And I so enjoyed hearing about Nat and her friend steaming them with that big copper kettle. I am overdue for a visit. I have a friend I am intending to introduce to the Lily. She and her sister make jewelry and things. She saw the earrings and necklace I made with those beautiful pieces I got last time I was in and really wants to come. :) Happy New Year, sweet Nancy!

Michele's Treasures, Teacups, and Tumbling Rose Cottage said...

Oh, they ARE pretty. I have a little bunch I found at a thrift shop lately and have been considering how to use them. No doubt they will end up in a little craft project of some sort! Thanks for sharing. ; )