Monday, May 30, 2011

In Bloom

The last few posts have been a little dark. Or at least a little gross.
So here is one that will hopefully inspire some spring-time. I came across the following image on Cedars Between the Pines, the sweet tumblr site operated by my cousin Emma. She must spend a shocking amount of time online!
But it makes sense that I would find it there, as we are both from the same strange and old fashioned family with one foot stuck in Victorian England. The language of Flowers, and any secret code, was of great interest to me in childhood and still filled with mysterious intrigue today.

Many books were published on the subject, the book on the left is Flora's Lexicon by Catherine Waterman published in 1857. The book on the right is Robert Tyas' Language of Flowers published in 1869.

In its most basic form The language of Flowers, or Floriography, uses flowers to send a coded message.
Red roses mean passionate love, as they still do today.
Some less common codes are:
Scarlet Lily - High souled aspirations
Cabbage - Profit
Yellow Carnation - "You have disappointed me"
Lime Blossom - Fornication

Some of the codes seem a little diluted, yellow roses can mean: Friendship, jealousy, infidelity, or apology, a broken heart, intense emotion, dying love, extreme betrayal. It seems that it would be all to easy to send a mixed message.
There is a comprehensive list found here and another in chart form here.

The Victorians were all about propriety, or seeming propriety, and greatly into symbolism. Floriography plays into that need intensely. Sending secret messages under the watchful eyes of chaperones, parents and society would have been just the thrill that the Victorians craved.
The association with plants and Botany would also have helped bring it into the scope of the Victorians. Science was just emerging as an interest for the everyday Victorian and floriography would have been a simple and Romantic way to access that.
In 1829 Almira Phelps, a very early female botanist, wrote "the study of Botany seems peculiarly adapted to females; the objects of its investigation are beautiful and delicate; its pursuit leading to exercise in the open air is conducive to health and cheerfulness. Botany is not a sedentary study which can be acquired in the library; but the objects of the science are scattered over the surface of the earth, along the banks of the winding brooks, on the borders of precipices, the sides of mountains, and the depths of the forest."
Women were able to find more freedom in the arena of science so long as it was deemed suitable to their womanly selves. The mingling of sentiment and etiquette with the womanly symbolism of flowers would have been much more acceptable than delving into any sort of hard and tangible science.

Previous images clockwise from top left:
-Uncredited, woman in wonderfully absurd floral dress found via Floriography Jewelry, The Victorians and their florals have inspired many fussy unattractive things but I find this jewelry strangely appealing.
-Frontispiece from Flora's Interpreter and Fortuna Flora, by Mrs. Sarah Josepha Hale, 1850.
-To beauty, friendship and love (rose, ivy and myrtle), hand-colored engraving from Anna Christian Burke’s The Illustrated Language of Flowers, 1856.
-Cover from the Language of Flowers by Kate Greenaway, 1884. View the complete book here.

For further reading on the subject of Floriography and Victorian women and Botany have a look here and here.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Black Mold

I came across this photo a few years ago while searching for information on removing mold from ones home. A reality when you live in a damp climate.

The tiny capillaries in my lungs clench when I look at this photograph, and yet there is something terrifyingly beautiful here. Not only does it look like a scene from a horror movie- the dark powers roiling in.
But the pattern is very lovely. If it were not made of toxic spores it would be quite lovely. Or is it just me?

So I felt an instant connection when I cam across this dress from Geneveive Savard

The black mold cocktail dress.

Savard's designs are beautiful, her patterns are very interesting, especially her bags.
She also writes a blog called Myrtle and Pearls.


While writing the previous post about Suzanne Lee and BioCouture I couldn't stop thinking that her clothes reminded me of something.
In her TED talk she mentions that they look a little like human skin.....

Oh wait, that's what it was.


This pair is in the Icelandic Museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft and are made of latex.
In medieval Iceland this macabre object was used as part of a ritual to get rich. An agreement would be made with a friend before his death. The death had to be natural and the body would have to be dug up and the skin removed from the lower half. The Necropants would have to be worn at all times next to the skin. A coin must be stolen from a poor widow and placed in the scrotum with this runic stave:
Apparently the scrotum would always be magically filled with money. For more information on the Necropants or other Viking histories have a look at this site.
Or watch this video. Necropants appear at 2:33.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Sweet Tea

These images are from the BioCouture website, and are the work of Suzanne Lee who is growing textiles from a bacterial culture. Obviously a work in process, as her TED talk explains, but visually stunning and an idea with amazing potential.

TED talks are such an amazing source of wonder and inspiration. If you have some free time at all, they are an amazing way to learn something remarkable.

The BioCouture blog is also an an amazing read. All sorts of other projects in the field of science. I look forward to reading the posts in greater depth.

Kombucha, I'm glad that it isn't just the fad drink of the moment. Quite delicious and very popular but assuredly an acquired taste.
But I work at a health food store, so my perspective is probably skewed.
Also, knowing what I do about Kombucha, I'm curious about how the garments would smell.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


FALLEN GARDENS TRAILER 2011 from Mike McKinlay on Vimeo.

This is the latest nature video from Mike McKinlay. Mike has a hand in a lot of different pies, as his website will attest. He has a knack for creating documentaries that appeal to very different audiences. Previous nature documentaries have focused on crows, herons and apparently a very early project centered around a ground squirrel colony. He has also done a series of shorts for the Pacific Coast Wildlife Fund.
Fallen Gardens has such a tongue in cheek sinister quality which is so successful because it is about deer. One of natures most gentle creatures, certainly no threat. Not personally at least.

In Second Nature, his treatise on gardening, Michael Pollan describes the difference between the damage done in his garden by a woodchuck and doe "[The woodchucks] devour a crop systematically, whereas a doe--nervous, and possessing perhaps a more developed sense of shame--will nibble a plant here, snip a shoot there, and then, startled by a falling leaf or something equally perilous to a two-hundred-pound mammal, dash off before her meal is done." Although perhaps the residents of this specific neighborhood would disagree.

And deer really do seem to be symbols of serenity and gentleness. Perhaps it is and subconscious association with Bambi.

Both photos of 'Bambi' courtesy of Hope Images

Or perhaps not.