Flora in Winter

 Flora in Winter

Regular followers know that the end of January heralds the first peek at Spring – well, a sort of Spring of heavenly blooms at the Worcester Art Museum’s Flora in Winter.  The last weekend of January brings crowds of visitors to the museum to see the work of two dozen designers and a bevy of professional florists.

 Christ's Descent into Limbo

The most challenging paintings are the religious images with their dramatic tension and layers of meaning.  This designer chose a huge variety of textures to symbolize the many demons, monsters and hellfire.

 Holy Family

 Holy Family & Saints

Holy Family & Saints proved to be a colorist’s candy box – look at all the shades in the painting so carefully tucked into the design of great dignity.

Grape-vine screenThe first floor Asian galleries have many lovely works of art.  This Grape Vine Screen is challenging because no fruits are allowed in the museum.  The designer has used the carnations and hypericum to emulate the fruits on the screen.

 Shakyamuni Buddha


The designer who chose Standing Shakyamuni Buddha was drawn to “its texture, depth, dimension and the strength of the posture”.  Amaryllis, Anthurium, Lotus flowers and Cecropia leaves give textural variety and depth to the design.

 Russell Sturgis

Russel Sturgis by Gilbert Stuart portrays a rather eccentric gentleman in his fur robe and completely crazy hairdo.  The design, on a tilted surface, displays much the same complexity of texture and quirkiness of the painting.

 Static Variations

Variations closeupThere aren’t many contemporary works of art chosen for Flora designers and those that are selected are much sought after.  This designer totally capture Static Variations: Blue x 2.  Nothing static about these meticulously crafted containers (by a willing husband).  Notice in the detail – green galax behind the white callas and dark galax behind the black callas.

 Church Interior Church interior detail

WAM Church side viewThree photos of my favorite in the exhibition!!   Above, top, the church interior on the left is the inspiration.  The designer, who is a potter as well, made the ingenious container to echo the Gothic architecture.  She also chose a magnificent assortment of flowers to portray a mass design with the instincts of classic Dutch still-life of the same 16C period.  The beauty of the flowers caused many to marvel and linger.  Congratulations Flora in Winter!  I’m sorry I didn’t get pictures of all the designs.





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Dangerous terrariums

 Ebony Patterson Poster

DEAD TREEZ, the work of Ebony G. Patterson, is on view at the MAD Museum  (Museum of Art and Design) at Columbus Circle in NYC.  I visited this show in December and was fascinated by the inventive and myriad use of everyday textiles and objects to explore visibility in terms of gender, race, class and the media.

 Dead TReez

DEAD TREEZ, a multi-media installation, fills two galleries of the museum.  The juxtaposition of textiles, costume jewelry, and hand-crocheted shapes reflecting dance hall fashion and culture in post colonial Jamaica was mesmerizing. However, it was her installation in the Tiffany Jewelry Gallery at MAD that really captured my attention.

 MAD Jewelry cases MAD Tiffany Gallery

The Tiffany Jewelry Gallery is a small space devoted to MAD’s permanent collection of jewelry along with constantly changing exhibits staged in the large lit cases.  Below each case are readily-available drawers which can be opened to see the collection.  When I first visited this space, the cases were filled with Madeline Albright’s Brooch Collection.

 Alnwick Castle Poison Garden Alnwick Castle Poison Garden GatesCiting the Poison Garden at Alnwick Castle ( of Harry Potter fame located on the north east coast of England) as her inspiration, Ms Patterson has created brilliant ‘terrariums’ in the cases in an exhibit called “…buried again to keep on growing…”.

MAD Jewelry Terrarium

 Hydrangea and butterflyUsing patterned textiles and silk and plastic flowers in vibrant colors, this exhibit explores “a garden-like environment of poisonous plants” among which pieces of MAD’s contemporary jewelry are hidden and revealed.

 MAD boot and beaded flower

MAd Brocade torso

 MAD terrarium with flowers and figureAll is not sweetness and light in this particular set of gardens, however.  Tucked among the dangerous plants and bright bling are mysterious camouflaged body parts which signal the violence that haunts marginalized communities.  Hidden in plain sight…as it were.

MAD silk and paper flora and fauna

 Mad headcovering

MAD Anthurium and calla

The social message is achieved with patterned textiles and with such a light touch that one is captivated by the lush richness of the tropical garden design before discovering its social depths.  A gallery description lists the poisonous plants: anthurium, bird-of-paradise, calla lily, daffodils, daphne, delphinium, euphorbia, foxglove, gloriosa lily, heliconia, hydrangea, iris, lily of the valley, philodendron, poppy, torch ginger, tulip and wisteria.

 MAD bright tights

This exhibit is part of a series POV in the Tiffany Gallery in which an artist views MAD Museum’s permanent collection of jewelry through the lens of their unique vision.  Ms. Patterson has created a vibrant, mysterious garden landscape.


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Branch Line

Winter Branches

Bare branches are everywhere in New England.  They inspired a kind of structural ‘container’ made from trimmings from two very old apple trees.  These trees have huge open trunks and are barely hanging on.  Their small apples, rather green and gnarly, are incredibly sweet, maybe some kind of old Pippin variety?

 branches and supplies

The branches collected had wonderful green-gray lichen patches and were as knobbly as their fruit.  The base was a left over  basswood board about 4″ wide x 18″ long from Michael’s Crafts.  It was sprayed with a nice pewter color from Design Master Modern Metals spray paint.

End framing

The branches needed a structure to allow the whole construction to rise up.  I used 18 gauge wire, wrapped in brown floral tape to fashion a U-shaped form for each end of the board.  With a prepunched hole from an awl, I was able to insert the wire into the board.

 Adding the apple branches


Slowly branches were ‘auditioned’ for their role in the structure and where they crossed or connected were hot glued in place.  The branches were placed for a kind of flow from right to left.

Adding further height

At this point there was no back or front to the structure and the branches were put on so they created as much depth within the narrow space as possible.

 Space for Kenzan

One space was kept open on the base into which to insert a kenzan.  These two from Japan are iron and very heavy.  They do hold water but not very much so depending on your flowers, they might need water every day.

 Appke Branch Structure from front

The completed apple structure with the kenzan opening right rear.  Most of the branches taper towards the left.  A small amount of gathered lichen was added strategically for texture as well as to hide any really big glue globs!

Tulips and  apple branches

The apple structure holds a passel of bright cheery tulips among the dark branches.  The kenzan, wrapped in lichen covered paper, is barely visible on the right.

Silver branches and lilies

Another day, another look….more drama!  The entire structure was sprayed with the same Design Master pewter paint as the orignal base.  The lichen color disappears and it  became another texture.  The lilies are called Nymph, courtesy of the supermarket!



Posted in botanical art crafts, Branch structures, floral design ideas, floral designs, flower arrangements, flower vases, holiday design ideas, Making containers, Making floral containers, Party flowers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment