Where have I heard that before? Men have been benefiting from women’s talents and efforts for centuries. One example that has come to light in the last 20 to 30 years is the lack of recognition for the women floral painters and artists of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Exotic Orchid by Mrs. Augusta Withers
Because upper class women in Western Europe, the colonies and later the US, were expected to stay at home but had ample household help, they needed something to do with their time. Many were taught to draw and paint, and frequently their subjects were drawn from the botanical world. The work of these women is a testament to the talents and skills, but until very recently none of their work has ever been shown in a large public exhibit, and it was ignored or dismissed in their time.
Daisy or Bellis Perennis by Mrs. Rebecca Hey (?)
I was recently given a book, Women of Flowers by Jack Kramer (Published in 1996) that is one of the first public attempts to right that wrong. Kramer tells the stories of many remarkable women who produced beautiful paintings and drawings but were unrecognized in their day. Often the female artists signed their name, “Anonymous,” or left off any signature. Worse still, men frequently took credit for the prints or paintings done by women.
Lophespermum scandens by Mrs. E. Bury (?)
As I was looking for some examples of work by Victorian women I Googled, “Victorian women floral painters,” and was shocked when Van Gogh’s Sunflowers was included in one group. I love that painting, but it surely proves the point. I finally gave up on trying to find examples on the internet so took some shots from the book, Women of Flowers by Jack Kramer. I’m not set up to photograph from books so the reproductions are poor, but it allows you to get an idea of the quality of the work.
These colorful flowers originated in Mexico, Central America and Columbia. They grow from tubers that the Aztecs used for food. Some dahlia trees have been found that are 20 feet high! The hollow stems were used by indigenous people as siphons and straws. The Aztec name for these flowers translates to “water cane.” There is some dispute as to who named the plant, but no argument about its being named after Anders Dahl, a Swedish botanist who studied with Carl Linnaeus.
Dahlias are the national flower of Mexico as well as the city flower of Seattle. Their popularity comes from the fact that they are easy to grow, come in every color, except black and blue, and range in size from that of a golf ball to a dinner plate. They are great flowers to photograph.
Photographing flowers. as I do, means looking closely at a fairly small subject, and then editing it on a screen that’s only 15 or 18 inches away from my face – a decidedly shortened view.
Today I tried to put together a slide show of dahlias. It’s usually a straight forward project, but not today. Nothing was working, and I was struggling. A few days ago I made a vow to myself that I wouldn’t push the river any longer, so I honored that promise and drove 2 miles to the beach.
It was a beautiful clear and warm day, somewhat unusual around here. I could see up the coast all the way to Cape Mendocino. The sky was painted with unusual cloud formations. The ocean was calm. As I sat there on the bluffs looking out at the ocean and sky it struck me how restricted my photographic view has been. I love photographing flowers, but gazing at the scene in front of me now was a whole different experience. It made me wonder how my chosen subject matter has shortened my view in an internal sense as well. Both points of view are important, but it’s easy for me to get caught up in one and neglect the other.
When I returned home I pulled out one of my favorite books on photography, God is at Eye Level, by Jan Phillips. In the Introduction she writes, “Every step in the process of taking pictures is a step toward the light, an experience of the holy, an encounter with the God who is at eye level, whose image I see wherever I look.” Maybe it’s not that important whether I shoot close up or far away. It’s only important that I do it.
“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one leave without feeling happier.”
Welcome to Happiness Cards! Blogging is a new venture for me, and I hardly know where to start. Maybe I should begin with a bit about who I am and what I do. I’m an 83 year old photographer and maker of Happiness Cards. I guess my age isn’t relevant until you consider the challenge I have when doing everything digitally.
When I was growing up things were very different: dial phones that were attached to the wall, no cell phones ; radios instead of TV; Monopoly and tiddley-winks instead of games on a digital platform; hours of playing outside and permission to bike all over town; and certainly no computers. I was in college before my family got a TV, and we were among the first in our neighborhood to have one. You get the idea. A very different world.
I’m not suggesting the world I grew up in was better. I love the things I can do with a computer (until it malfunctions) and with my digital cameras. But often I feel as if I’m running to catch up with the latest Facebook changes, software developments, platforms and things I don’t even know the names for. But it’s been said that if you aren’t learning you aren’t living, so here’s to life!
With this blog, I hope to inspire, entertain, educate, and now and then challenge you. I also want to share Happiness Cards and show you how you can use them to make the world a happier place. I’m looking forward to a wonderful adventure with you. Connie
Did you ever pluck petals off a daisy while chanting, “Love me? Love me not,?” Your answer was determined by the words uttered when the last petal was pulled off. A similar practice was taken much more seriously in Victorian England when adults gave a meaning to a particular species of flower, the color of the flowers, and how they were presented, This custom was referred to as “floriography.” Upper class English were schooled in correct behavior, and expressing strong emotion was not considered “genteel.” Hence, messages were often sent via flowers. If a woman were to receive a bouquet of red roses, the giver was expressing his love. However if the roses were yellow, infidelity was the message. (Did that mean the giver was ‘fessing up or accusing the recipient?)
The practice reached ridiculous extremes when the position of ones hand when proffering the bouquet had meaning, as did the position of the flowers themselves. If the flowers leaned to the right it meant one thing and to the left the opposite. It can be fun today to be aware of the meaning of a particular flower, but fortunately most of us can say what’s on our minds without engaging in such indirect language.
If you’re interested in exploring the subject further, The Victorian Flower Dictionary by Mandy Kirkby is a good place to start. A novel, The Meaning of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh is a contemporary story about how a young florist makes use of the old lore about flowers to satisfy customers. Worth a read.
The daisies at the top of the page denote “innocence,” while the hollyhocks below speak of “ambition.” Beware of receiving the peony directly above. Its message is “anger.”
I planted a couple of bearded iris bulbs in the fall last year. They were in pots outside my kitchen window where I was able to watch the first leaves peek out of the soil, and weeks later, four buds began to appear on a long stem among the leaves. Nothing seemed to change for a long time. When the first bud showed a little color I took a few shots and I kept closer watch. Finally one morning as I was washing dishes I noticed that the first petal was slowly unfurling. I grabbed my camera and tripod to record the birth of the blossom. By the end of the day the beautiful peach colored iris was fully open. I enjoyed it outside until it became obvious that I needed to cut it and bring it inside for some studio work before it faded away. In the final two photos you can see that all the petals have drooped but its beauty is as evident at the end as it was at the beginning. See the slideshow below for the visuals: LIFE CYCLE OF AN IRIS
One of the tourist attractions around Ft. Bragg is our local narrow gauge railroad and steam engine, The Skunk Train. It carries people through beautiful forests, along a river and eventually to Willits. It was originally built in 1885 to carry redwood logs from remote logging camps to coastal mills, and was an important source of supplies for loggers and their families in the inland camps. The steam locomotive runs only in the summer now, and is a fun activity for families who visit Ft. Bragg. When I hear the familiar whistle I know summer has arrived.
I get my Happiness Cards printed in Willits at Printing Plus. (This is a plug for them. They do a great job.) I live in Ft. Bragg, some 35 miles away. Their carrier is usually UPS, but the Skunk Train station in Willits lies right across the street from the printer. “I wonder if my cards could be shipped on the Skunk Train,” I thought to myself. It only took 3 phone calls to set it up, and my cards helped initiate a new delivery service between Willits and Ft. Bragg. When I went by to pick up my latest order I was told, “No charge. Someone already paid it for you.” What a nice surprise!