Sunday, 24 July 2011

Flower actresses on a garden stage

In a neighbouring garden the Colette rose - firm buds like young bossoms, opening to light pink blooms with an apricot strain - is towering up the wall, creating a flower trail as it goes.  The real Colette, who wrote books in which she treats flowers and people with equal respect, would love this fountain of pink flowers.

When I was a little girl I believed flowers had faces and personalities.  I imagined the garden was a theatre. On the lawn I would arrange roses in small vases and cups in a semi-circle and I would pretend they were actresses while butterflies flitted and danced against a stage backdrop of blue sky with white clouds.  As an adult I still attribute personal characteristic to flowers and I can almost see them prancing around a horticultural stage.  Clearly the imagination of the nobility residing at the court of Versailles was equally fanciful for Baroque ballets and operas are bursting at the seams with garden nymphs, flowers, and goddesses.

One day in February 2009 I was taking the lift to the Performing Arts study room at the French National Library (BnF).  On arriving at the second floor the lift door juddered open to reveal the above poster on a facing wall and I was rooted to the spotMy heart was beating a jig.  The Centre national du costume de scène was holding an exhibition of garden inspired stage scenery and costumes from Louis XIV's reign to the present day.  Imagine my elation for the relation between garden and performing arts aesthetics was the pivot of my thesis. 

In the introduction to the superb exhibition catalogue the centre's director, Christian Lacroix, compared the garden to a theatrical space in which the backdrop changes with the passing seasons and the plants and flowers don varied costumes.  It is true that both garden and stage are ephemeral art forms however, fortunately, the spectator can commit to memory a passionate soliloquy or a spectacular roseI hope to share with you soon a few of the beautiful costume designs and scenery engravings revealed during the course of this inspiring exhibition.

Maybe some of you are familiar with the work of the German illustrator Silke Leffler?  Over the past few years I have collected prints, cards, children's books, and calenders of her work.  She portrays themes which are dear to my heart: friendship, sweetmeats, Christmas, and, of course, GaRdEnS!

Isn't this enchanting?  Here we have flowers with faces, AND the most delightful outfits. Look at those hats!  I wish I could wear one of those; don't you?

Leffler has illustrated several books.  My favourite is The Flower BallCauliflower and Carrot scandalize the other vegetables in the potager because they wish to attend the flower ball.  "Beware of the garden flowers beyond the fence - they look down on us", says Lettuce.  However Cauliflower and Carrot are self-confident and they make a beautiful sight at the dance.  Soon the Marigold and a charming Willow Catkin join them and the other flowers start to applaud.

All illustrations are from Silke Leffler's Mein Gartenjahr (Grätz Verlag).

May I ask you for some advice, please?  I am feeling inspired to make a garden theme blanket using the colours in the first illustration portraying the five flower ladies.  I am on the lookout for some DK yarn which is pure wool - with a touch of merino perhaps - which boasts a fairly wide range of coloursIf you have a favourite I would really appreciate you letting me know.  Thank you!

Before I leave you I would like to share the dress I made for Angélique this week.

 It is a simple dress and I am naming it "Dog Rose" after the following picture:

This is the second dress I have made for little Miss A: the first was a very simple christening gown made in a mad rush last August.  The pattern comes from this Japanese book which was written by Yoshiko Tsukiori.  I am surprised that it is only available in French translation but the diagrams are pretty clear to follow, I think. 

I hope you all a happy, inspiring week.  I am taking the children off to England in a few days whilst my dear husband stays behind to work hard.  In France when starting a new job you have to work one whole year before taking a holiday so wish him luck, please!  

See you soon.


  1. You write so beautifully Stephanie, I love to read your posts!
    I think Dog Rose is a perfect name for Angeliques pretty new dress the colour is exactly like the rose.
    Those little illustrations are lovely and the colours would make a beautiful blanket. Rowan Pure Wool is a lovely yarn with lots of shades and Rowan Wool/Cotton is 50% merino wool and 50% cotton also with lots of lovely colours.
    Enjoy the rest of your weekend and have a lovely trip to England.
    Vivienne x

  2. Good evening chère amie!

    I am delighted to see such a STRETCH of the imagination in this art; I am an artist, or rather, a latent illustrator. I draw what is limited in my mind, but when I see this work, I see that there are blessed artists out there that go far beyond!!! I TOO as a child, and even now, give flowers a personality. I have always seen them as living things with attitude!!! I so wish I could help you in finding your wool; I do have a dear blogger friend here in the states who has a farm and raises sheep and uses her beautiful yarns for crafting animals. SO beautiful...her name is Jeri Landers from HOPALONG HOLLOW blog....she is a wonderful self-published artist and writer as well.

    Dearest, I thank you for your kind comments on my post. I always hope that my words will be timely for someone, and I want to wish you the safest and most wonderful trip as you leave on Monday. Yes, in many ways, we all have to embark on the unknown some time in our lives and it is never easy!

    MILLE BISES!! Anita

  3. I agree with Vivienne, you do write so beautifully. When we were very young children, my mum would take us into the garden and we would peer deeply into a flower and see a face and all the little bits that make up a flower. We would pretend that moss was the fairies grass and little puddles of water were their pools to swim in etc. I did the same with my children, to stop and be still and listen to nature for she is perfect.
    Love the little dress, so neat.
    x Sandi
    Good luck to your hubby.

  4. Your writing is so poetic- I enjoy reading your posts so much.
    Beautiful illustrations- thanks for sharing.
    I have always had a 'thing' for the little fushia flowers. My mum and dad used to have a huuuuge (well it seemed huge when I was little) bush in the front garden and I used to pick the flowers and play with them as they reminded me of dainty ballerinas.
    Good luck to the Hubbo and his new job. Enjoy your Sunday too.

  5. I love how you link everything to flowers and your idea of flowers having faces. A favourite book/artist of mine are the Flower Fairies by Cicely Mary Barker.
    The Dog Rose is a favourite of mine and I posted some photos of them a while back I just wish they flowered throughout the summer. For me, their season is just too brief.
    I'm not familiar with Silke Leffler, though I may have admired her work unknowingly.
    Have a lovely trip to England, and best wishes to your husband.

  6. Another fascinating post :D

    I wasn't familiar with the lovely work of Silke Leffler but I will look out for it. She clearly uses the less saturated colours that I love :)

    Re. your blanket yarn, have a look at Spud and Chloe Sweater ... it's a wool and cotton worsted, so slightly thicker than double knit, but the colours are just what you are looking for and it would make a lovely snuggly blanket ... I buy mine mail order from Laine et Tricot in La Chapelle sur Erdre. http://www.laine-et-tricot.com/p-69-sweater.aspx

  7. I hope that you have a lovely holiday! Your thesis sounds so interesting - you must tell us more. As to yarn, James C Brett Merino is very reasonably priced if you are going to need lots - also Biggan Design do a fantastic range of colours. The Skein Queen also stocks some lovely colours of Lotus Yarns.

    Pomona x

  8. Thank you for your comment on my blog. Sorry to hear that there aren't any blue skies where you are...We are back to grey skies again today. We were very lucky yesterday!
    What a fantastic book! I love the illustrations.
    Really lovely childhood memories of how you imagined the flowers to have faces. A lovely thought indeed.
    Isabelle x

  9. Beautiful post :-) I love the art work, I had never heard of the artist but her work has such character I love it!

    The dress is so pretty, such a lovely colour, it's nice to see proper little girls clothes!

  10. Hi Stephanie,

    Such an interesting story. I have just visited Versailles, so I read your text with images of the palace and the gardens still in my mind. How was the exhibition you saw the poster of. Was it worthwhile?

    The dress you made for Angelique looks enchanting. I used to make dresses for my daughters too, but nowadays it all H&M & Zara :-)!

    Happy sunday!

    Lieve groet, Madelief

  11. A beautiful post.
    Such wonderful illustrations.
    The dress you made is beautiful, I see why you called it Dog Rose, so simply beautiful.
    Poor people having to work a year with no holiday, yuk! I wish him luck. Enjoy your trip.xxx

  12. Gorgeous illustrations, they are enchanting and so full of character! Sorry I can't be of any help with the wool being new to that sort of thing, but really looking forward to seeing it take shape. Have a wonderful trip next week... your poor husband having to work so hard though, what a shame he can't go with you! xxx

  13. Hi Stephanie,
    Thank you for coming by my blog.. it is indeed lovely to have another person that knits baby clothes. You've made such wonderful things for Angelique (beautiful name!. I'm only really a beginner when it comes to knitting, so I take quite a while to figure some parts of the patterns out..
    I'll write a post when I decide what to knit next.

    Ashley xxx

  14. Hi Stephanie,

    It was lovely to discover your beautiful blog.
    I love the sweet illustrations and I always used to think flowers had faces, especially pansies.
    Angeliques little dress is gorgeous and I love all your hand knitted cardigans. I used to sew and knit for my children when they were little.
    Have a happy and safe trip to England


  15. I wasn't familiar with the work of Silke Leffler so thank you for enlightening me. Those images are wonderful, so beautiful. That is a darling little dress you have made for Angelique, I'm sure she will look adorable and even more perfect coupled with one of your lovely cardigans!

    Kate x

  16. That must have been an amazing exhibition. Costume history fascinates me.

    I would love to have one of the flower purses from that first illustration!

    What a darling little dress. Sewing for little girls is so fun and satisfying, I think.

    Hope you both enjoy your time in England.

    P.S. I'm reading "The Gardener's Year" and enjoying it mightily. Thanks again for the recommendation!

  17. Sweetest little Dog Rose dress..love the card in the pocket. I just came across the box of a few baby clothes that I have kept the other day & there were a couple of the wee dresses that I made for Anna..it's funny how seeing them again & holding them makes the memories real..different to photos & things. So do ensure that you tuck some of those precious early lovelies away once Angelique has grown out of them won't you. Thank you for telling us of Silke's work. (my sister-in-laws name, yes German too) Did you ever make a fuschia into a ballerina? If you cut off the green stalk, make a slit in the "neck" of the flower & poke the stem through she now has arms : ) Rob has just had to work a year without holidays..is the same here so do understand. Much love Catherine x

  18. Those are such adorable illustrations and the dress is just beautiful.

    Enjoy the evening,

    Nina x

  19. A lovely post, with beautiful illustrations. I love the Dog Rose dress, how pretty it is. Regarding DK wool choices - I tend to go to Rowan for most of the wool I buy so would suggst their pure wool DK, or any of their DK weight yarns. Look forward to seeing your project. Have a great trip to England with the children.
    Helen x

  20. The little pink dog rose dress is so sweet. And I love the garden flower illustrations! Such personality!

  21. Those illustrations are really charming - I feel like I've seen the book you mention...And a lovely little pink dress to go with her apple green cardigan :)

  22. I love passionate people and you are certainly passionate about flowers! (as I am, only I lack the - English - words to talk about them )
    The illustrator's work is fabulous! I love it!

  23. What lovely illustrations - as a child I was quite taken with The Flower Fairies books. I'm not sure about yarns readily available in France/UK but Cascade 220 sport comes in a very large range of colors, although it is a bit lighter than DK. Cascade220 is listed as worsted, but I think it is a fairly lightweight worsted, not an Aran. It has a HUGE range of colors.

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  25. Dearest amie!

    I am so touched, vraiment EMUE that you would come to visit me, after a long voyage, and not even posting. That is so kind and it is this very support we all give one another that makes my heart glad. TU AS FAIT UN BON VOYAGE MON AMIE?????? I cannot wait to see your next post. Joy and peace to you today, Anita

  26. I wonder what flower I would be? What flower would you be Stephanie?
    Biggan Design do a very wide range of colours, and their colours are beautiful, though it's not the cheapest yarn, but the range of colours are unrivalled.
    I hope you had a lovely time back in the UK.............. and that the gorgeous rose dress was admired by all. I can't imagine a better and nicer passion than that of Roses.
    Vanessa xxx

  27. Dear Stephanie,

    really, your writing ist wonderfull.

    The pictures and painting ar also great.

    Merci pour la visité dans mon blog.

    á bientôt

  28. Wow that dress is gorgeous, I have only managed to make my little girl 2 skirts so far! I dream of being able to make her dresses very soon.


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