Fennel, a Blouse and a Bag

Have you ever been obsessed with a plant?

I am intrigued with how a plant can become so profoundly influential and evocative. Early memories of brushing past great fronds of wild fennel on the white sand dunes of Northern Brittany have well and truly got into my system.

fennel, Brittany

A few years ago I tried to turn a small corner of Scotland (my garden) into a taste of Brittany by planting fennel and artichoke seeds.  I can now report that both plants thrive in conditions here in Edinburgh and this summer I returned from holiday to find a fennel jungle staring back at me. At this point I was reading a novel by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, The Language of Flowers , and I was not surprised to discover the Victorians associated fennel with strength and vigour – highly appropriate as my supremely healthy fennel plants had colonised every little crevice they could find, including cracks in the tarmac drive! 

Of course I did the many obvious things with the crop, like eating the bulb, the fronds and the seeds (fresh and dried) and I had huge vases of the decorative stalks in the house which dropped hundreds of beautiful tiny balls of pollen which I gathered to use in a colour study (still thinking of Wolfgang Laib exhibition I saw a few years ago in Washington D.C. ) When I mentioned the pollen to a chef friend from Timberyard he told me the pollen is a great ingredient to add to bread to give it a honeyed aniseed flavour, a good texture and lovely colour. This was news to me but I have since spotted the pollen, often called, The Spice of Angels,  for sale on various specialist spice sites and I have thoroughly enjoyed experimenting with it in my own kitchen. If you are after more ideas, pump in ‘fennel’ to Kellie’s  Food To Glow blog and you will learn about the anti cancer flavonoids present in fennel and find a multitude of great recipes too.

But now for the other influence the plant has had on me – some new work.

Fennel Tangle, silk

This is my most recent design called Fennel Tangle. I had it printed onto 100% Habotai silk by Solli and Zoe at their brilliant Edinburgh print bureau. Although it’s normally homewares that I am involved in, I decided this print had to be worn. Over at Make Me a Frock, you will find Claire, an incredibly talented seamstress (and also a real perfectionist and poet) who has razor sharp observational skills and I knew she would interpret the fabric into a beautiful garment…and by golly she has. Below are images of the blouse she created for me. I am blown away by the design and microscopic stitches on the extremely fine silk. The blouse has that rare power that very occasionally clothes can give – it’s my new ‘cloak’ of strength and vigour, thank you Claire.

front of blouse

back of blouse

I’ve also added several cotton canvas bags to my shop, one of the designs, surprise surprise features a fennel head.

fennel bag

DSC_0006

What is your favourite plant? Do you have early memories of a particular plant? Have any plants played a role in your work? 

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Decorating with Yellow

I have “empty room syndrome” today. I get it whenever I clear a room of furniture. The room didn’t look particularly scruffy when it was “dressed” but now it’s empty it really is asking for a new coat of paint. Well this is good news because I can choose a new paint colour.

I am trying to recreate the sensation I felt when I saw Wolfgang Laib ‘s  hazel nut pollen art installation last year. I would defy anyone to look at this work and not feel gloriously happy, rooted to the spot and completely mesmerised.  The colour of the pollen simply could not be improved.

Wolfgang Laib's Hazel Nut Pollen

As it’s a highly saturated colour I will only be using it in a small area (plus yellow “grows” and intensifies when on a wall).

I am going to mix my own yellow – the reason I am doing this is because it’s a pretty tricky colour to handle. It is all too easy to get greenish undertones in yellow paint because if you try to darken yellow by adding black, instead of turning a darker more intense hue, it actually turns green, very easily and quickly. Plus, you may not see the green under tones until you have painted it all over your walls…..

yellow + black = olive

If you buy ready mixed paint, ask the manufacturer if there is any black in the formula and if there is avoid it unless you want a greenish tinge.

Another thing to bear in mind is that yellow has a high LRV (light reflective value) so it bounces back most of what hits it. It is therefore greatly influenced by surrounding colours – even from outside. If you have leafy green trees outside your window, the yellow will take on a greenish tone. If you live opposite a red brick building, the yellow will look very golden. Lots to consider but get it right and you’ll not be disappointed.