For the past few months I have been working on putting together an art exhibition in partnership with the Royal Horticultural Society Wisley Garden herbarium (https://www.rhs.org.uk/science/conservation-biodiversity/conserving-garden-plants/rhs-herbarium/collections-in-the-rhs-herbarium). The idea for this first came to me almost 2 years ago when purely by accident I stumbled across something called the Chelsea Floral Fringe (www.chelseafringe.com) which is an annual event of flower based art and activity that happens in the UK, Europe and now across the globe at the same time as the Chelsea Flower show. Reading about the things people were doing gave me the idea that something could be done at Cranleigh Arts Centre at the same time as the annual village “In Bloom” event. After several months of plotting and planning I finally installed (with the assistance of the delightful Marilyn) “Florilegium – a gathering of flowers” at Cranleigh Arts Centre in Surrey.
The ‘theme’ of the exhibition is the preservation of flowers and the centre piece is a 9-string set of images of specimens from the Herbarium at RHS Wisley who have generously loaned a beautiful set of scanned images.
RHS Herbarium images at Cranleigh Arts Centre
To complement these scientific specimen images I was particularly fortunate that the renowned botanical artist Gaynor Dickeson (https://gaynorsflora.com) agreed to loan some of her incredibly detailed botanical illustrations; while photographer Celia Henderson (http://www.celiahenderson.co.uk) has also contributed a set of her stunning, dreamlike macro flower portraits. As if this was not enough, I couldn’t believe my good fortune when Guildford-based textile artist Gill Denyer (http://greengillydee.co.uk) also agreed to exhibit a set of her life-like textile plant sculptures.
The incredibly detailed botanical illustrations of Gaynor Dickeson
Dreamlike flower portraits by Celia Henderson
Quirky, life-like textile flower sculptures by Gill Denyer
I now have 3 artists and the RHS images which by themselves would have made for an interesting exhibition, but I felt that I needed a little bit extra and couldn’t quite believe my luck when it turned out that a fellow volunteer at the Arts Centre was a horticulturist and had an herbarium of her own which she was happy to lend. I selected a few specimens, framed them up and they complimented perfectly the RHS specimen images. To finish off I added in a small static display of vintage gardening equipment and a ball gown which I have made a few years ago which is covered in dried pressed flowers.
Dress with dried pressed flower detailing and Weed Herbarium specimen
As a fan of what is known as ‘Yarn Bombing’ it seemed like a good idea to ask the ladies of the Arts Centre Knit n’Natter group to knit and crochet flowers which could decorate the entrance to the Centre. They and some of the other volunteers at the Arts Centre rose to the challenge by creating over 200 flowers, leaves and creatures which I then stitched on to a banner over the recent Easter weekend.
Floral display by members of the Knit n’Natter group at Cranleigh Arts Centre
The opening evening was a triumph! I am so proud of this exhibition and grateful to everyone who has loaned work or objects. Thank you to everyone who has helped to make this exhibition such a success.
Nibbles and tipples await guests at the Private View Opening
Cranleigh Arts Centre Manager, Ms K Backhouse stands beside the Herbarium specimen Galanthus (Snowdrop) Mrs Backhouse No. 12
Florilegium – a gathering of Flowers is at Cranleigh Arts Centre, 1 High Street, Cranleigh, Surrey, GU6 8AS until 11 June 2016. Open Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 4.30pm, entry is free. http://www.cranleighartscentre.org