Feb 112009

What do a nosegay, corsage and boutonniere all share in common? The answer, of course, is that all three are floral arrangements of some kind. Although flowers today are more ornamental than not, during the middle ages a nosegay tucked in a lapel masked the odors of people who bathed infrequently, seldom washed their clothes, had no indoor plumbing, and were surrounded by livestock. Gradually, however, flowers began to be used in other ways. Women wove the stems of flowers into garlands worn around their heads, as evidenced by Anne of Cleves, who wore a garland of rosemary when she married King Henry the VIII.

During the mid-1600s flowers were worn or carried by both men and women. Men wore boutonnieres, and both men and women carried a tight circular cluster of flowers and herbs called tussie-mussies. Whether you were rich or poor, you brought a nosegay with you when you went visiting. Flowers were a part of country fairs, weddings and religious services, much as they are today.

Most people associate the language of flowers, also called “floriography,” with the reign of QueenVictoria. Finishing schools, where gentle manners and proper decorum were taught, included courses in the art of flower appreciation. Each flower and herb came to represent something special. Mothers taught their daughters how to make hand bouquets, and tussie-mussies were considered fashionable accessories to carry or wear, and were said to have been used to send coded messages. Whether this is actually true or not is questionable, but poets and writers certainly used the language of flowers in this fashion. Dictionaries of floriography were published, with some of the common flowers being represented as follows:

  • Daffodil – regard
  • Daisies – purity and innocence
  • Dandelion – coquetry, or flirting
  • Elderflower – compassion
  • Iris – sending a message
  • Ivy – fidelity
  • Jonquil – return of affection
  • Lilac (purple) – first signs of love
  • Pansy – thought
  • Red roses – passionate, romantic love
  • Sunflowers – haughtiness, or respect
  • White clover – promise
  • White roses – virtue and chastity
  • Yellow roses– friendship or devotion
  • Yellow tulip – hopeless love

The practice of assigning meaning to flowers, however, does not belong solely to Queen Victoria. Wherever the language of flowers is used, it is based on a mixture of mythology, folklore, literature, faith and some of the flowers’ physical characteristics. During both the middle ages and the Renaissance, flowers were used to express concepts of morality. Saints, for example, were associated with specific flowers, such as the lily that symbolized purity. The Japanese also have their own flower language called “hanakotoba” whose meanings differ from their Western counterparts. The Turkish people have a language called “selam” that consists of both flowers and objects. Brent Elliott of the Royal Horticultural Society indicates that selam is not so much a language as it is a tool for helping people remember lines of poetry. The names of objects, in other words, rhyme with lines of poetry.

Whether you express yourself using the Victorian, Japanese, Turkish or any other language of flowers, one fact is certain. Flowers today embellish our garments, our décor and even our bodies, as evidenced by these items sold in BBEST members’ shops.(To look at these items, click on the photo.)

Wildflower Coasters No. 3, by Nonnie 60


Midnight Blue Flower Focal Bead, by ZudaGay

Bluebonnet Bell, by JillsTreasureChest

Pretty Purple Neck Warmer, by CBBasement

Flowers and Frida Nicho, by VanFleetStreetDesign

Orange Tulip Original Painting, by heronkate

Original Print Sepia Petunia, by BethPeardonProds

To learn more about the language of flowers, consult the following resources:

Tussie-Mussies, the Victorian Art of Expressing Yourself in the Language of Flowers, by Geraldine Adamich Laufer

Flowers, the Angels’ Alphabet: The Language and Poetry of Flowers, by Susan Loy

© 2009 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved. Please note that the images in this post are owned by the artists and may not be used without permission. Simultaneously published at http://boomersandbeyond.blogspot.com.

Apr 202008

Meet Zuda Gay Pease, polymer clay artist extraordinaire. This Illinois grandmother of seven designs polymer clay creations that are a visual, tactile feast. Although some of her most popular items are her pendants and brooches, she also produces clay-covered tins and pens, votives and ornaments. Zuda enjoys music, reading and art as well.

Zuda’s basic clay working skills go back as far as she can remember. “I was always able to roll a smooth ball and an even snake,” she says. “When I made things out of my play dough, people knew what they were.” She worked with salt dough and other homemade clays for quite a number of years before polymer clay arrived in the area where she lives. That was 12 years ago, when she bought her first batch of polymer clay.

“I started doing research on the Internet and most of what I know I learned from the generous polymer clay artists who share tutorials online, and from the few books I’ve read…and lots of experimenting.” That tradition of sharing polymer clay knowledge is continued through a flower veneer tutorial in Zuda’s photo gallery, located at http://www.pbase.com/zudagay.

Zuda says that all of creation inspires her. “I love color. I love flowers and trees and leaves.” Indeed, that love of nature and color is prominent in all of her work.

When she first creates a pendant, Zuda begins with a color or color combination that she has been mulling in her head for a while. “When I made sunflowers,” she says, “I wanted to see what would happen if I mixed yellow mica powders with translucent clay.” She then mixed yellow translucent clay with a coppery brown to produce a special blend for petal cane. “Cane,” she explains, “is created when you put clay, glass or even candy slabs and/or snakes together to make a design that runs through the length of the roll. A jelly roll cake is an example of a simple cane; you get the same design throughout the entire jelly roll. Each slice looks the same.”

Zuda flattens a ball of clay into a base for a flower, then inserts two wire bails into the base near the top for stringing so that the pendant can become part of a necklace. She cuts petals off the petal cane and manipulates them by hand to form the shape she desires, then attaches them to the pendant base in a floral shape. Then she works on the center of the flower. “Sometimes I use a button, and sometimes I use balls of clay in coordinating or contrasting colors.”

After checking for foreign particles, such as stray hairs, Zuda places the flower pendant on a bed of fiberfill in the bottom of an aluminum pan and covers this pan with another of the same size. She bakes the pendant in her table top convection oven and then allows it to cool, which hardens the pendant.

Despite Zuda’s painstaking attention to detail, sometimes the results are not what she hopes for. “I know what to change the next time,” she says, emphasizing how each clay creation represents new learning.

Zuda says she rarely has plans, and that she is entirely a fly-by-the-seat-of-her-breeches kind of gal. “As long as I am able and the Lord is willing, I will be creative in some way and be a blessing to others in some way.” She adds that she is “holding on for the ride” and is going to see where it takes her.

To learn more about Zuda Gay Pease, visit the following Web sites:

Etsy shop: ZudaGay
Blog: Clay in the Hands
Photo gallery: Zuda Gay Pease

© 2008 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved. Please note that the image in this post is owned by Zuda Gay Pease and is used with permission.