Apr 222009

On April 22, 1970, in a suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, members of my 8th grade science class trekked to the local creek, where we began cleaning the banks of gum wrappers, soda cans, beer bottles and paper. It was a “feel good” type of activity, but it was also time off from classes, so everyone was in a celebratory mood. We didn’t realize it then, but that day marked the first Earth Day of many more to come.

Earth Day actually had its roots much earlier in 1962, when Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin became determined that the needs of the environment be addressed by politicians. He approached President John F. Kennedy and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, about making a national conservation tour. Both liked this idea, so in September 1963, the President made a five-day, 11-state tour, promoting conservation. While this tour did not make the political impact that Nelson would have liked, it did set the tone for future plans. These included legislation that Senator Nelson authored for the creation of a national hiking trails program and the Appalachian Trail System. Nelson was also instrumental in co-sponsoring the Wilderness Act, which eventually led to the Environmental Protection Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act.

Six years later, Senator Nelson made his own conservation tour, speaking on college campuses during the anti-Vietnam movement. It occurred to him that the grassroots energy that students invested in their feelings about Vietnam could be used to protest what was happening to our environment, and thus thrust conservation in the eye of politicians. At a conference in Seattle, Nelson announced that in the spring of 1970, there would be a nationwide protest on behalf of the environment, and that everyone was welcome to participate.

The response was immediate and energetic. Thousands of schools and communities participated, each in their own way. The New York Times reported, “Rising concern about the environmental crisis is sweeping the nation’s campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent over the war in Vietnam…a national day of observance of environmental problems…is being planned for next spring…when a nationwide environmental ‘teach-in’…coordinated from the office of Senator Gaylord Nelson is planned….”

Since that time, Earth Day has been celebrated each spring to remind us of the importance of our environment, and how each of us can make a difference. Ten years before the Senator’s death in 2005, President Bill Clinton awarded Senator Gaylord Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, remarking that “As the father of Earth Day…He inspired us to remember that the stewardship of our natural resources is the stewardship of the American Dream.”

Although Earth Day is officially commemorated by communities across the nation on April 22nd, the week leading up to this date often includes special events. The University of Massachusetts in Boston, for example, is holding an Earth Day Fair to raise awareness about environmental issues. At the National Mall in Washington, D.C., an event called The Green Generation will launch. The Green Apple Festival took place on April 17-19 in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, Denver, Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, New York and Washington, D.C.

While these events are remarkable demonstrations of a unified ecological attitude, we all know that the stewardship message behind Earth Day must be practiced every day in order for a long term positive ecological impact to take place. Members of the BBEST team carry that message forward by developing eco-friendly products and practices, and by creating artistic products that remind us of our responsibilities to this planet.

Sue of maddyandme, for example, does her part by upcycling the leftover wool fibers that are part of her felting process in a Spring Bird Nesting Kit.

Spring Bird Nesting Kit, by maddyandme

Joon of joonwalk makes whimsical Pocketfuls of Starlight that use vintage or reclaimed fabrics, notions and buttons.

Pocketful of Starlight, by joonwalk

Beth of BethPeardonProds speaks about the impact we have on the environment through sand-writing in her ACEO-sized photo, “God’s Earth.”

God’s Earth, by BethPeardonProds

Through her bubblescape titled “Compassion,” Diane of DianeClancy reminds us, “Compassion for ourselves, other people and the earth is an important part of protecting the environment.”

Compassion, by DianeClancy

Sara of LaughingOtterJewelry suggests the symbiotic relationships in nature with her bracelet, “Earth and Water.”

Earth and Water, by LaughingOtterJewelry

Kate of heronkate points to the origins of the earth and how time affects our planet through her Southwestern-colored, pyramid-shaped earrings, shaded like layers of sedimentary rock. According to some, the ancient Egyptians believed that the earth sprang from a mound shaped like a pyramid.

Earth Pyramid Earrings, by heronkate

In her shop, Joni of jstinson features a print titled “Sacred Sites,” by Dakota artist Donel Keeler. According to Joni, the Native Warrior in this illustration “is imploring us to protect the ancient and sacred sites of our Native people.” This respect for people, their history and their relationship to the earth underscores part of what Earth Day is all about.

Sacred Sites, by Donel Keeler, at jstinson

To read other environment-related blog posts by Boomers, refer to the posts below.

© 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.blogpost.com.

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.

Oct 082008

Buttons. We fasten our garments with them, wear them to proclaim our political views, push them to open doors, drag our cursor, activate software icons, and turn on car radios. A buttoned-down person is presumed to be conservative and narrow-minded, whose buttons can be predictably pushed to evoke a specific reaction. If that person refuses to talk to you, you’ll probably call her buttoned up. When you need to discuss a raise with a busy boss, you might buttonhole him to get his attention. The protective covering on the end of a fencing foil is called a button, as is the head of a mushroom. And the flower your date wears on his lapel? It’s a boutonniere, of course, from the late 19th century French word for button, bouton.

Buttons have a long and interesting history. During the Bronze Age, people simply wore pieces of bone, wood, metal or seashells as forms of decoration. Eventually, however, the ancient Greeks decided to run a button through a loop of thread to fasten garments. A few centuries later, in 1200, the Crusaders brought back from the Turks and Mongols the idea of a buttonhole. French garment makers took the bouton and the buttonhole to new heights in 1250 by establishing the Button Makers Guild. Their artistry was so developed that not only was the button used to fasten garments prized by the aristocracy, but it once more became a form of decoration.

Over the next few centuries, button mania ran amuck. Buttons were created from diamonds, gold, silver and ivory. A report from 1520 states that King Francis I of France once greeted King Henry VIII of England wearing 13,600 buttons, both men similarly attired. The Church tried to tone things down by calling the buttons used to fasten the front of women’s dress “the devil’s snare,” and of course the Puritans got into the act by condemning such button excess as sinful. Then in the 17th century a button war, la Guerre des Boutons, was begun by French tailors who enraged button makers by making thread balls that worked just as well as traditional buttons. To protect their turf and their livelihood, button makers secured the French government’s agreement to fine the tailors for their ingenuity.

By the 17th century, French button makers no longer had a stranglehold on the button market because America, Germany and the United Kingdom began producing large buttons that required fewer of them to fasten garments. Buttons began to be mass produced beginning in the 19th century, using more expensive materials like brass, glass, pearls and ceramic, but also more common materials like thread, bone and metal. Families began keeping button boxes to recycle buttons for re-use, which bring us to today’s buttons, which are made from all of these materials in all sizes and shapes, and for all kinds of products.

Our lives revolve around buttons, which you’ll find everywhere on Etsy, and for which BBEST members have developed all kinds of uses. Rose of Big Island Rose Design, for example, recycles buttons to produce her Framboise Button and Yoyo Pin.

Framboise Button and Fabric Yoyo Pin Brooch

Dena of The Buttonhole has based the entire premise of her shop on buttons. One of her products is the Brass Bookmark with Vintage Buttons Black and White.

Brass Bookmark with Vintage Buttons Black and White

Pearl of Fehu Stoneware, on the other hand, fires porcelain buttons in her kiln. She uses them to embellish her journal covers, but encourages others to find other creative uses for them.

Zuda of ZudaGay fashions fantastical flowers from polymer clay, recycling buttons as the center of her floral creations. Her Coral Red Flower Pendant, for example, features a silver tone button.

Coral Red Flower Pendant

Carol of Sand Fibers often uses buttons to fasten her beautiful bead bracelets. Take a look at her If You Love Copper Like I Love Copper Peyote Cuff Bracelet.

If You Love Copper Like I Love Copper Peyote Cuff Bracelet

Kym of Kimbuktu uses a button as both a practical fastener and a decorative embellishment for her 1000 Cranes Foldable Tote.

1000 Cranes Foldable Tote

Finally, says Joon of joonbeam, “Environment is everything.” Her Earth Day Every Day Pinbacks encourage us to preserve the earth with her version of the button.

Earth Day Every Day Pinbacks

Feel free to click on any of the photos above to learn about purchasing details of these button creations by Boomers and Beyond Etsy Street Team members.

To learn more about buttons, read Roy Earnshaw’s “A History of the Button.”

© 2008 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.