Saturday, March 22, 2014

We're Sweet Peas...

As I labeled seed packet files the other day, the fact I seem to easily collect more sweet pea packets than any other flower made an impression on me.

I don't know much about them except a vague memory of hearing that their sweet perfume was being bred out in a trade for more flamboyant looks...but that some breeders were fighting back.

However, a dip into Google Books supplied an avalanche of books dedicated to the sweet pea published in the latter half of the 19th century!

Up through the 1850s sweet peas were valued as a garden flower as they are wonderful in bouquets. But they were simply referred to by the the common color names, purple, black, scarlet, white, pink, pink and white.

Liberty Hyde Bailey wrote in his 1896 book, Sweet Peas -

The sweet pea has had but one genius. He is Henry Eckford, who for twenty years has given his attention to this plant upon his garden-farm at Wem, in Shropshire, England. He has given us the greater number of our best improved varieties. '' When I first took up the sweet pea,'' he writes, '' there were six or eight distinct varieties in cultivation, and experts in the art, as far as I could learn, had come to the conclusion that it could not be further improved, and in the first two or three generations of the work it appeared a fair conclusion; but I should say that I had been for many years working on the improvement of various florist flowers, and which had proved so eminently successful that a first rebuff did not deter me from further attempts." 

In our own country, the work has now been taken up by Rev. W. T. Hutchins, of Indian Orchard, Massachusetts; and it has remained for him to make the first important attempt to write any account of the modern sweet pea. His booklet, " All About Sweet Peas," appeared in 1894; and he has been and is still the most devoted grower and champion of sweet peas upon this side of the Atlantic. This is not saying that he is the largest grower, for this honor is held by C. C. Morse & Co., of California, whose crop of sweet peas covered 250 acres in 1895, and this firm has also produced a number of excellent varieties.    But Mr. Hutchins is an amateur sweet pea critic, whilst Mr. Morse grows the seeds for market. W. Atlee Burpee & Co., of Philadelphia, were amongst the first retail seedsmen to take up the sweet pea. The first sweet pea show of any note in this country was held under the inspiration of Mr. Hutchins at Springfield, Mass., in 1893. 

Bailey could be clearer in his attribution - most all the improved selections of the late 1800s were Eckford's!  In the 1890s breeders in this country were enthusiastically involved, however.  

This all leads to some interesting stories of breeders and the also of the California seed companies.

Sweet pea links:

Friday, March 21, 2014

Seed Art: The Land of Corn


"Brooklyn-based photographer henry hargreaves 
and food stylist caitlin levin, 
motivated by a passion for travel, have created ‘food maps’, a playful cartography series of geographical locations made out of the iconic foods that best represent them."

I saw this on designboom.  It is wonderful site, aggregating a wide variety of design disciplines. It is the one newsletter I subscribe to I am sure to look at!  They have interesting robotics occasionally. While not seeds, other countries are interesting to look at and think about if you feel like cruising.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Australian Aboriginal "Bush Seed" Themed Art

While cruising Ebay I encountered two paintings by women artists in Australia who are aboriginal and paint in that tradition.  One appears genuine, the other may or may not be, as the artist appears nowhere online that I could find easily.  (More on the paintings below.)  I wondered what species "bush seeds" might be as the phrase is in both titles...and the answer was there are quite a few possibilities as the Aboriginal people used everything it seems.  There is nothing like many thousands of years of respectful experimentation to get the most out your natural environment. Food, medicine, decoration and more.

Seed Links:

Kathleen Petyarre's 
"Bush Seeds"
 Link to the Ebay seller's store 

Each dot of paint, applied with a stick, is carefully applied and hard edged.

From Wikipedia (and there is much more there):
Kathleen Petyarre (born 1940) is an eminent Australian Aboriginal artist, known for her paintings displaying an extremely refined layering technique with intricate dotting. Her art refers directly to her country and her Dreamings. However, the vastness of the country can be clearly felt in the landscapes of Petyarre's paintings, which have occasionally been compared to the works of American Abstract Expressionists Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, and even to those of J.M.W. Turner. They have been described as: "magisterial works that can be likened to symphonic compositions" (Hood Museum of ArtDartmouth College, New Hampshire, USA). Petyarre's painstaking and virtuosic method of applying countless dots with kebab sticks of various sizes means she typically spends many days, sometimes weeks, on one canvas and has thus avoided the dangers of overproduction, widespread in Aboriginal art.
From Artlandish:
Kathleen has travelled overseas extensively with her art and is the winner of several major art awards and is hung in major galleries around the world. Kathleen is the niece of Emily Kngwarreye and one of seven artistic sisters, including Gloria Petyarre, Nancy Petyarre, Jean Petyarre, Myrtle Petyarre, Violet Petyarre and Ada Bird. 
Selected Collections
Paintings Collection of H. M. Queen Elizabeth 11 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, ACT, Australia 
The Kerry Stokes Collection, Perth, WA, Australia. 
The Museum & Art Galleries of the Northern Territory, Darwin, NT., Australia. 
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, S.A. Australia. 
Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide, S.A. Australia 
The Kluge-Rhue Collection, University of West Virginia, VA, USA. 
The Kelton Foundation, Los Angeles, CA., USA. 
The Levi-Kaplan Collection, Seattle, WA., USA 
A.T.S.I.C. Collection, Adelaide, S.A. Australia. 
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Vic. Australia. 
Museum Puri Lukisan, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. 
University of South Australia Art Museum, Adelaide, S.A. Australia. 
Riddoch Regional Art Gallery, Mount Gambier, S.A. Australia. 
Edith Cowan University, Perth, W.A. Australia. 
Collection de Musee des Arts d'Afrique et d'Oceanie, Paris, France. 
Peabody - Essex Anthropology and Ethnology Museum, Harvard University, Salem, Mass., USA. 

The other work by Anne Butler is from another Ebay gallery store.   While not the older, more traditional style, it is very appealing. Ann is said to have been born in 1950, but is not working much anymore due to failing eyesight and arthritis.

Link to seller

This style is a much more contemporary response to tradition.
The brush work is free and softer. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Sunflower Seed Simulacrum

I just found these on Ebay.  I am enchanted.   Just the other day I bought on Ebay another sort of clay seed, a collection from China, older, and with an interesting story that I had to winkle out of the internet as they were misidentified.  (Stay tuned.)

"These life-sized, porcelain sunflower seeds were sculpted and hand-painted by specialists working in the Chinese city of Jingdezhen, as seen in the documentry "Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry" 

This auction is for a wholesale lot of 25 seeds designed and inspired by artist Ai Weiwei.
You will receive 25 original seeds made by craftsmen from the village of Jingdezhen, China.

We are located in the United States and ship within 1 business day, so you will receive your seeds fast!"  

I think these must be part of the Tate Modern's exhibition, The Unilever Series: Ai Weiwei: Sunflower Seeds!   It is odd to consider buying part of an art work!  

You must go and view The Telegraph's slide show of images of the exhibition.   I read somewhere that people were soon barred from walking on the porcelain seeds because of health concerns...probably about the dust which would be silica.  But imagine if you were one of the early patrons to the Tate and had walked into the giant hall onto the seeds! 

In case you are enchanted enough to reach for your PayPal, here is the link to the Ebay seller who has several lots of seeds available. (100% positive feedback with 1295 feedbacks since 1995...looks good!)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Seeds and A Section of a Rook's Claw

If you haven't seen the artful slides from the 1800s you are in for a treat. 

The Victorians were fanatic hobby naturalists and their slides were a form of entertainment as well as scientific inquiry.

Howard Lynk has a fantastic site where you can explore this intricate and lush world. Imagine a cathedral's rose window done in carefully arranged butterfly scales or diatoms!

This more mundane slide to the right is an 

Eccremocarpus scaber seed I saw on Ebay.

That discovery led me to another interesting site while I tried to figure out what the label said...
I finally got enough letters guessed correctly to come up with the Chilean Glory Flower.  And then I found wildchicken nature and technology because it had the photo of the seeds below.  It also has a ton more bits and pieces of useful information on plants and wildlife presented in a style that reminded me of the earlier days of the internet. You'll see what I mean if you go there (if you are old enough to have been on earth then).

 Hmm...Belute of Whelk?

I wonder if this dull looking linaria seed has some feature that makes it a good specimen?