Wild Flowering Quince

Japonica in Teena's Vasephoto copy

I am frequently faced with a rather moral dilemma.  Should I to drive to Diamond Harbour for a meeting with Rachel or hop on the ferry from Lyttelton which only takes 5 minutes and supports an essential local public service?  The journey around the winding coastal road however,  offers greater inspiration to me than whizzing straight across the water, so carbon footprint aside I hop in the car, music on and off I go.

I pass ripening muhlenbeckia vine, buddleia trees laden with lilac flowers and wild flowering quince self-sown and  scattered in farmland paddocks.

The shrub variety of flowering quince, not to be confused with the tree which produces those majestic downy yellow fruits in Autumn time,  is one of the first hints that Spring is beckoning and  flowering bulbs will follow shortly.

It is great to have a break from my laptop and get down to the therapeutic business of actual gathering rather than writing about it!  By the time I reach Diamond Harbour I am brimming with ideas and images to share along with cuttings that I have taken. Rachel sketches as we work on some new styling ideas.

Hanging artwork for the kitchen

Rhubarb Sour Cocktail illustration resize

Whilst packing up my office in preparation for earthquake repairs,  I discovered this monochromatic recipe illustration that Rachel designed for the cook book. Imagine how wonderful it would look screen printed onto a linen tea towel and hung as kitchen art.  Great stocking filler for Christmas. Must get some printed in time for  Culverden.

Incidentally have tried one or two of these very moorish cocktails in the past and can absolutely recommend them.  One jug doesn’t last long, so get organised beforehand if you’re throwing a party and poach plenty of rhubarb.  Note the recipe above is for one thirsty person only.

Reserve a few rhubarb stems with the heart-shaped leaves intact, and pop into a glass vase for an unusual and dramatic arrangement.  Will keep the rhubarb fresh until you get the urge for another cocktail ….

Transit of Dreams Exhibition 29 August – 8 September

Rachel will be showing a couple of her artworks in the Harbour Arts Collective’s opening exhibition at pop-up gallery Tin Palace in Lyttelton.  ‘Transit of Dreams’ is a group exhibition and will feature works that respond to the theme of dreams, fantasy, illustion or imagined reality.

Rachel’s works are ‘Atavistic Memory’ and ‘We Are All Creatures’.

The exhibition preview will be at 5.30 – 8.00 pm on Wednesday 28 August at The Tin Palace, 13A Oxford Street, Lyttelton.

Introducing the Carousel Girls

Hypericum girl resize main galleryThe Hypericum Girl Illustration by Rachel Thornton

Welcome to Carousel Flora Design’s new website and blog, ‘Gathering Tales’. You may notice that we’ve been posting privately for some time now if you scroll through the archives, but as of today we are officially dipping our toes, well fully immersing ourselves,  into this exciting new technical and very public arena.

Our website has been a lengthy on-going project but Rachel and I are thrilled that our business will  once again have  visibility despite the shop’s future in Lyttelton remaining uncertain. I must say it has been a tough challenge to maintain our motivation levels and creative spirit at times, post earthquakes, aftershocks et al, but having a creative project to focus on and a kindrid spirit to work alongside, has certainly helped Rachel and I remain sane (ish!).

‘Gathering Tales’ will bring you our current inspirations, new designs, journal sketches and images together with ideas, projects and recipes to share with you on a regular basis. Feel free to comment and keep in touch.  We’d love your feedback.

Rachel and I would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to some of the people who have assisted and truly supported us during the past couple of years.  Firstly, our husbands and families who have at all times encouraged us and allowed this dream to be realised.  Not to mention putting up with countless phone calls at all hours of the day and night, and piles of debris strewn all around our homes and gardens!  John Burt of Working Ideas for graphic design support and Maika Zack for strategic technical advice. Peter Bay who gave us an invaluable insight into the world of international publishing and book concept design.  Lucy Hone for understanding our vision from the beginning and  offering thoughtful constructive direction. Hilary Perkins for her unfailing support. Jacinda Gilligan for her enthusiasm and utter belief in us.  Andrea Bay for her perpetual optimism and wise words.  Margaret Egan for her continued encouragement and generous supply of materials and Chilean chef Guilio Sturla, a passionate food forager and gatherer,  for inspiring us with his unending drive, passion and love of this beautiful land and its seasons.

There are too many other friends and loyal Carousel clients to thank individually but you will know who you are,  and we thank you for supporting our business since it opened in 2008.

The Snowdrop Girl rev FINAL2

The Snowdrop Girl Illustration by Rachel Thornton

That said, let me introduce a series of drawings that Rachel has been developing.  The Carousel Girls.  These darling, elegantly-attired girls were created whilst Rachel was confined to her bed recovering from exhaustion post earthquake.  With only a pen and paper in her hand, she began to create these fantasy girls.  Beautiful, thoughtful girls who love gathering and love nature.  Dressed rather romantically and femininely, the Carousel Girls offer us an escape from the asethically-challenging environment in which we Cantabrians are currently living.

Each month a new girl will be launched celebrating a seasonal material.  Check out the illustration gallery to see the Carousel Girls to date.  Prints and series of stationery to follow.


Buddleia, the butterfly bush

budlea & baby pumkin resizeBuddleia – friend or foe?

Discovering that buddleia is sometimes considered an invasive pest or weed got me thinking about what the exact definition of a weed is. The dictionary suggests a weed is a plant or flower that grows where it’s not meant to.  Our view though,  is that these so called ‘weeds’ are just as valuable in floral terms as the more traditionally valued flowers.

Certainly buddleia happily self seeds and can inhabit hostile wasteland conditions as well as flourishing in countryside hedgerows,  but personally I would never consider these delicately-scented mauve-grey flowers unwelcome in any sense.  Neither would the butterflies and bees who enjoy their nectar.

Pondering the ‘what’s a weed’ question, reminds me of Constance Spry,  the mid 20 century British florist who boldly pioneered loose, unstructured floral designs displaying so-called weeds and under-valued wild flowers, branches and vegetables, and ignored classical floristry rules in preference to letting her imagination run wild.   Single handedly she  changed the way British Society viewed floral decoration  and encouraged a resourceful attitude to floristry, celebrating originality and creative spirit.  I guess what she was saying was that there is beauty to be appreciated in all nature’s plants.  Weed or otherwise.

Sketchbook Buddlea resize