Project page

In Embrace of Gillyflowers

“...the fairest flowers o’th' season Are our carnations and streaked gillyvors…” William Shakespeare Winters Tale, Act 4 Scene 4
a fragment of a Goldwork embroidery

Carnation or gillyflowers are among the oldest cultivated flowers since Greek and Roman times, they appear in legends, where their scientific name was explained by the combination of Greek words, or crown-like look. Some tales say that gillyflower blossoming has a more spiritual meaning, which is explained by its magical appearance out of earth where Mother Mary shed her tears in mourning for her son.

materials spread across the embroidery design

In England during the Tudors era, carnations were known as culinary flavouring that gave wine and beer a very specific floral taste.

a close up to the process of carnation flowers stitching

In the Victorian era, gillyflower became popular through the development of complex symbolism and flower language known as floriography.

carnation flower embroidery made with silk threads and ribbons

Although the carnation was not the number one flower in the royal court, they may have been one of Queen Victoria's favourite flowers, representing purity and good fortune, love and charm, being translated as “flower of love”, symbolising femininity, motherhood, faithfulness and simplicity.

flower wreath design embroidered with sequins and silver purl

I used this as one of the key element in the narration, that accompany the imagery of fragile petals gathered in a crown by a tiny gemstone, with a pristine feminine intonation, in which the purity of carnation flower symbolism is reflected in lucid shine of nacre sequins, silk threads and pleated ribbons that make up the bud, as if it woven from gentle parental embrace.

a close-up to the embroidered leaves framed in silver purl

The slender flower stems and blade-like leaves reminiscent of whimsical silhouettes, which natural imagery echoes with the symbols of short but fruitful movement originated in the end of 19th century.

assembling of the velvet collar

Some called it a strange decorative disease, while others considered it beautiful, primarily motivated by nature, the flowness of existence, the triumph of organic lines and colours, which seemed to be casted into natural forms, floating in the air of the moment - the era of Art Nouveau. Its mood spread to the fine and applied arts, breathing new air into furniture, mosaics, glass, metal, jewellery, textiles and embroidery.

stitching on the metal framing across the edge of the collar

If one could breathe the air of Art Nouveau into the language and make a speech, the human could tell a story hidden behind the simple petals, interested in nature, in its fine lines tangible in cold and shiny materials.

a side look to the collar embroidered with carnation flowers

If one could think the way that Art Nouveau artists thought, then it would be possible to distort the subject slightly and represent it with exquisite use of colour and texture.

a close-up to the piece of the embroidery

If one could for a moment dream of becoming an artist of Art Nouveau, feeling the zeitgeist and the energy of making, it would be René Jules Lalique, whose creations primarily contributed to Art Nouveau movement, telling the story of technical innovation, introducing the use of new or formerly neglected materials, which visual and tactile qualities are intertwined with Art Nouveau key motifs of femininity, gossamer stems, satin and shiny gloss, pearl and crystal shine - the tribute to nature and adoration of woman represented with gemstones, elegant designs, fine materials and traditional accessories, such as a small velvet collar.

a close-up to the piece of the embroidery with carnation flower

While developing the design, I kept in mind the iconic collar created by René Lalique - silk embroidery on leather, accented with enamel elements, glass berries and a citrine cabochon, which depicts singing roosters. The symphony, in which metalised threads played their shiny part unveiling the story of Chanteclair, moved me and pushed to balance between complexity and simplicity, prioritising the composition of various shades of metal, instead of using one, combining all the materials into a diaphanous wreath with white carnation blossom, delicately blown in the wind. Their leaves are dressed in satin silk and casted into the frames of silver-plated purl, dusted with sparkling shine.

a close-up to the embroidered Goldwork element

The buds seem slightly frozen on unlocking their blossoming, letting them shimmer with rich texture and dainty matt luster. The eyes of crystals are wide-opened to hypnotise the watcher and bring him to the world of dreams, while freshwater pearls stay mute, balancing the composition and paying homage to one of Art Nouveau most loved materials.

a final look to the embroidered collar