Flowers are such a great love of mine, I’ve had a lifelong obsession with them and I had been longing to do a collection dedicated to their pure beauty.
When I decided that my new print collection would be inspired by this great love, I went on a journey from the farmers market, to the kitchen table, to an old-fashioned flower show presented by the Dahlia Society in pursuit of their beauty. It felt serendipitous.
Here’s how it unfolded …
I had kept this photograph of an older lady on my moodboard for years. A friend took the photo and shared it with me to show me where she was that day, at a flower show in a country hall in Victoria.
I treasure this photograph. Everything about this image spoke to me and I knew if I was going to do a flower collection I was going to somehow incorporate the nostalgia of old fashioned flower shows and women like the lady in the photograph, women of bygone eras, into the collection.
So when vibrant pink and orange coloured dahlias started appearing at my local farmers market I started to get very excited!
It’s a beautiful market set under Moreton Bay fig trees that brings the very best produce from the country to the city, and it’s a market I love to attend with my family, even my mum and dad come along.
Needless to say getting to the market early each Sunday morning became less about the fruit and vegetables and more about getting there to buy flowers.
I would bring the bunches of dahlias home from the market and set up a little make shift studio on our kitchen table, while our children played in the background and lunch cooked on the stovetop.
Working along to Edie and Alby’s laughter and little voices in the background was so precious. Sometimes they would get a little too raucous and I would have to stop photographing, but it was always a beautiful way to work.
I tested out what I loved about the dahlias, and gave myself time to experiment and to be curious, to try different things when capturing the work.
Since becoming a mother I’ve felt this stage of my life has been more creative, probably because it’s also more raw.
Being a woman artist, motherhood has put me in direct emotional contact with the forces of nature. I can feel the cycle of life now, rather than previously just observing it.
I thought I was really onto a great thing with the market flowers, which were grown by New View Farmers, based near Stanthorpe / Tenterfield, on the border of Queensland and New South Wales, when I heard they had experienced a severe hail storm which had destroyed all their dahlias for the season.
So apart from this being completely heartbreaking for the growers (Holly, Bec and Justin, who I had now informally become friends with), I found myself without dahlias for my print collection.
With peak dahlia season coming to a close in the coming weeks I started to worry I wasn’t going to be able to complete the collection this year.
Then, by coincidence I saw the Queensland Dahlia Society was bringing their annual show to town. I anxiously made contact with them to see if I could come along and photograph the dahlias. They agreed.
The vision of the lady on my moodboard came to me and I started to dream about how I could bring the nostalgic elements of the old fashion flower show to my new body of work.
On a Sunday morning in Autumn I attended the annual Dahlia Society Show, along with my children and husband Timothy O.
Walking into the flower show was like time travelling to another era. The 1970’s auditorium of the Botanic Gardens was a hive of activity.
Egg sandwiches cut in triangles had been made to sell, cakes and slices had been baked and endless cups of tea were being poured from teapots with knitted cosies.
Then there were the flowers…
Hundreds of stems of flowers had been grown by devoted hands in various country gardens and brought to town to be admired and judged.
Tables with rows of old green glass bottles, top heavy and bulging with the most magnificent and breathtaking natural floral forms in shades of brilliant colour filled the room.
Some flowers plump and perfectly round with an abundance of petals, others elegant and tall, with exaggerated frilly blades. Their unique forms and poise reminded me of a generation of women from a bygone eras.
It was there and then I decided each print would be named after such women.
I was completely overcome by the beauty in the room. The flowers, the atmosphere, all of it.
I picked up my camera and got to work. I could feel tears welling up in my eyes from joy and happiness, but most of all feeling so grateful to have this opportunity to be photographing such breathtaking beauty.
I set up my natural light studio and started excitedly photographing flower by flower. Taking the time to observe each perfect bloom and its personality and how best it should be represented. It felt electric.
My most precious childhood memories with my grandmother are connected to flowers. She grew flowers by the front steps of her small and humble home and would keep her green watering can full of water to care for them.
After visits with her she would cut a handful of flowers for me and wrap the stems in a little damp tissue with alfoil to protect the flowers on the drive home. I will always remember my grandmothers hands wrapping the flowers.
I felt a similar atmosphere here at the show. So many busy, yet caring hands.
I think dahlias are the happiest of all the flowers and always bring an abundance of joy.
Timeless in their natural beauty, yet strikingly modern in their form, they set the most deeply nostalgic atmosphere.
After the show I got to work. I edited the collection down to ten prints. I selected the very best flowers which spoke to me and which I knew would make the most impressive photographic prints to live with at home.
I wanted colour. Uplifting and positive colour. An explosion of colour and beauty!
I worked with my photographic printer and based myself at his studio while we printed test shots and test strips, checking for quality.
I must admit it was so thrilling working so close with him and the large scale printing machines. He has printed my work for 20 years and it was so lovely to chat about ‘old times’ as we worked away on the new collection together.
All of my ten still life portraits of dahlias are available in four sizes. Each photographic print is inspired by the emotional romanticism of bygone days.
This is ‘Edith‘. I adore her boldness. She brings a different form to the collection with her gentle flat ray shaped petals. Her vibrant colour palette is strikingly strong. ‘Edith’ is a collerette dahlia.
At home I have ‘Edith’ in my extra large size 44 x 66″ with my signature framing on the lean in my living room. She sets such a welcoming, yet impactful tone.
This is ‘Mavis’, who is actually named after my garden loving grandmother. When I saw ‘Mavis’, the flower, from across the room I knew she would be a spectacular print. Her variegated petals in pink ombre are so beautiful and sophisticated. She truly has a presence. ‘Mavis’ is a cactus dahlia.
I have ‘Mavis’ in my dining room as a free standing extra large 44 x 66″ print on the lean, again in my signature framing style. All of my prints are available either framed or unframed, it’s entirely up to you and your budget. This size creates an artful tone here at home.
‘Daphne’, possibly the most elegant of all the photographic prints in the collection. She has such poise and quite frankly perfect in her form. ‘Daphne’ is a ball dahlia.
At home I have a medium size, 20 x 30″ ‘Daphne’ leaning on our midcentury sideboard. She adds such dimension resting here, as this size is perfect for all sorts of nooks and brings life to dead spots around the home. Let’s face it, we all have dead spots.
She creates a statement in any room and wants to be seen. ‘Coral’ is an exhibition cactus dahlia.
‘Coral’ is hanging in our living room in my large size, 32 x 48″. This size is such a generous portion, which creates a memorable atmosphere and a talking point within your home.
‘Dot’, short for ‘Dorothy’, makes me smile the most. I think it’s because she looks a little eccentric and kooky in her style. She has splits in the tips of her florets and she looks fanatical. I love her classic red frilly petals too. ‘Dot’ is a fimbriated dahlia.
I have ‘Dot’ in the entrance way to our home in my medium size, 20 x 30″. I know I will move her around the house, as this size is really versatile and works everywhere.
‘Lillian’ is an abundance of beauty. I love her and her spectacular eye catching petals. I could stare at ‘Lillian’ for hours and happily lose myself in her beauty.
Her pale pink collar which turns hot pink on the tips of her petals is just so radical and so utterly feminine. ‘Lillian’ is a trailblazer.
‘Lillian’ is a cactus dahlia. I’m holding a test print of ‘Lillian’.
‘Gladys’ is glorious in her size and is larger than life with her dinner plate proportions. She is brilliant with her large rounded petals and her soft peach tones.
‘Gladys’ is a form decorative dahlia.
‘Yvonne’ is divine with her golden warmth, you can’t help but gravitate towards her aura. ‘Yvonne’ doesn’t conform to convention, her florets are twisted, curly and wild, much like her.
‘Yvonne’ is an informal decorative dahlia and I’m holding a test print of her.
‘Sylvia’ is the most confident of the collection, it must be her French heritage :) Her perfect petal blades are faultless in their ethereal sorbet colours of soft pink blush and lemon. ‘Sylvia’ is a cactus dahlia.
‘Sylvia’ is on the lean in my small size, 11 x 14″, on my bedside table at home. Bedside tables are a really special place to add the beauty of framed art. It’s one of my favourite places to position small framed prints, as it immediately feels very sentimental being placed in the haven of the bedroom.
‘Audrey’ is a classic beauty. Her mesmerising elegance is utterly timeless and her warm colour palette of ombre red and orange is exquisite. ‘Audrey’ is a waterlily dahlia.
I have ‘Audrey’ framed in my small size here at home, 11 x 14″. She is actually a piece which I ‘float’ around the home when I think a particular area needs a lift. The same approach to when you bring home a bunch of flowers.
I will place ‘Audrey’ on the wall, lean her on a side table, or even against our bookshelf to add some femininity to the our room. She moves around and I adore having a piece so versatile.