The symbolism of flowers started in ancient times, usually linked to a religion or religious deities. Nature and Flowers were seen as a reflection of the divine in the Renaissance and Victorian times. Due to the social rules of Victorian era, feelings and expressing one’s self were frowned upon, so flowers were given emotional meanings and symbolismand were used to express one’s self in an accepted way. Expression with flowers evolved into a very complex language in Victorian times, the practice spawned books about the subject, for example Kate Greenaway’s Language of Flowers (1884) and the language of flowers is still practiced today. Flowers became adornments, decorative motifs, girls’ names and special gifts. Today, flowers are present in all the major events in our lives, birth, marriage, holidays, graduation, illness and death.
Flowers have been the subject matter for great artistic master pieces like Van Gogh’s Sunflowers series and Monet’s Waterlilies and inspiration for great poetry, for example: Wadsworth’s Wandered Lonely as a Cloud and William Blake’s Ah! Sunflower.
Buying and Selling flowers have a world wide market, whole gardens are devoted to flowers, they are used in teas, some are used as spices, hops flowers are used to flavor beer and dandelion flowers are made into wine.
Fun Flower Facts:
The rose is the best known symbol of beauty and love.
Tulip bulbs can be used in stead of onions for cooking.
California is the source for 60% of all U.S.A. grown fresh cut flowers.
The Titan Arum is the world largest and smelliest flower.
Several years ago I visited the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, it had been redesigned and it had a new format for the viewers, one that led them through the events of history in a twisty, turny path. I had been there before and not much was new to me, the sadness was the same and surrealistic quality of this historic event pervaded. On this visit, I came upon an exhibit that I’d never seen before, one that has stayed with me ever since, one that spoke to me more than the others.
I can’t remember their names and I can’t find anything about this exhibit on the internet, but I remember the story. Prisoners were given various jobs, one Jewish prisoner was given the job of toy maker, the prisoner’s creative talents had spared her life. Day in and day out her job was to make beautiful toys for the German children. One of the toys that she made, she kept hidden away; she had made a flower doll for her daughter whom she hoped to see again one day. The old, ragged cloth doll was displayed in a small glass case amongst many other tragic stories in the museum. The history of the flower doll was written on a small plaque, it pointed out some of the harshest realities of the war, the ones that involved the children. The woman’s daughter did not survive the war and she never received the flower doll that her mother made for her.
Flowers and toys seem out of place is such a horrible setting and I try not to think about the realities of the flower doll story, lest they take me to a dark place that I don’t want to be. I’ve always wanted to make a flower doll, not only because of the flower doll story, but because I think flowers bring people joy, hope and beauty and all of us need those things, no matter what our situation.
I‘ve become acquainted with gnomes, popular in Waldorf-Steiner education circles and with people who have high esteem for all things natural. The gnome stories (originating in Norway) tell of the good deeds of the benevolent gnomes, the keepers of animals and nature. The folklore of gnomes teach many skills, similar to those of a farmer or pioneer, living off the land, dependent and respectful of the nature around them.
Needle felted gnome, family man
As I read the book Gnomes by Rien Poortuliet and Wil Huygen, I was amazed at the detail in which life skills were described. The gnome lore talks about so many of the skills that Waldorf-Steiner schools teach their students, skills that are today rather rare in the western world, like basket weaving. I admire that someone wants to teach children artful crafts that no one needs to do anymore, like bake bread or make your own toys out of things you find around the house. Even more so, I’m impressed with the parents who still find these things important and see value in them. You’ll never find a gnome child playing with a Wi or listening to their i-pod, they’ll be playing imaginative games and making their own music on an instrument and their parents will be there with them delighting in the merriment. The beauty of the Waldorf-Steiner methods teach a child how to use their imagination, thus how to think.
The mother gnome takes on a very traditional role in gnome lore, I didn’t see any tiny, pink brief cases or mini designer suits hanging off a hook in the illustrations of their homes. When I was a little girl, my family lived a very gnome-like life, but we were all much taller! Maybe gnomes are so popular with those of us who value doing and making things ourselves because we’ve been bombarded with popular culture, plastic throw way everything, mindless musical lyrics and a sense of ho-hum with the things around us.
I remember a furniture store in Chicago where all the pieces were made by hand by artisans, I often went into that shop just to be around the furniture (I couldn’t afford to buy a candle stick in that shop). I could see the hand crafted details in the furniture, the natural wood was rubbed with bee’s wax that gave it a rich, mat finish. I could see the time and skill and genius that went into making the pieces in that shop and I admired the abilities of the crafts-people. But maybe that’s just me, because I’ve seen many people who will buy what ever is on sale, no matter the piece. I know that in every gnome household, the furniture looks just like the pieces that I admired long ago on Clark street in Chicago.
Today there seems to be a backlash against consumerism and the throw away culture of the western world as seen in the resurgence of handmade crafts (Etsy) and the green movement. I think all generations have nostalgia for the past and admiring the make believe world of gnomes give us the sense that we may be moving back toward something more meaningful and useful in our lives.
I was chopping vegetables for a salad the other day and I was inspired by the green onions! Holding up the long, thin, onion it looked like a little person to me; the white bulbous end of the onion was the head, the spiky little roots looked like hair and the long green scallion stems were the body! Sure, why not!? So I got out my felting needles and went to work.
If green onions had a personality, I’m sure they’d be giggly like little girls and cheeky when you pulled them from the ground. I’ve been trying to create a series of natural toys for kids and my imagination snuck up on me and came up with these. Surprisingly, this was a lunch salad I was fixing, so there was no alcohol consumption involved!
After I make something, I sit and look at it for quite a while. I need time to see if anything needs to be changed or altered before I decide if I’m happy with it. I was sitting in the living room holding and contemplating the bunch of dolls when my oldest daughter came in the front door. ” Are those ONIONS?” she asked. “Yep”, was my reply. I had already become comfortable with my new, slightly odd creation: green onions as dolls. “Oooookaaay”, she said as she went into the kitchen, because she’s used to seeing odd things sitting around our house like giant needle felted tarantulas, boxes of doll eyes, doll body parts or 7 foot tall paper mâché mushrooms.
Green Onion Doll Tutorial: This tutorial shows how to make one needle felted green onion doll. Tools: felting needles, sponge for felting surface, embroidery needle, scissors wool: dark green (body/stems) I prefer felting a course wool like shetland or New Zealand bright green-felted in the center area, visually connecting stems and the head
core wool or fiber-fill (base shape)
white curly yarn (hair)
thread (for wrapping core wool or fiber fill to make base shape)
green embroidery thread (for the face and securing stems and yarn hair)