Design & Décor, Living with Style, Personal Style

Faux and Behold

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Prepping is well underway for the Newport Flower Show (June 21-23), when many talented ladies (and men) of the garden world will dress the rooms of Rosecliff with luscious floral designs. There’s one category, though, that often prompts more awe, amazement…and a bit of bewilderment… than the others, Botanical Arts.

If you are not familiar with this art form, do treat yourself to a walk through Rosecliff; you will leave with a new-found admiration for the world of flora and fauna. Every piece of jewelry and accessory that you see on display has been created from plant material… a seed pod from a crape myrtle, the delicate spent whorls of a clematis, a skeletonized sheer leaf, the nut shell that can be sanded to simulate a set of turquoise on an elegant necklace.

Nothing is not used (if you’ll forgive my double negative)!

Two elegant creations will give me the opportunity to substantiate that
(as the judge’s rules state) only nature’s offerings have been used to produce this Samurai sword…the handle is birch, wrapped with raffia while pieces of pine cone were used at the end.

An intricate fan owes its beauty to the bounty of plant material. The red main sections are from fan palm; the transparent black “lace” is skeletonized Peepul leaves accented with mustard seeds along the scallops and the black slats are rattan.

What kind of patience and talent must it take to convince the viewer that these pearls are not from an oyster, that the long gold chain is not one that you viewed at a jewelers (it is made from twisted raffia)?

And that the sparkling diamonds gracing the tiara are not worth a small fortune? This is the challenge facing a botanical artist. Theirs is one of painstaking, meticulous attention to detail and a passion for this craft.

I’ve been an admirer for years, but I still marvel that these designs, masquerading as real jewels, are not! Seed pods, berries, nuts, tree bark, fungi, pine cone– the list is endless, testament to both the designer’s curiosity and good eye for seeking out the unusual. And some of the tools of the trade? Super fine tweezers, a dentist’s drill, magnifiers, dremel drill press and a mini belt sander. This should give you some idea of how serious these artists are. In contrast, the finishing touch is often achieved with simple nail polish that you can find in your local drugstore. (An insider’s tip…try polish OPI “Kyoto Pearl” to simulate painted pearls and ORLY “Tiara” for diamond glitter).
Of course you have to know how to use the polish…

This bejeweled stiletto stole the show! And do tell — how is it possible to create these diamonds that cover the entire shoe including the ankle strap?Very simply, the seed pods from an andromeda plant make perfect prongs for the diamonds, which are just the right-sized lentils.

Yes, these artists are supra talented. And I want to thank one in particular, my cousin Sarah Bearden Boynton, a multi-blue ribbon winner in Botanical Arts and Best in Show in all craft classes at the prestigious World Flower Show in Dublin, 2014. It is she who loaned her creations for this post (and, unlike the “real McCoy,” they weren’t accompanied by security guards).

What’s left to be said except “faux and behold!,” as my artist friend, Ruthie Watts, opined. I’m imagining that you’ll be looking at your own garden now in a different way. If you need more inspiration, here is the “key card” that accompanied Sarah’s brooch (above) in the Newport Flower Show, 2016.

All image credit, Sarah Boynton.

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About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

8 thoughts on “Faux and Behold

  1. My dear Bettie,
    I continue to enjoy your wonderful Blog. This one is so amazing and I always enjoy these classes at flower shows.
    I understand you and Neal celebrated your birthdays with Ruthie in Atlanta recently, a belated Happy Birthday.
    I hope you will let me know if you are going to be down our way sometime. It would be such a special treat to see you.
    Sending much love your way,

  2. You are so amazing! I never knew about Botanical Arts! Please contact me so we can talk about your visit! We are all so excited!

  3. You never cease to amaze me darling Bettie, so much talent in your family! This blog was just fascinating, I’ll surely look at the Flower Show Botanical artistry in a new enlightened way! Cheers back to you with hugs! Kathleen Beckett

    1. Merci, but it’s my cousin who is sooooo talented….we need to chat about Paris! And the next month or so. Miss you awfully. xB

  4. This is truly amazing and breathtaking! I have never seen or heard of jewels like this! Thank you so much!

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