The Paper Garden

“A life’s work is always unfinished and requires creativity till the day a person dies.”
(The Paper Garden)

Imagine creating your best work at the age of 72, work that would find a permanent home in the British Museum.

The book “The Paper Garden” is a fascinating biography about Mary Delany (already mentioned here) who did just that: at the age of 72 she created breathtaking cut paper flowers portraits – or paper mosaics as she called them –  inventing the art of collage.

Born in 1700 Mary Delany (nee Granville) was married off at the age of 16 to a 61 year old drunken squire to improve the family fortunes. At the age of 25 she found herself a widow and in the years to come rejected many suitors, amongst them the charming Lord Baltimore. But she did not retreat to a quiet life instead she cultivated a wide circle of friends, including Georg Friedrich Handel  and Jonathan Swift. At 43 she fell in love and married Patrick Delany, an Irish clergyman. After 23 years of marriage, she found herself a window for a second time.

To overcome her grief, she started to experiment with paper, paste and scissors and created  985 botanically accurate, hand cut flowers mosaics from water colored paper that she tinted herself. She was a lifelong artist, but it was not until she was 72 that she really ‘bloomed’. And that, in Molly Peacock’s words, “…gives a person hope”.

I’m getting to know Mary Delany  well through the  book .  Not only is it  beautifully written, but it also features some wonderful reproductions of Delany’s work. The image below taken with my small digital camera shows some details of her tiny paper clippings. On the computer screen, her mosaics often look like water colors.

How dexterous Mary Delany must have been in her 70’s, not to mention her incredible eyesight. Eyesight is on my mind right now as I’m entering that phase where my own is diminishing and thinking about that wonderful companion of middle-age: reading glasses.
To celebrate the changing seasons and bring a sense of that darker beauty into my home, I’ve placed some Gerbera in front of my chalky black walls upstairs. Flowers DO look good in front of a black background.

An artist starting to create her masterpieces at the age of 72. It gives a person hope.


The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock
Molly Peacock‘s website.
Mary Delany at The British Museum


String Gardens and Other Flowers



Gardening is not my thing, though I love flowers. Who doesn’t? I never developed much of a green thumb, because working in the garden seems overwhelming – here in the Northeast, specifically. When I rip out a weed, 3 more grow in its place as soon as I turn my back. The concept of “weeds” is strange to me; take dandelions for example. They’re pretty and make a nice salad, when used in spring. I wouldn’t consider them a weed. 
And then, there are bugs. Big bugs. American bugs. Honestly I’m a bit afraid of bugs, they always seem to hold the upper hand whenever we meet. The can often fly or sting or both. Unfortunately I can’t.
But then I saw these images of string gardens.
I believe they’re made in Holland; the website doesn’t tell, but has many exquisite images to look at. And while these plants are far from practical (think watering and weight), they are so unique that I’m thinking of making one over the weekend. Admittedly it feels strange, to have plants floating in space this way, probably because they are not connected to soil or to each other. But then potted plants aren’t either. It just perfectly reflects how we live in today’s world, where everybody is connected through their electronic devices and not directly with each other. Not sure, how I feel about that. On the other hand, there are potted plants and wild flowers. They don’t have to exclude each other. In short, I might give it a try.
Here are the instructions, on how to make a “Kokedama“, a planted moss ball, popular in Japan. There are also instructional images on the string garden website.
And if I have leftover time this weekend, I’ll be dreaming up new skirt projects and doodling.

Sewing Thread Decorations and mor skirt ideas

Sewing Thread Decorations

This was playing with crocheted button hole thread, secured with a running stitch to t-shirt fabric. It works up quickly and makes a nice raised surface. I tried to “write” with it, but it just looked messy. I wonder what I can do with this. Any ideas?

Have great weekend everybody.

When Children Decorate…

Window Paint

The other day I asked my daughter to make a stained glass window in our hallway. She was thrilled with this task. We used tempera paint as it washes right off. At least, that’s the idea. I actually like it quite a bit as the hallway is dark and when the sun shines in the morning, it’s a cheerful little asset to an otherwise dark entrance. This is what inspired my daughter:

Flowers Around My House

Flowers Around My House

Flowers Around My House

To me it’s important that my daughter is part of deciding how our home looks. Beyond her own room. Same for the garden. She planted all the pansies. Whenever I ask her for her opinion of how something looks or where to place an object, she is really proud to have a say. I find that kids involved in these kinds of decisions take much better care of their environment when they are part of creating it. Same with food and cooking.

Is it time consuming? Yes. Do areas of our house sometimes have the feeling a 7 year old crazy interior designer made all the decisions? Yes. Then yesterday I find a little scotch tape piece pasted to the window on which she wrote with a marker: “Papa, I love you.” Is that lovely? YES!

Make Your Own Vintage Botanical Print Plate

Decoupage Glass Plate
I’ve always admired John Derian‘s work. His decoupaged glass plates, paper weights and cake domes, have elevated glue and printed paper to new decorating heights. When you see his work, it is no surprise to find it available in fine home stores.

Decoupage dates back to 12th century, but flourished in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries due to the high demand for artist decorated furniture. Not everybody could afford hand painted furniture, walls and ceiling which lead to the cheaper and more accessible art form of decoupage.

So why not make your own? There are plenty of royalty free sources of vintage botanical, animals, sea life and more available for download and print.

Decoupage Material

- glass dish plates: find them in thrift or craft stores.
- paper: photocopies (work well), wrapping paper, newspaper. Make sure the surface is not glossy
- pencil 
- white glue
- scissors
- water


Tutorial: Decoupage Under Glass (1)
Lie your glass plate face down onto the paper you’ve selected. This gives you a visual idea of your end result. As a beginner, it’s better to make a few copies of your paper, so if you mess up your first attempt, you can give it another try. Draw a line around the plate roughly 0.5 to 0.75 inches out.
Tutorial: Decoupage Under Glass (2)
Cut the paper on the line and you’ll end up with a paper slightly larger than your plate.

Tutorial: Decoupage Under Glass (3)

Relax the paper in water for 30 seconds or so. This is really important, because it gives the paper a little bit of flexibility.

Tutorial: Decoupage Under Glass (4)

Now glue up the bottom of the plate. You can use a brush, but I always use my fingers. 
Center the wet paper face down on the bottom of the plate and carefully smooth out any air bubbles.
Important Note: Have some more glue and water handy and work with very wet hands! Otherwise the paper will stick to you instead of the plate.
Decoupage Plate

Tutorial: Decoupage Under Glass (6)

To help shape the wet paper to the plate, slice the edge of the paper with scissors a few times from the top rim to the bottom like in the picture above. Don’t worry too much about the wrinkles. You’re not John Derian.
Tutorial: Decoupage Under Glass (7)
Trim the rim with your scissors and …voila…you’re done. There is no picture of this step, because my hands were too gluey.  
Tutorial: Decoupage Under Glass (8)
Put it upside down on a glass and let it dry for a few hours (depending on the weather). You can also paint the bottom of the plate if you want to, but I skipped that today. You can also coat the bottom with some Modge Podge or other sealant.
Decoupage Glass Plate
Nice thing about these plates is that you can eat off them because the paper doesn’t touch the food. If you are using it for food, gently hand wash. It will stand up to some use. Here is a plate with Japanese wrapping paper.
Decoupage Glass Plate
And a lobster plate with an unfinished rim:
Decoupage Glass Plate
And some switch plates:
Decoupage Light Switches
It doesn’t have to stop here. You can decoupage pretty much anything. Your fridge for example.
Here are some more ideas:
- Paper Weights
- Vases (they need a liner, and you’d have to use small pieces of paper to accommodate the curve if you have a round shape)
- Coasters
- Glass Tiles (can be made into coasters)

Summer Flower Tutorial – Grow Your Own Hybrid in 5 Minutes…

Fabric flowers are one my favorite accessories. Put a flower on a t-shirt and voila, you’re ready to go out. Put one on a paper package or head band and it adds instant zing. One day, while gathering fabric strips, I thought: “Wouldn’t these look interesting together?” I experimented, but wasn’t sure which combination would […] Read more »


Maria Sibylla Merian (born 1647 in Frankfurt/Main) began studying insects early in her life, particularly the life cycle of caterpillars and butterflies and how the transformation happens. And here is what is really impressive. In 1699 the city of Amsterdam sponsored Merian to travel to Surinam with her daughter, Dorothea Maria. (Notice that Maria Sibylla […] Read more »


Aus dem Archiv um 1948: Copyright dpa Ah die Schreber Gaerten. Sie sehen ein bischen aus wie die Luxusversion asiatischer Slums, wenn man aus dem Zugfenster schaut. Das taeuscht natuerlich auf den zweiten Blick, wenn klar wird, dass das, was nach ein bischen Frieden und Freiheit in der Natur aussieht, doch in Wirklichkeit eine sehr […] Read more »