With the many conflicts going on in the world at the moment (Gaza, Sudan, Ukraine, Libya to name a few) it is now more than ever that we need to look hard to find goodness and the beauty wherever we can. In dark times we sometimes have to look very closely to find the chinks of light.
As in so many situations, it's often in the little things that we find chinks of light and beauty.
I came across an article not long ago about a London based jewellery designer, Phoebe Walsh, who has made some work connected with flowers which for me was like a shaft of light in a very dark situation.
During a visit to the Garden Museum collection just days after Russia declared war on Ukraine, Phoebe came across the pressed and preserved flowers of two people - Jane Lindsay and George Marr. George Marr collected and preserved flowers whilst serving on the Eastern Front in Greece during World War I, and sent them home to his girlfriend.
And Jane Lindsay collected flowers and pressed them in a book in the 1950s, from wartime bomb sites.
In an article about Phoebe’s work on the Garden Museum website she says ‘I saw the power of using a flower to talk about war – something almost all people can relate to - so I set about creatong my own project.’
With the war in Ukraine being in its early days Phoebe set out to find flowers from this new frontline of war, and after contacting artists and gardeners there for support she found help in the form of Ukrainian artist Olga Morozova. After navigating the difficulties of trying to preserve the flowers and transport them out of the country during wartime, pressed flowers from Olga arrived in London via Poland.
Thinking back to Edwardian antique book charms that were taken on Pilgrimages, Phoebe used this idea to present and preserve the pressed flowers and leaves. Each small silver book charm contained a single clear ‘page’ made of a single flower or leaf suspended in clear resin. The whole project contains 5 small silver book charms containing the salvaged leaves and flowers sent from war-torn Ukraine.
I love the idea of these little silver books - as though each flower or leaf has a story to tell.
As someone who has found great solace in collecting and preserving flowers after the loss of my parents, this project really struck a chord. The idea that while we humans fight, nature carries on producing its small and simple flowers is beautiful. That these precious and delicate flowers can be preserved in this way is such a beautiful idea, and the fact that flowers can connect us with people and become a memory of a place is something I know all too well.
Phoebe has also used the flowers from Ukraine as inspiration for a range of flower themed jewellery ‘Love letter to Kyiv’. (https://www.phoebewalshjewellery.com/copy-of-earrings)
If you’d like to read more about Phoebe and her flower preservation project you can read it here (https://gardenmuseum.org.uk/phoebe-walsh-flowers-from-the-frontline/), and you might also like the documentary by Carmela Corbett coming out in 2024 (https://www.carmelacorbett.com/flowers-from-the-front-line)