Picked, Pressed,

Botanical Britain

Picked, Pressed, Printed

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It was international woman’s day earlier this week. A day where we take a moment to acknowledge the great women in our lives. The ones who helped form the women we are. Looking through social media and seeing the women who were being celebrated. It made me pause for thought.
As a female business founder, there are so many women that inspire me, so many! In art, in business, in my very identity as a woman.  I want to take this opportunity to share with you the women in my life that not only inspire me, but also shaped me.
When growing up in Northern Ireland in the 70s and 80s, I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by great women. My wonderful mum Helen, my two aunties (Ruth & Pat) and my grandma who we all called Mama.
These women were matriarchs, the backbone of their households. When they weren’t governing their home, they were together. They even worked side by side at the University of Ulster, as typists and library clerks. The through line that truly united them, was their love of plants.
Without their passion for gardening, the art I make might never have been. Growing up amongst a furtive green space, with the eager hands that tended to it, gave me a reverence for nature. Seeing the dedication behind each shrinking tomato plant or the growing oriental poppies.
Coffee at the kitchen table, where conversation always turned to something green. When to sow, what to sow. How to prevent root rot when it never stops raining. Auntie Ruth would often report back on the feathery visitors her garden received. Everything from your common blackbird to vivacious Goldfinches.
Mama was always being pestered for cuttings, her garden always being the strongest. Years of experience. That and knackered knees from decades of constant weeding. A strong Scottish las through and through.
So before art had even entered the picture, I was well-versed in my materials. Their gardens became the palette I learnt to paint from. And so, naturally, I had to include these women in my artwork as soon as I had the chance.
When I became inspired to create a design around allium plants, it felt right to use my auntie Pat’s. It was a dream to incorporate some of the plants I had seen bloom year after year into a one of my designs. My Alliums design is a monochrome inky green piece. The flowering alliums explode onto the fabric in negative space.
This design holds added magic for me. Knowing that Pat’s creation and mine are together, linking two generations of women. The very flowers that inspired me in my youth, became the focus of one of my best-selling designs. I am proud to say that my auntie Pat and her children enjoy this design in their homes. A symbol of my auntie’s gardening prowess.
I aim to commemorate my auntie Ruth in a future design. It is really important to me that I pay homage to these women individually because of how unique they were. Unfortunately my auntie Ruth has passed away. Having cuttings from her garden keeps me connected to her. I hope that I can do them the same justice I did with Pat’s alliums.
Sharing something that connected my family together with people. Knowing that those same plants will be in the background of many other childhoods and generational stories. They’ll be the talking point at several different kitchen tables. I always want to make art that unites people in the way that nature always did for my family.
That is quite enough from me this week. I hope you had a lovely week. Maybe in telling you this story I’ve shown how as women, we are stronger together. There is so much potential for magic when we unite!
Gillian x