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"The shape of ferns, their colour, the way they unfurl, the fact that they are prehistoric, imbue them with such magic and beauty. They are definitely my favourite plant of all."
Ferns are a very ancient family of plants: early fern fossils predate the beginning of the Mesozoic era, 360 million years ago. They are older than land animals and far older than the dinosaurs. They were thriving on Earth for two hundred million years before flowering plants evolved.
As we know them now, most ferns are leafy plants that grow in moist areas under forest canopy. They are "vascular plants" with well-developed internal vein structures that promote the flow of water and nutrients. Unlike the other vascular plants, the flowering plants and conifers, where the adult plant grows immediately from the seed, ferns reproduce from spores and an intermediate plant stage called a gametophyte.
The word fern is from the old Anglo-Saxon fern meaning feather.....
Like feathers, the leaves of most ferns are delicate and divided.
Ferns are appreciated in many countries and cultures; the silver fern called Ponga by Māori, is Native to New Zealand. Māori used flora to navigate their way home through the forests at night. They would break-off several fronds of the fern leave them silver (reflective) side up so that the moonlight would reflect off them. This nighttime trail served as a homing beacon. Over the years, deer cullers and possum hunters have also used the fern for this purpose.
To Māori, the silver fern denotes strength, stubborn resistance, and enduring power, encapsulated in a natural form of native elegance. Māori have always honoured the fern.
To the Japanese, the fern is the symbol of the hope of posterity, as it branches, so may the family increase and multiply through the generations.
In England Pteridomania or Fern-Fever was a craze for ferns. The Victorians became so obsessed with this fashion (which was appreciated throughout the classes) that today the fern motifcan be easily seen in pottery, glass, metal, textiles, wood, printed paper, and sculpture from the Victorian era. Indeed ferns were kept and cultivated in specialized ferneries and often pressed and kept in picture frames.
Ferns today are one considered of the most prolific plants or weeds. They are also edible in their younger stage, known as fiddleheads. Occurring in early spring the Ostrich fern, can be picked and cooked, their flavour is somewhere between broccoli, spinach and asparagus.
“I have this image of the Sun close by me always. It’s an energy giver like no other.”
The Sun is the central star of the Solar system.
Diameter 1,392,684 km.
4.6 billion years old.
Surface temperature approx. 5505 °C.
The sun has a dual nature, a life giver with an optimum distance from the Earth to sustain us. The Sun is also a destroyer of worlds. A wild and dangerous embodiment of hell spewing fire.
Like all the celestial bodies, the Sun is set deep within the velvet black of the universe but like a jewel, it transforms light to give us sapphire and turquoise coloured skies.
“The green of nature that feeds my eyes with a peace and tranquility. A mesmerising and compelling colour that I can’t get enough of.”
A gemstone of the Beryl variety.
The chemical composition of emerald is Beryllium aluminium silicate (Be3 Al2(SiO3)6).
Emerald is a hard stone 7.5 on the Mohs scale. The green body colour of emerald is derived from the presence of chromium, vanadium and/or iron in its crystal structure. The most highly prized specimens today originate from Columbia but historically famous stones are renowned to have come from Cleopatra’s lost mines in northern Egypt. Other sources of emerald include Brazil, Austria, India, Australia, Zimbabwe and USA.
An extraordinary stone carved out from deep within the Earth, It sums up the exoticism of all jewels. Highly prized even when shot through with natural flaws and inclusions, emeralds appeal to a vision of an imperfect beauty.
The structures within the stones......
Are poetically referred to as the ‘Garden’ suggesting a miniature world, an encapsulated existence separate from our mortal one.
The birthstone for May, for the astrological signs of Taurus, Gemini and Cancer.
The stone of Spring.
Favourite stone of Cleopatra.
Nero reputedly watched gladiator fights through a large transparent emerald as he found the colour to be calming.
A good luck stone in Hinduism.
An antidote to spells and enchantments.
The Duke Of Devonshire Emerald is one of the largest known emeralds and weighs 1,383.93 cts – Columbian. The Bahia Emerald beats it, weighing in at 1,900,000.00 cts (strictly speaking the emerald material is embedded in stone but the emerald component still contains the largest single emerald shard ever found)
LEONARDO DA VINCI
"In my dreams Leonardo da Vinci is my drawing teacher. The way he captures the soul of a person in just a few lines of pencil or with his delicate brushwork, makes him an artist of pure visual poetry."
Leonardo was born on 14th or 15th of April 1452 in the Tuscan hill town of Vinci and died in France on 2nd May 1519 in the arms of the the French king Francois I.
He was an Italian polymath. The original Renaissance man. Despite receiving no formal academic training, he became renowned primarily as a painter, but his areas of interest also included invention, drawing, painting, sculpture, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, and cartography.
He is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time despite perhaps only 15 of his paintings having survived. The Mona Lisa is the most famous of his works and the most popular portrait ever made.
"My favourite of his paintings is the one here; Salvator Mundi. It is ethereal and soulful. It was only recently discovered and restored. I was lucky enough to see it at the National Gallery in 2011. I bought a replica of it on canvas, from the museum shop so I can look at it every day."
"It's such a cliché to admire this magnificent creature. But as an archetypal woman what can you expect…."
The Leopard or 'Panthera Pardus' is part of the 'Big Cat' family, whose habitat ranges from Africa, Asia, Siberia, and sub Saharan Africa.
It's potential running speeds of up to 58 kilometres an hour, it's incredible aptitude for hunting stealth and that it can scale trees with ease, even when laden down with a hefty kill.
The Leopard is famed for it's rosette like densely grouped markings. 'Leopard Skin' is part of the mythology of luxury, the pattern and pile of the pelt was once considered desirable and it's graphic pattern has since been transposed onto rugs carpets and garments in weave and print and is simultaneously considered the height of good and bad 'taste'.
"Every colour is here refracted through raindrops. If that isn't magical I don't know what is."
A multi coloured arc which always appears directly opposite the Sun and is caused by light being refracted in water droplets in the earths atmosphere.
First studied by Aristotle (384-322 BC), The rainbow has been appropriated symbolically as: The symbol of hope, a burning multi coloured bridge between the world and the gods, a serpent, an archers bow, a portent of bad luck, and the the signifier of a ‘pot of gold’. A clean sweep of colour, the rainbow has been appropriated as being suggestive of purity and of unity, with all colours joined to combine together as one.
“Liz Taylor was the patron saint of jewellery. No one enjoyed, loved and wore(out) their jewels like she did. Every day was a special occasion for Liz. We should all be more like her.”
Born in 1932 – Died 2011.
Appeared in 54 theatrical films and 9 television films.
Co founded the American foundation for Aids research in 1985.
Dual citizen of the UK and US.
Four children, ten grandchildren, four great grandchildren.
Hospitalised more than 70 times, 20 major operations, broke her back 5 times, both hips replaced, hysterectomy, brain tumour, skin cancer, pneumonia twice, alcoholic.
Her burial was 15 minutes late as ‘She wanted to be late for her own funeral’.
Elizabeth Taylor was one of the worlds most famous jewellery lovers...
She appeared on chat shows wearing the famous ‘Krupp’ diamond which she polished against her thigh whilst discussing how princesses were both drawn to and repelled by it. This is the same 33.19ct stone she apparently kept in a box on top of the toilet cistern in her LA home.
A woman who claimed complete ownership of her sexual self, who fought, loved and laughed loud enough that the whole world heard, whose body was bashed, damaged and battered by life and whose spirit remained intact. She became a full bona fide cultural icon and Hollywood legend decades before her death. Diva!
"The cycles, rhythm and pull of the moon affect all of life here on earth. We feel the effect in a very physcial way which is why I think we remain so fascinated by it."
Formed over 4 billion years ago, the Moon is the Earths only natural satellite. It is in synchronous rotation with the Earth, meaning that it always shows the same face – the near side, which is pitted with over 300,000 impact craters, including the Aitekn Basin, the largest in the Solar System at 2,240km in diameter and 13km deep.
The Moon is the second brightest object in the sky after the Sun and has gravitational influence over the Earth, causing oceanic tides and an increase in day length, it's phases have also formed the basis of many ancient calendars.
The latin name for the Moon....
Luna – has lent itself to descriptions of insanity and irrationality in the words lunacy and lunatic. There has also been an element of lunacy surrounding the landing of three USA astronaughts in 1969, with the extraordinary event having been subject to many conspiracy theories and much speculation as to whether the landing ever actually occurred.
Even a cup of tea has been proven to display evidence of lunar tides, and groups of oysters, kept in the dark and a thousand miles from the shore, will change their feeding patterns in unison to match the same tides.
“These grotesques are like a protection and warning against any evil. I like to have a depiction of one somewhere in my personal space. Kind of like a version of the 'evil eye'.”
A Gargoyle is usually a carved stone figure incorporating a spout designed to carry rainwater away from the exterior masonry of a building, offering protection from rainwater erosion.
Taking the form of a 'Grotesque' these functional adornments along with their purely decorative kin the 'Chimera', are also said to offer protection against evil spirits to the structure upon which they reside.
Originally carved in the form of a dragons head and neck inspired by French legend, the form evolved during Medieval times to include Monks and human/animal hybrids with a humorous aspect to the depiction.
The name Gargoyle is also...
Derived from the French – Gargouille – meaning gullet or throat.
The most famous of Gargoyles adorn Notre Dame de Paris and Place Vendome famously the home to many jewellery houses
"Another magical, beautiful element of nature. so solid and comfortable looking. Heavy with tons of water droplets and yet it floats in the sky. Who has never wanted to sleep on a cloud?"
A cloud is a visible mass of liquid or frozen droplets of water or chemicals, often dispersing as rainfall. Clouds can occur mainly in the troposphere but also in the stratosphere and mesosphere. Clouds are found in the Earths atmosphere as well as those of Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
Found most abundantly in areas of low pressure. A huge variety of types of formation, the subject of observance for many in both a formalised and casual sense, principle forms include cumulus, stratus, cirrus, cumulonimbus.
Immortalized in song by Chaka Khan, The Orb, Kate Bush, The Rolling Stones, Bryan Adams, Tori Amos, Marillion, Simon And Garfunkel and Joni Mitchell.....
Artist Berndnaut Smilde makes man made clouds within gallery spaces which disperse almost immediately and remain only in the form of photographs.
Clouds are an extraordinary phenomena with many associations with luck and the lack of it:
Gathering storm clouds – dark events approaching
Cloud with a silver lining – good coming from bad
On cloud nine – very high/happy
Head in the clouds – dreamy/vague
Under a cloud – pensive/trouble
“I love the contrast of cold and cosy that winter brings, time to hunker down and be at home with friends and family.”
Winter is the coldest season of the year in the polar and temperature zones, it takes place after autumn and before spring. It is caused by the axis of the Earth in that hemisphere being tilted away from the Sun.
Different cultures pinpoint different dates as the start of winter and for some it is defined by the weather, in particular the snow and cold.
A single snowflake is created when supercooled water droplets nucleate around a dust particle in the atmosphere, they freeze in hexagonal-shaped crystals. Snowflakes take on a variety of shapes, such as needles, columns, rimes and plates.
There is a saying that no two snowflakes are identical....
And this would appear to be true enough according given the never-ending micro-photography of snowflakes. Indeed the Japanese have a number of words in their language to describe snow for example Yuki-boshi which translates to the snowfall that naturally forms a shape that looks like a cute little hat or boshi.
Though winter is not known for flowering plants there are a number of beautiful delicate blooms which flower despite the harsh cold and freezing conditions, one the most well known is probably the snowdrop. The species has long been associated with winter, it’s latin name Galanthus nivalis, literally translates as ‘milk flower of the snow’.
Much like the muted monochrome tones of the snowdrop, many animals also undergo changes in their colouration such as Arctic fox, weasel, white tailed jack rabbit and mountain hare. All change to become white furred in order to vanish into the snow. Other winter habits of animals include migration, prominent in birds, hibernation and stock-piling food specifically to survive the winter periods.
Winter actually starts later than everyone thinks – usually from 21st December and ends 21st March.
"I've always been very attracted to Ruby, my birthstone. Red is the colour of heat, fire, passion, danger, blood…things that make life interesting. Looking at a Ruby makes you feel all these things."
A cloud is a visible mass of liquid or frozen droplets of water or chemicals
This gemstone, the birthstone for July, is one of the four most highly regarded offerings of the natural world – the precious stones – Ruby, Sapphire, Diamond and Emerald.
The ruby's acceptable colour range varies from pink to a blood red, with the descriptive 'Pigeon's Blood' being the most highly prized. The colour is evident due to the presence of chromium within the rubies composition and the stones name is associated with it's colour, having been derived from the latin for red – ruber.
Rubies are found widely over the planet in territories as diverse as Thailand, Brazil, Africa, the USA and Scotland, with Burma having yielded some of the most highly prized stones.
Famously, the Black Prince Ruby set within the Imperial State Crown of the British Crown Jewels, is actually a spinel – the rubies slightly less dense and slightly softer cousin.
"I feel a huge love and affinity with Lions. My star sign is leo, my hair is big and frizzy like a lion's mane, I'm a carnivore, I'm from Africa, I'm sociable and lazy"
The lion is the second largest living cat after the tiger, which is found in natural habitats in Africa and Asia.
Lions are highly sociable, living in collective groups known as 'prides' whose main period of activity occurs during the night hours, with the female of the species the primary hunter, undertaking her duties as part of a coordinated group, usually around dawn.
Lions are the only cats to show sexual dimorphism, with the male displaying the distinctive mane of hair around his neck. The mane also aids the female in selecting her ideal mate, as the darker thicker mane occurs on the healthiest of males.
The mane and face of the male lion....
Is one of the most distinctive and appropriated motifs of the natural world, with the lions roar one of it's most recognised characteristics, indeed the sound of a full roar, conducted at night, can carry for up to 8 kilometers.
The Lion is included in the iconography of many cultures and has done for thousands of years, often as a symbol of greatness, bravery and royalty – it is often referred to as the king of beasts and appears as iconic characters in literature – notably in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and in The Wizard of Oz – though the latter character goes against type somewhat in being a cowardly depiction.
Lions also represent the Leo astrological sign, encompassing traits such as confidence, ambition, generosity, loyalty, vanity and melodrama.
"I have always loved all things Berber. My home is covered in berber rugs and textiles and berber food is unbeatable. It was therefore a real thrill to discover my family bloodline runs directly to a 13th century berber tribe."
Berbers are a North African people identified by combinations of various factors including the speaking of common languages (Arabic, French, Spanish, Italian), the habitation of common lands (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia) or an historical affiliation with the Berber heritage.
With an ethnicity that includes Mediterranian, North African and Arabic bloodlines, the name 'Berber' is thought to originate with other words expressing the notion of 'free men' and 'nobility'.
Religiously diverse, Berbers observe Sunni Islamic, Christian, Ibadi and Jewish practice.
Significant historic Berbers include Kahina – a Berber Queen who led indigenous resistance to Arab expansion in North West Africa.
Berbers are known for creating distinctive....
Highly prized hand woven textiles, in particular carpets that often incorporate a specific looped knot and vividly coloured geometric designs. Dating back as far as 622AD this tradition of craft is primarily passed via the female line. Deliberate imperfect symmetry is a classic motif.
Berber cuisine includes several elements that have travelled and gained an international profile, for example:
The Tajine – a slow cooked stew named after the earthenware pot in which it is cooked, characterised by the chimneyed cover.
Couscous – a staple dish made of Semolina.
Pastilla – a savory/sweet flavoured dish having a filo pastry type crust forming a parcel around shredded meat with almonds, sugar and cinnamon as a contrast.
"The idea of being covered from head to toe in colour like this would be my idea of heaven. So purifying and regenerative. The power of colour is a tangible reality."
The Springtime festival of colours, Holi is classically celebrated by those of Hindu faith – has become one of south Asia's most recognisable visual motifs. The festival begins with a bonfire centred gathering – usually on the full moon - drawing people in to sing and dance for the evening before embarking next day on a riotous celebration of colour. Anyone is fair game to be decorated with brilliantly coloured powdered pigment and vivid hued water, flung and sprayed in a celebration of good over evil, the arrival of Spring and as an opportunity to draw a line under past conflicts, to restore the balance in relationships that have gone awry – a new beginning.
The notion of celebrating with this colourful exchange has now been adopted in some parts of Europe and North America as a non denominational celebration of Spring.
“I love the barren empty vista a desert provides. You can feel and see the geology of earth, in such a direct way as its surface is so unadorned. It can feel as if you’re on a planet in outer space. Perhaps having Berber roots makes me feel such a strong affinity with the landscape.”
Almost one third of the land surface of the world is desert.
These barren landscapes are determined mostly by the lack of precipitation which makes life here very difficult for plants and animals.
Deserts are formed by weathering processes due to large variations in temperature from day to night.
Rain falling on hot rocks can cause them to shatter; the fragments and pieces are strewn over the desert floor and then eventually eroded by the wind to a fine sand.
The driest desert in the world is the Atacama Desert in South America.....
The Atacama Desert had no rain for 401 years, between 1570 and 1971, but only about 20% of the worlds deserts are covered in sand. The remaining 80% are known as polar deserts or Tundras, again very little precipitation occurs in these areas.
The driest desert in the world is the Atacama Desert in South America. The Atacama Desert had no rain for 401 years, between 1570 and 1971, but only about 20% of the worlds deserts are covered in sand. The remaining 80% are known as polar deserts or Tundras, again very little precipitation occurs in these areas.
In hot deserts plants and animals have adapted dramatically to survive this harsh environment. Plants tend to be tough and wiry with spines to deter herbivores. Animals such as lizards, snakes, rodents and camels manage to survive by consuming as little water as possible.
People have struggled to live in deserts and the surrounding semi-arid lands for millennia. Nomads have moved their flocks and herds to wherever grazing is available and oases have provided opportunities for a more settled way of life. The original meaning of the word desert is actually ‘an abandoned place’. In hot deserts you may happen to see a mirage, a trick of the light which may make you think that there is a pool of water in the desert, when there is really no water… The largest hot desert on Earth is the Sahara and the largest cold desert is Antarctica.
"My grandmother, Solange, was truly an angel. Kind, wise, generous and strong. She raised 5 kids alone after her husband died when the youngest was 2 years old.
I was lucky enough to be named after her. Solange. Ange meaning Angel. I hope to honour her memory by emulating her loving spirit."
A winged being named by the Greek and found in mythology and religion – there are 289 verses in the Bible that include the word Angel - Angels are guardian spirit guides and intermediaries between the heavens and earth.
Often depicted as emitting light and surmounted by a halo, the bird like wings set upon the Angels back explain the means by which they move between astral planes.
Angel on my shoulder – they can appear on or around the right shoulder of an individual– representing purity – in contrast with the Devil on the left representing the opposite.
Assigned by God to protect their charge and deliver prayers from them back to the Lord. Followers of Islam believe that we have one on each shoulder.
Angel cake – a tiered sweet cake, coloured white, pink and yellow sandwiched with buttercream and iced – light and delicious.
Orangettes are a very particular confection, combining the bright citrus burst of candied orange peel with the bittersweet flavour of rich dark chocolate.
Various fruits have been subject to the preservation technique of being placed in heated sugar syrup since the 14th century.
Referred to as being 'candied', the process saturates the fruit with sugar, thus arresting the growth of micro-organisms that would lead to decay.
Chocolate: Created from the seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree which has been in cultivation for around three thousand years in the mid and southern America's. In combination with cocoa butter and sugar, the resulting food in it's solid form was developed by John Cadbury, via an emulsification process. Chocolate is purported to have health benefits toward the circulatory system, it helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular issues including high blood pressure and it's consumption may boost cognitive abilities. Chocolate has, however, also been suggested to be addictive and may also have aphrodisiac properties.
“Witchy is one of my nicknames. I’ve always loved a Witch. To me they are just self-determined women who won’t be dominated.”
The word Witch most likely originates from the old English word Wicce or as an abbreviation of the word Bewitch. The first appearance of a Witch like creature occurs in pre-Christian pagan mythology.
A Witch is said to have evil magic powers or to be bewitchingly attractive with psychological or intellectual powers. There is also an element of sisterhood in the reclamation of the stereotype, in sympathy with the scores of women who were executed in a series of ‘no win’ scenarios when being committed to trial for ‘witch’ like activities, particularly during the 14th and 15th centuries.
Some of the most notable of witches are:
Bridget Bishop - the first women executed in the Salem Witch Trials in 1692......
She was a successful and outspoken woman who owned several taverns and was known to dress in provocative red gowns. The townspeople of Salem claimed a wide variety of accusations against her which would lead to her death.
Anne Boleyn - the second wife of King Henry VIII of England, Her own husband accused her of witchcraft using her sixth finger as being indicative of her witchy state and the fact that she could not bear children. She was beheaded.
Gerald Brousseau Gardner - an English civil servant, amateur anthropologist, writer and occultist. He was instrumental in founding Wicca and Neopaganism and published some of its defining texts. He is perhaps the best known and most talked about figure in modern witchcraft.
Margaret Hamilton – played the wicked witch of the west in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ in 1939. Margaret’s performance and costume incorporated many indicators of the modern vision of witch-hood and as such her persona in the film has developed a true iconography.
Angelica Houston – played the grand high witch in ‘The Witches’ in 1990, looking powerful, sexy and spooky.
Charlize Theron in ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ as the wicked Witch and wearing the 'Heartplucker' ring designed by Solange, making her appear more menacing and evil than otherwise.
THE BANANA TREE
"I'd like to think that when I die, my ashes will be buried and a banana tree planted upon them. I will then be transmutated into food and shelter for family friends and passers-by."
Of the genus Musa, there are several species of plant that produce the Banana fruit and all are native to Indomalaya and Australia. The plant is the largest herbaceous flowering plant. Often referred to as a tree, the part of the structure usually called the trunk is actually a pseudo stem.
Depending on species, the plant can reach heights of 7 meters, with leaves that can grow to 2.7 meters long. Bananas are a major world food crop, rating at number four in financial value internationally in 2013 and the fruit can also be referred to as Plantain and prepared as a vegetable.
The fruit are generally picked green and having been cold stored are artificially ripened in air tight rooms filled with ethylene gas, a process that also gives the banana its vivid yellow appearance.
The Banana leaf is often....
Used as a disposable container or plate for food in souther Indian or Asian states and the fibres of the plant can be processed and used in fabric production.
The fruit are considered to be beneficial toward various health issues including: Diabetes, Uremia, Nephritis, Gout, Hypertension, Cardiac diseases and some cancers.
They contain vitamin B6, soluble fibre, vitamin c, manganese and potassium and serotonin – the 'happy hormone'
GARLIC AND CHILLI PASTA
“If I need to feel warm and happy this dish is the one. It has to be made with spaghetti. The flavour of the garlic, combined with chilli generously heaped with olive oil and parmesan cheese is the simplest, Umami-est of meals.”
Garlic and Chilli pasta is one of the stars of the Italian canon of cookery.
Pasta – Italian in origin – first referred to in Sicily in 1154, a combination of flour combined with water or egg to be dried or cooked fresh. There are over 300 forms of pasta which is an international staple food - a food that forms the basis of a traditional diet. Italians are estimated to eat 60lbs of pasta per person per year.
Garlic is a species of onion native to central Asia with a 7,000 year long legacy of use as a human food. China produces around 10.5 million tonnes of garlic per year, with India, Egypt, South Korea and Russia responsible for the remaining 25% total world output.
The beneficial health properties of garlic......
Are well known and it has been applied to treat or prevent parasitic infestation, digestive, respiratory and cardiovascular issues and used as an antiseptic. Garlic is considered a powerful force against vampires and other demons and to stimulate sexual drive.
Chilli – the chilli pepper is a fruit grown primarily in India that was first domesticated over 6,000 years ago. The power of the chilli pepper is detected by pain receptors in the mouth and throat. The heat of a chilli pepper is measured in Scoville heat units (SHU) whereby the intensity of the chilli is gaged by how much a tasting sample from the pepper needs to be diluted before it becomes ‘heat neutral’ to a taste test panel. The range of heat found can be illustrated with a Bell pepper rated at 0 SHU and the world’s hottest chilli – the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion - at 2.0 million SHU.