In the Garden with Flower Fairies

I have always loved the illustrations of garden or flower fairies. The innocence and delicacy in which they are rendered is so lovely. As a child I thought that flower fairies were mysterious, charming, and whimsical little people who grew from flowers and that I could actually find them in hiding my own garden. When I used to play with my dolls outside, I would create little villages under the flowers and shrubs with my tiny dolls and make believe that they were my flower fairies.

Cicely Mary Barker {June 28, 1895 ~ February 16, 1973}* was the illustrator who created the famous Flower Fairies, in the shape of ethereal smiling children with butterfly wings. She was unable to go to public school as a child because of her epilepsy, therefore home-schooled and spent much of her time drawing and painting.

In her formative years, illustrator Kate Greenaway was a tremendous influence on her style, as well as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. She developed her talent further as a member of the Croydon Art Society in South London, the town in which she was born, when her father enrolled her at the young age of thirteen. Her flower fairy paintings were driven by the Victorian popularity of fairies and fairy stories of the time. Queen Mary even encouraged the vogue for fairy paintings during the 1920s by often sending postcards of flower fairies to her friends.

Cicely Mary Barker always used children to model for her paintings. She would ask the child model to hold the flower, twig, or blossom so that she could capture the botanical accuracy of the plant. She has been compared to Beatrix Potter in her depictions of the plants and flowers in which the fairies dwell.

Beginning in 1911, when she was just fifteen, her work was being printed on greeting cards. From that point onward, she was selling her work to magazines, postcard and greeting card manufacturers, and book publishers. Cicely’s fairies are not the fairies of the supernatural, but portraits of real children whose characters match the characters of the flowers ~ they are notable because of the sweet and realistic depiction of the children.

Original prints of her work are still available today, as well as numerous books, calendars, posters, and stationery items. She was a timeless and classic illustrator and artist ~ her work continues to be enjoyed and will be for many generations.

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One of the projects during the En Le Jardin art workshop earlier this month was to create a fairy garden ornament, using a grapevine ball which was provided and whatever else we wanted, such as ribbons, lace, moss, vintage photographs, ephemera, millinery flowers, etc. It all sounded good; however, this is usually not my medium ~ although I was anxious to find out what kind of “assemblage artist” I could become.

Rather than selecting a random vintage photograph to use as my “Garden Fairy,” I thought to use an old photo of my mother that I have always loved. It is a photograph of her when she was about five years old, living in San Francisco ~ probably taken either at a photo studio at the old White House or Emporium department store in Union Square.

Before the workshop I gathered together some pretty vintage jewelry, wire ribbon, tassels, and other good stuff. I received so many lovely items from the art swap in which we all participated, that I was able to use even more beautiful pieces on my garden ornament.

I first inserted a little bird’s nest, some twigs, and then added my pretty mocha and cream coloured ribbons and a pearl and rhinestone earring to the bow. {I do not have pierced ears and could not wear these earrings, but one was perfect for this!} Creamy white and pale green velvet millinery blooms and leaves are scattered around the outside of the grapevine ball and a small garland of soft white velvet blossoms wraps around the little nest inside.

I fastened a hand made charm from a chain inside the ball right next to my “mini-mom” cut out, added some vintage sheet music butterfly wings to her back, and burnished the edges with copper ink.

Finally, one more velvet blossom and some leaves at the top bow and an antique golden coloured tassel hanging from the bottom.

I absolutely love how this turned out. I had a little plan, but when everything just came together so nicely and fit so perfectly I was thrilled. So much so that I am thinking about making a few more using some old family photographs that we have put away in the attic and in scrapbooks. What a beautiful story that would be to have a “family tree” of Flower Fairies!

Ciao amici,

Some of the biographical information about Cicely Mary Barker was taken from Wikipedia.

Just the Details...

Last weekend I had the pleasure of meeting about twenty creative business women from all over the United States ~ some of whom I have very much enjoyed reading about since I began my on-line art adventure. It was a celebration and a gathering of those of us with a common interest in the artful world of blogging, as well as art, design, and photography. I took it all in ~ the details of En Le Jardin Art Retreat, hosted by my friend Jennifer...

We began the morning with a light brunch of fresh fruit, Southern style chicken salad and croissants, and sparkly champagne punch in her dining room which looked like a fairy land.

The art workshop took place in her garden in which we were surrounded by angels and crowned cherubini, vintage linens adorning the tables and chairs, flowers...

..and more flowers.

Delicate, vintage hankies were tied with ribbons.

Pretty silk and velvet millinery blooms to be used for the project overflowed from Analise's vintage satin box.

Angels were watching us from every corner in the garden.

Something fun that I have never done was that we all participated in a secret swap beautifully organized by Andrea Singarella. Here are some of the gifts that fit the theme of the weekend just perfectly...

A Little Blue Bird brought this to us ~ petit and edible bird's nests.

I found these gorgeous blooms in this monogrammed muslin bag from Andrea.

Our first En Le Jardin charm, which Scrappi Jessi had custom made for each of us.

More beautiful scraps of silk shantung, vintage sheet music, and paper roses.

It was ~ bliss.

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After an decadently decorated and artsy afternoon En Le Jardin we all enjoyed the finale and wrap party at my home in the evening for some delicious Italian, Mediterranean, and Southern edibles that I prepared...and of course, refreshing adult beverages ~ shaken, not stirred ~ for which we had the perfect Southern Gentleman concoct.

Some scrumptious Kahlua chocolate chip cake for desert {it's there behind the candles}.

And I still got to enjoy the sweet peas, the day after, but no left overs!

It was a pleasure to meet all of you. I hope our paths will cross again. Thank you for coming.

Ciao amici,


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PS ~ To get to know more about the women who attended the retreat, please click on the En Le Jardin badge on my side bar.

PPS ~ Thank you Jennifer for a fabulous time ~ especially planning it with you.

By Invitation Only ~ Welcome to Il Mio Giardino

I've been planning this for months and this week on the evening of Saturday, May 16th it is time for my garden party in Il Mio Giardino to celebrate the wrap up of my friend, Jennifer's En Le Jardin Art Event. It has been a joy preparing for this ~ especially with her ~ and I look forward to meeting eighteen creative business women from around the country.

The secret swap gift bags are ready to share ~ cannot wait to see what everyone is going to bring! I know they will be great.

The tables are set and I am pleased to be able to show you some Southern Hospitality, Italian Style! I have the "terazzo" loaded with over-sized terracotta pots full of fuchsia coloured geraniums, overflowing with fragrant lemon thyme and snowflake bacopa flowers.

The citrus trees are full of lemon and lime buds, while my small container garden of herbs will add to the menu. The vintage wrought iron outdoor furnishings are comfy with thick cushions and pillows on which to relax under umbrellas, while nibbling on antipasti and sipping refreshing summer drinks.

Don't worry about the bugs that "bark" here in the South or the mosquitoes; I've got some Off for you to use to keep them away.

All this under the stars (and I hope no thunder storms!) with candles, twinkle lights, and paper lanterns.
I welcome you all to my home and wish you a very enjoyable time!

Oh, and don't forget your party favors.
You may want to nibble on them during your flights home.

See you all very soon, ci vediamo!