An interesting event which happened in 2014!
Back then, my artwork was very different and had not evolved into the styles I create today. I have managed to retrieve some of my old mobile phone photos taken at the time and wanted to share the story with you.
I was contacted at very short notice by a client who wanted a wedding bouquet pressed and preserved. I wasn’t taking on many commissions at the time however the client needed help and as the wedding had already taken place, the clock was ticking as far as the ageing and condition of the flowers were concerned.
The client then told me that she had found some advice on the internet which recommended putting the flowers into a freezer. This is a prime example of the addage “don’t always believe what you read on the internet!”. So the bouquet had been kept in the FREEZER and NOT a fridge! “Oh no!” I exclaimed. The bouquet should have just been kept in a fridge to keep it cool. We were having a particularly hot spell of weather. The bouquet was to be delivered to me. That meant a half hour journey for the flowers by car. I had no idea what condition the bouquet was in but I expected it would very quickly defrost and deteriorate. Quite how much I didn’t know.
As you can see from the photo above, the bouquet looked very pretty and in surprisingly good condition, considering the journey it had been on so far. So I started to carefully dismantle the bouquet……
“Oh no…it’s melting!“
Closer inspection of the flowers revealed visible signs of frosting on the stem, moisture on the body of the flower (see where the single petal is placed) and some browning.
The lily was collapsing!
Within approximately half an hour of the bouquet being received (it took some time to carefully take the bouquet apart first) the lily flower heads were literally collapsing before my eyes! Although the flowers did not feel hard like you would expect something frozen to feel like, the amount of moisture present showed water was coming from somewhere.
LUCKILY whilst I had been waiting for the bouquet to arrive, I did some online research to understand what effect the extreme temperature would have on the flowers, so I was prepared for what was happening to the flowers.
I had to work fast to save what flowers I could!
I discovered that when flowers are placed into a domestic freezer, the ice particles are bigger than those formed in a commercial freezer. Unfortunately the larger ice particles in a domestic freezer rupture the plant cells so once the ice particles have formed, the damage really has already been done. So I suspected that when the flowers arrived, at some point as the ice particles melted, the plant cells would literally collapse, much like a tent which has had it’s tent poles removed. I made the client aware that this was a first for me and I really wasn’t sure whether any of the flowers could be saved. It would depend not only how they reacted when they had defrosted but also during and after the drying process. I was determined to try and salvage something from these flowers which were very special and sentimental to the client. I still remember how baking hot that day was.
The leaves had started to turn black!
I’d not witnessed such a quick deterioration before
A yellow liquid was oozing from somewhere!
I noticed that a yellow liquid was coming from somewhere. It was very odd. Then I looked more closely at the flower heads. The inner base of the lillies had a yellow colouring to them. Quite subtle as the main colour of the flower heads was white/ivory. The liquid was appearing at the rate much like you’d expect from a leak from a container of water that had been pierced. Yet there were no visible lesions or cuts to the flower heads. I assumed that instead the liquid was escaping from the plant cells as they collapsed and degraded. I was amazed to see how much yellow colouring the lillies contained that clearly was not usually as visible.
You can see how the whole lilly flower heads are starting to collapse on themselves.
Note the signs of subtle yellow escaping to the right of the photo.
The liquid was NOT escaping from where I had cut the flower vertically. Instead it was coming from the underside of the flowerhead.
I tried cutting away as much of the fleshy thick part of the flower as I could, hoping that would help.
The flowers were further dismantled and pressed. Layered between very absorbent paper (after I had tried dabbing some of the liquid and moisture from the flowers with kitchen towel) I left them to dry over a period of 8 weeks, whilst keeping a close watch on any changes and changing wet paper for dry paper when needed. During this phase it could go either way…all the flowers and leaves could be spoilt due to the excessive moisture and fractured plant cells or some may actually dry out enough so that I could salvage something to frame.
The selection phase…well..slim pickings but at least some of the plant material had survived without blemishes. Those that were severely marked had to be discarded.
So the plant material was divided up.
The beautiful blue LOVE IN A MIST in the middle had sadly lost a lot of colour but had thankfully not disintegrated.
Then for the real challenge..to create a picture resembling the original bouquet as near as possible, with the plant material I had salvaged.
I began by gently laying the plant material on a fabric backing of satin. The leaves felt quite thick and sturdy yet at the same time were quite brittle. This concerned me. Would the leaves crack under the pressure of the glass when framed? Leave like this are usually quite strong even when dried. I had to assume the brittle nature of these were due in part to the plant cells having had their strength compromised due the rupture of the cells by the ice particles
As the soft blue of the Love-in-a-Mist were an important feature of the original bouquet, to put back some of that feature colour I used specialist paint to gently colour some of the petals. I also spent quite a few hours gently putting some colour back into the lillies to try and bring them as close as possible to the white/ivory colour they were on the day and also in an attempt to conceal some of the brown mottled patching caused by the excessive moisture.
And here is the finished picture!
The 3D fresh bouquet has been transformed into a 2D artistic interpretation. Quite an achievement considering the amount of plant material which had been damaged.
The simplicity of the finished picture conceals the dramatic story of it’s journey and how some of the original bouquet survived, against all the odds to remain as a lasting reminder of the client’s special day.