While driving in the highlands of the Andes, we headed through rose fields, narrow dirt paths & windy steep roads to arrive at this hacienda (the main house on an estate) that was built on 15th century Inca ruins.
There was a cobble stoned central courtyard that everything else surrounds. Alpacas appeared here most afternoons- much to the delight of myself & the Anthropologie team I was travelling with! The roof was covered in Spanish terracotta tiles, the ceilings were lined with over-sized wicker weave and the walls were thick, made of textured plaster & deep pigments. The exterior of the building is a traditional mustard colour, just the one that you would picture a hacienda to be.
Everywhere there were overflowing potted geraniums, hens & chickens & succulents. Each of the rooms that surround the courtyard has a huge fireplace and the outhouses follow on from them. Other rooms, the ones that we didn’t stay in, were just open & there was such beauty in their natural state. The light was gorgeous and walls were covered in handpainted murals.
On the day we arrived we went horseriding: donning big furry alpaca chaps & handwoven, stripey, wool ponchos (they were quite the outfits!) & off we went for an early evening gallop.
For women in particular, the plant-hunting phenomenon (including the Victorian Fern Craze) became a hugely popular & socially favoured pastime. It allowed women some aesthetic & scientific pursuit otherwise denied. Although it was considered a leisure activity rather than a ‘career’, they did contribute to the advancement of study & understanding of botanical nature through handmade, mounted & illustrated albums, most notably of seaweed, algae, fern & wildflowers. These books were one-of-a-kind and often with little regard for Linnaean specimen order or categorisation.
Considering this fieldwork was taking place in the countryside & at the seashore, it was mostly conducted by the educated middle-class who had leisure time for ramblings & combing their locale.
As research for my next book, Biography of a Bowerbird, I spent an afternoon pouring over & conversing about women’s works at the Caroline Simpson Library: pressed fern albums, scrapbooks & handmade albums containing cursive handwritten poems, sketches portraits, watercolour flowers, pressed flowers & other musings. A variety of seaweed collecting manuals as well as the very personal albums are reflective of the time & creator. All housed at the resourceful library where I enjoy the treasures that unfold with the help of librarians, Matthew & Michael.
Top favourite pastime in the world, hands down. These are the things that fascinated me today-
Flowers, branches, vegetables, plants, fruit on branches, ferns & pods amongst many other unusual flora & fauna are shipped daily to the NYC flower market which is a hustle & bustle of trucks, stylists, event planners, visual merchandisers & designers stretched out over two blocks on 28th St between 5-7th with a couple leaking out on 6th Ave. I have bought soooo many roses for shoots over the years at this market that have been shipped in from South America. You know which ones are from where by the packaging. South American roses are wrapped in an outer layer of fine, white printed corrugated cardboard with the individual heads woven with a butcher-like paper. They come in a dozen, scentless & mostly very long stemmed and de-thorned. They need to be released from their surrounds, in order to breathe & open if using them for a shoot & I mostly cut them right down. There is a HUGE variety of colours & variegation.
On my recent trip to Ecuador, the loose location of rose coming from South America, became very specific. They are mostly from this area & I visited one of the hundreds of farms! I like to know the source of the things I purchase & although the factories lacked some charm, the countryside was breathtaking & it was interesting to see roses growing as far as the eye can see!
Whilst designing & installing an event for the new LV flagship store in Sydney, I had the luxury of playing with these beautiful vintage trunks from their collections.
I had a book when I was you that scared the bejeebers out of me. It was called ‘Teeny Tiny and the Witch Woman’. The path to the house in the forest was lined with trees that came along & tried to grab teeny tiny feet!! Frightening, yet intriguing! (Disclaimer: I am delving into an old memory so the facts of the actual book may be slightly blurred or incorrect). On any walks, jogs, field trips or adventures, a good old fashioned natural path- if it has a tunnel effect, all the better- raises my curiosity & adds to any ramble. Here are some paths from my recent jaunt at the Royal National Park in Bundeena (the world’s second oldest national park!).