The Regency Wardrobe collection - research & making - The Wildflower Fan


African Daisy - "The scientific name..." Osteospermum " derived from the Greek osteon (bone) and Latin spermum (seed). It has been given several common names: African daisy, South African daisy, Cape daisy and blue-eyed daisy..."



Throughout the period of making The Regency Wardrobe collection I was also working with the impressively talented photographer Ray Sullivan. That is, both documenting the pieces I made and requesting images of specific subjects to support those pieces, for example, as backgrounds for certain shoes. In this case the idea of his imaging wildflowers, that I might draw them on to, and include them in the supporting text about, a particular fan I'd planned to make, turned into an important photographic series in its own right.


There are more images in the entire series than are shown here. For the entire series please see: (to follow). The 12 shown in this post are those that I chose to incorporate into The Wildflower Fan. There is more about the background to the fan below including why I chose to look into the etymology of the names of each flower.


12" sq flower photograph prints are available for sale, please click contact on the main menu above



Dandelion - "...a contraction of dent-de-lioun, from Old French dent de lion, literally "lion's tooth" (from its toothed leaves), a translation of Medieval Latin dens leonis. From Latin dens (genitive dentis) "tooth," from PIE root *dent- "tooth" + leonis, genitive of leo "lion"..."  Scientific name Taraxacum.



Dog Rose - "The botanical name is derived from the common names 'dog rose' or similar in several European languages, including classical Latin and ancient (Hellenistic period) Greek. It is sometimes considered that the word 'dog' has a disparaging meaning in this context, indicating 'worthless' as compared with cultivated garden roses. According to The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, the English name is a direct translation of the plant's name from classical Latin, rosa canina, itself a translation of the Greek κυνόροδον ('kunórodon'); the name arose out of the belief in classical times that the root was a cure for the bite of a mad dog. It is known to have been used to treat the bite of rabid dogs in the 18th and 19th centuries. The origin of its name may be related to the hooked prickles on the plant that have resemblance to a dogs canines. The Roman naturalist Pliny attributed the name dog rose to a belief that the plant's root could cure the bite of a mad dog. It is not clear if the dogs were rabid. Other old folk names include dogberry and witches' briar..."




Wild Morning Glory - "...scientific name is Calystegia sepium. This comes from the Greek kalu “cup” and stegos “a covering” for the genus name Calystegia and sepium means “of hedges” or “of fences”, because of its climbing tendencies. In addition to wild morning glory, the plant has...common names including old man’s cap, devil’s guts, bride’s gown, white witches’ hat, Rutland beauty, great bindweed and hedge bindweed. It is a member of the Convolvulaceae, the morning glory family..."




California Poppy - Scientifc name Eschscholzia californica."The early Spanish settlers of California saw vast displays of the California Poppy lighting up the coastal hillsides, and it is said they could guide their ships by the sight. They called the California coast the “land of fire,” and the plant the “cup of gold,” (“copa de oro”). It is also known as the Golden Poppy and Cups of Flame. The botanical name Eschscholzia (despite the misspelling) honors German surgeon and naturalist Friedrich Gustav von Eschscholtz, who saw the San Francisco Bay area hills emblazoned with California Poppy while on a Russian expedition ship in the early 19th century..."




Creeping cinquefoil - scientific name Potentilla reptans - " Potentilla, the genus name, means 'powerful, despite its small size' and is a reference to the claimed medicinal value of plants in this genus. The specific epithet reptans means creeping or crawling [like a] reptile."





Poppy - "...late Old English popig, popæg, from West Germanic *papua-, probably from Vulgar Latin *papavum, from Latin papaver "poppy," perhaps a reduplicated form of imitative root *pap- "to swell." Associated with battlefields and war dead at least since Waterloo (1815)..."




Cornflower - "Centaurea cyanus, commonly known as cornflower or bachelor's button..."


"...any flower or plant growing in grain fields"...1570s, from corn (n.1) + flower (n.)..."




Daisy - "...daiseie, from Old English dægesege, from dæges eage "day's eye;" see day (n.) + eye (n.). So called because the petals open at dawn and close at dusk. In Medieval Latin it was solis oculus "sun's eye." The use of dais eye for "the sun" is attested from early 15c..."



Calendula: "The genus name Calendula is a modern Latin diminutive of calendae, meaning "little calendar", "little clock" or possibly "little weather-glass". The common name "marigold" refers to the Virgin Mary..."




Comon Mallow - Scientifc name Malva sylvestris. Sometimes called buttonweed, cheeseplant, cheese cake, cheeseweed, dwarf mallow and roundleaf mallow. "...Our English word "mallow" and the genus name Malva have a common root in the Greek malache or malakos, meaning "soft". Etymologists do not know whether this refers to the plant's downy leaves, to the "soothing, gelatinous properties of the roots" uses medicinally, to the emollient which can be made from the seeds or leaves, or to the relaxing powers of tea made from the plant. Around 1000 A.D., the name of this plant was written as malwe, malua, mealwan, and mealuwe...The French call it "mauve," from the same root as mallow; in English this word has come to designate a color...Malache also has given us "malachite' (copper ore)-a stone "the same shade of green as mallow leaves"..."




Dandelion clock - "...folk names, like tell-time refer to the custom of telling the time by blowing the white seed (the number of puffs required to blow them all off supposedly being the number of the hour), or to the plant's regular opening and closing with daylight. Other names refer to its diuretic qualities (Middle English piss-a-bed, French pissenlit)..."



Coreopsis - "...a genus of flowering plants in the family Asteraceae. Common names include calliopsis and tickseed, a name shared with various other plants....The flowers are usually yellow with a toothed tip. They are also yellow-and red bicolor...The flat fruits are small and dry and look like bugs...The name Coreopsis is derived from the Greek words κόρις (koris), meaning "bedbug", and ὄψις (opsis), meaning "view", referring to the shape of the achene..."





One of the first research visits I made first, in order to see garments and accessories from the Regency era, was to The Fan Museum, Greenwich. They had on an exhibition titled Early Printed Fans. I quickly understood that the range of subject matter printed on late eighteenth and early nineteenth century fans was expansive but there was one fan in particular that has stayed at the forefront of my memories of that visit.

Called Botanical Fan in the exhibition, it seems to sum up many of the changes afoot in society, in particular regarding female society at that time (for fans were mainly used by women). The fan is dated 1792 and the fact that I've since found another fan exactly the same in the V&A collection neatly demonstrates how printing had begun to make the mass production of fans possible by that date; this made them more affordable which in turn of course made them more accessible to women of all classes.

Many printed fans from that period include text (some are covered only in writing) which of course tells us that many women were able to read. Looking at the particular subject matter printed on fans of this period also tells us what women learning about; as they sat together, keeping cool and reading from their fans' surfaces.



I love that the paper part of a fan is called it's leaf. I love the slightly risque fact that the imagery and text on this particular fan is not only a general lesson in botany but, in particular about the reproductive aspect of that subject: "...the front leaf is etched with botanical drawings of the sexual anatomy of plants arranged according to Carl Linnaeus's (1707-77) classification"

I also love that the leaf of this fan was published by a woman: "It is worth mentioning...that many printers in England were women: Honour Chassereau, Martha Gamble, Marth and Esther Sleepe, Sarah Ashton, to name by a few..."  from The Fan Museum - Early Printed Fans (exhibition guide).


Detail of the front of the fan


"Sarah Ashton advertised 'The Botanick (sic) Fan' on 1 August 1792 in 'The Public Advertiser'..." Each drawing on the front is "...numbered with a Roman numeral and briefly described...On the back of the mount there are two lists of the drawings on the front with botanical descriptions...An image of a flower and a description of a flower's principal parts are printed between the lists, followed by some lines of verse from 'The Botanick Garden', a poem written by Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802)..." The stanza quoted begins "...'Come ye soft Sylphs, who fan the Paphian Groves...Erasmus Darwin's stated aim in writing 'The Botanick Garden' was to 'inlist the Imagination under the banner of Science', 'to induce the ingenious to cultivate the knowledge of Botany', and to introduce them to the 'immortal works of the celebrated Swedish naturalist Linnaeus'...The fan would have appealed to the many female readers of 'The Botanic Garden'. Darwin supported female education. In 'A Plan for the Conduct of Female Education in Boarding Schools' (1794), written as advice to his two daughters, the Misses Parker, who had opened a school in Ashbourne in 1794, he recommended that the girls should learn botany, chemistry, mineralogy, and short hand, and should take plenty of outdoor exercise...Sarah Ashton was a prominent publisher of fan leaves in the late 18th century from her business in Little Britain, near St. Martin's Court, Covent Garden. She was admitted in 1770 into The Worshipful Company of Fan Makers and carried on the printing business after her husband’s death." -



The back of the fan


To read more about my visit to The Fan Museum please see:



So it was that in my mind The Wildflower Fan was conceived and sketched:




When I realised I wanted to have images of particular British wildflowers to draw on the fan's leaf I discussed things with Ray Sullivan, the photographer of my work. That this first request for images would turn into a spectacular series of photographs I didn't foresee. When that happened however I knew the photographs must be exhibited beside/behind the fan. I foresaw them hung individually, but viewed en masse, as often in nature, each one glorious, glowing and semi-translucent against its black background; the fan in front suggestive of the light breeze that might be blowing across the field of them.


I wanted the fan also to have the look of semi-transparency. I wanted it to have a sheer, ephemeral quality, mimicking the petals of a flower and suggestive of the nature of a soft breeze even whilst stationary. In keeping with the muted, cream backed colour scheme of the Botanick fan I bought a large sheet of semi-translucent cream coloured paper with soft edges and planned to use tissue paper to colour the individual images of the flowers. Though I thought about making the 13 wildflowers that would be portrayed 3-dimensional in some way, my original inspiration, the Botanick fan, had been all about the flat graphic and the use of text. Instead therefore I sketched them lightly and applied colour from behind to make it less garish, only becoming apparent when the fan was held to the light.


This layering of sheer papers eventually informed how I would make the one three-dimensional flower I knew there must be. The one that would sit at the centre point from which the fan fanned out. Whilst other parts of the fan have their own names it is just called a rivet, as far as I can work out, but to me it is the central focus; after all it is the hinge that makes a fan able to spread out and show itself.  

Making a rivet therefore merely functional and meant to be visually ignored always seems to me like a wasted opportunity. My first attempts however, at capturing the delicacy of a wildflower in three-dimensions, proved utterly unsuccessful. It was only be returning to the idea of applying sheer colour to the underside of sheer cream paper (in this case tissue paper) and combining that with, not too many, opaque lines and other minimal elements that I could stop abandoning failed flowers and insert a successful one through the bottom end of the sticks and guards.



Whilst deciding what to write on the back, in imitation again of the Botanick fan, I was simultaneously researching the flowers in the photos Ray had taken by the. Neither of us are botanists so some were unknown to us both. This process of identification always began of course with classification, that is, by naming the flower itself. Whilst doing that one is introduced to the idea of genus and species and common names and Latin names, modern, scientific and folk names. Etymology is an interest of mine. How the parts of words have other meanings and combine to describe this thing or that I find fascinating. As in this case names were necessarily the start of my learning about my subject matter it was the etymology of the plants names, scientific, Latin and folk that I pencilled lightly on to the reverse leaf of this fan.




I decided to leave empty the area below each flower on the front leaf. That this fan has sticks which, when light is shone from behind, look like the stems of the flowers, plus a front and a back leaf, seemed like it was enough extra plant related detailing. A fan is the one item in this collection of garments that is actually meant to be made of paper and as such I decided to leave its papery front surface with space to be written on. That the young lady who might feel its gentle breeze and read and learn from its back surface might also have room, should she wish, to write her own thoughts, for others to see, on its front.


 Here is a close up on The Wildflower Fan


The exhibition of The Regency Wardrobe collection has been postponed due to Coronavirus as soon as the collection has been shown more images of all the pieces will be made visible on


This project is supported by: Arts Council England,

The Textile Society, Great Art




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