In Dress Accessories it says "Silk-covered wire could be twisted into a myriad of forms to decorate items of either secular
or sacred use and it is generally artefacts of the latter type that have been preserved. These include a number of 14th and
15th-century reliquaries embellished with multi-colored silk-wire flowers, often with seed pearls and beads threaded onto
them, for example a 15th-century reliquary crown of St Kunigunde in Bamberg cathedral, West Germany, and ritual cushions known
as paradise gardens for nuns taking their vows (Meckseper 1985, 476-8, no. 392)." I managed to track down the Meckseper book
and have included pictures of the Paradise Gardens that date to 1480(to the right). Though there are gardens of these flowers
in over a dozen cities in North Germany and Belgium, these pictured are composed mainly of intricately wound silk thread and
wire. Most of the reliquary flowers look to be votive offerings, simple flowers that have not held up well
throughout the years.
After becoming intriqued with these flowers, I closely studied the pictures I have of the Paradise gardens. The silk flowers
I had recently learned to make did not look the same as the ones I saw in my picture. It would appear that the flowers in
the Paradise gardens are made without wrapping the silk and wire together, a style I have come to call Kloisterarbeiten or
Convent Art. (The few examples I could find of modern Kloisterarbeiten all have silk-wrapped wire flowers and are all in
the form of iconography. I call this style Kloisterarbeiten because the examples I have came from Convents.The
flowers I learned previously are called Ganutel.)
I gathered my wire and I gathered my silk and I sat down with a magnafying glass and studied the pictures. Every time I
thought I had it I discovered I was wrong. I was wasting a lot of silk. Once more with the magnafying glass and I discovered
a strong use of bullion in the pictures. Bullion, or as the English call it, Purl, is finely coiled wire which resembles a
slinky or a spring. And I discovered when its strung onto a heavier wire, it makes a great anchor for the silk.
After way to many attempts I finally got it! The way I think the flowers were made was to take Purl covered wire and form
it into half a petal. Starting at the base, wrap the petal with silk. when you reach the top, drop the other half of the petal's
wire (wrapped in Perl) into the first half and continue wrapping. You'll have what looks like a very long wire with an indent
in the middle. When you've reached the bottom on the second half, close the two pieces together, like closing a door, and
wrap the base wires together with the excess silk floss. By using two seperate wires you create a hinge that allows the petals
to be moved without squeezeing the wires and upsetting the floss.
I tried several different ways to do this and discovered that the longer and more tappered the petal is, the easier it
is to wrap. The oak leaves (like the ones in the gardens) were next to impossible because of the changes in diameter. The
acorn is silk wrapped over a small ball of wool.
Over all this project took way to long but I am happy with the results and content in the knowledge that, at least for
now, I'm probably the only person alive who knows how to make these things. I hope that's not the case for very long! I've
already made a lot of people curious when I went looking for Bullion at the Midwest Embroiders Convention.
Having completed these flowers nearly two years ago I realized, after finding many new photos of other extent pieces, that
the size was all wrong. These flowers are about three times larger than the ones created in 1500ce. So I went back to the
drawing board (so to speak) and figured out (with the help of my new photos) how they were really made. The technique I originally
used did not minaturize well at all but I do think I finally got it right. I'm not saying this technique wasn't used because
I'm sure it was - it just isn't the technique I was looking for at the time. Go figure!