For a few years I’d collected cotton prints showing small flowers in black and white and gray – I’d a yen to create a less folk-arty, more naturalistic bouquet using these shades only. It seemed to me quite plausible the Witch Queen in the Brothers Grimm version of the Snow White story would have cultivated just such a garden in a shady high-walled corner behind the castle turret that housed the secret chamber where she went to consult her sorcerous looking-glass and concoct wicked potions.
To add interest to the black-gray-white colors, I decided that while I’d keep strictly to these tints for flowers and leaf branches, to add zip to the bouquet and a hint of menace I’d sew tiny ruby red Swarovski crystals in the center of all the little daisies, whether white or black ones. These small dots of red would nicely echo the beginning of the story where the Queen pricks her finger with the needle as she’s sewing and wishes for a child. Here are the first sentences of this classic tale that so vividly set the scene:
Once upon a time, in the middle of winter, when the snowflakes were falling like feathers from the sky, a queen was sitting and sewing at a window with a black ebony frame. And as she was sewing and looking out the window, she pricked her finger with the needle and three drops of blood fell on the snow. The red looked so beautiful on the white snow that she thought to herself, If only I had a child as white as snow, as red and blood, and as black as the wood of the window frame!
Soon after she gave birth to a little daughter who was as white as snow, as red as blood, with hair as black as ebony. Accordingly, the child was called Snow White, and right after she was born, the queen died. When a year had passed, the king married another woman, who was beautiful but proud and haughty, and she could not tolerate anyone else who might rival her beauty. (translation, Jack Zipes)
Light gray silk with gray gauze overlay, suggesting a misty day, creates the background to show off the bouquet – four small black and white butterflies and nine tiny moths – each one beaded – dance about the flowers. .
Until I created the Delft Blue bouquet, the one in this picture is the most elaborate I made. Many of the blossoms are quite tiny and keeping them from shattering – despite my backing and glue edging, was a constant challenge. As with all my bouquets, this one is tightly structured, the center motifs from top to bottom unique, but each side echoing the other with identical beading on the same number of blossoms and similar placement of each flower. As the laurel branches set at intervals around the bouquet only went ‘one way’, I tied myself in knots attempting to keep the intervals exact while trying to make this one way curve appear natural.
In my stash I had a piece of intricate satin brocade woven with silver thread in a Persian design; I cut shapes suggesting perfume bottles from this, sewing beads and gems on both flacons and stoppers – note the red crystal atop the one the far left one – then placed these on the sill; the hand mirror I made and propped against the vase emphasizes the witch queen’s vanity. For the ledge on the other side of the vase I created a small casket in black to suggest ebony wood, studding it with silver bead ‘nails’; the casket has a lock and its lid is propped open to show a few of the queen’s jewels – the box also has a little dragon guardian that will give a nasty bite to anyone opening it who isn’t the queen. A ring of keys sits on the corner of the sill – one opens this casket, others are for the cabinets in the room where she keeps potions and poisons.
I trimmed the shimmery satin-blend graphite vase with a black poly-satin ribbon ornamented with pewter triangles – this gives the vase a distinctly spiky Gothic look perfectly suited to a jealous woman who was determinedly evil and would hardly have tolerated porcelain flower containers decorated with pastel shepherdesses and their swains in her private domain.