OTANICAL ART HAS BEEN a life-long presence in Jean Johnson’s imagination. She recalls from early days recurring walks through fields and woods with her father, an avid gardener and amateur naturalist, who named as they went, in the well-established binomial system of Linnaeus, wildflowers, plants, and shrubs in both common and scientific terms. Thus the bloodroot plant (Sanguinaria canadensis), described in Champlain’s Voyages et Explorations (1604) and also in Elizabeth Simcoe’s Diary (1792), took root in, and still frames, her botanical vision, through images that now express in her drawings and watercolours the diaphanous effects of the medium:
Thea Haines and Rachel MacHenry
PPLYING DECORATIVE COLOUR obtained from natural sources—plants, insects and minerals—is an ancient practice, with evidence of natural colourants being found in textile fragments from as early as 2500 BC. The practice of dyeing and mordanting cloth was recorded by Pliny and Herodotus.
Textile trade was vital to Europe’s economy during the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods, and the cultivation, processing and manufacturing of fibres and dyestuffs played a crucial role. Exploration and colonization led to new sources of colour with the discovery of exotic products such as cochineal, indigo and logwood. Natural dyes were hot commodities, some so prized that they were more expensive than gold.
SNAPSHOT IN TIME. It was early in the afternoon on September 9th, 2013, when Lot 222 came up on the block at Waddington’s Jewellery and Watch Auction in Toronto. Described in the catalogue as a 19th-century 18kt yellow gold brooch weighing 16 grams, its oval body was decorated with a simple filigree pattern embellished with gold granules, its centre set with faceted purple-toned garnets arranged to form a six-petalled flower. From its place in the auction house showroom, this piece of jewellery evinced silent testimony to a bygone era by virtue of its design and materials. If this brooch could talk, what stories would it have to tell about the society in which it was worn? Who was its first owner, and how did it end up for sale in an auction room in southern Ontario?
N RECENT YEARS, concepts of greening, repurposing and using salvaged materials have not only guided the design of spaces and objects, but have entered the public vernacular in unprecedented ways. Our collective interest in responsible methods of production, fabrication and distribution has led to greater focus on the relationship between consumers, makers and socio-environmental accountability.
One recent example of new challenges sparking new solutions can be found in the work of several designers who have created functional pieces using wood from trees destroyed by the emerald ash borer. Since this non-native, invasive pest was discovered in Detroit in 2002, it has been attacking and killing ash trees in Ontario and parts of the United States.