Human Flower Project


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Monday, September 01, 2008

For All Who Twist Flowers


The making of fake flowers has been a weirdly piteous occupation for at least a century. In Hong Kong, flower makers changed the course of history. What are they up to today?


image

Women making flowers in lower Manhattan, c. 1910

Photo: Lewis Wickes Hine

Collection of New York Public Library

Human-flower workers of the world, unite!

In the U.S., it’s Labor Day, a hard-earned holiday for most in this country. At HFP, we honor the many thousands of flower growers and harvesters, sellers, designers and deliverers, and today pay special tribute to the dexterous tradespeople who make artificial flowers.

This is an old craft that should have been featured, alongside gunpowder and paper-making, at the Beijing games. Most scholars believe the first “permanent botanicals” were made from silk, by the Chinese. In the Middle Ages, the Italians were making their own artificial flowers from cocoons; by the 14th century the French had learned most of their neighbors’ secrets and began improving on their techniques. “In 1775, Marie Antoinette was presented with a silk rosebud, and it was said to be so perfect that it caused her to faint.”

With the Revolution – and both regalia and fainting out of style – fake-flower artisans emigrated to England and the U.S. just in time for the ascent of industrialization and Victorianism: the market for floral-everything exploded and factories of artificial flower-making sprang up to meet demand.


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Posted by Julie on 09/01 at 02:57 PM
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