There's something quite lovely about The 100 Day Project, the commitment to show up each day to create. This year, I gave myself an easier task than last year, a 100 days of finding a creative way to share something on botany each day. Which went really well for the first 14 days or so and then I got a little fed up of sharing tidbits. I'm a sucker for long research sessions and getting to the bottom of things—or at least I try—and spending quite a bit of time on each article I undertake. My illustrations develop faster, but I do have a trip up point there as well. I've been illustrating plants for about a year and a half now, and in the beginning I was quite happy with drawing the generic versions of those plants, but around December (2015) I wasn't any longer. I wanted to illustrate the specific, the fine details that truly set very closely related species, and their infraspecific taxa, within a genus apart. Which meant I needed excellent reference material and the correct information on that reference material. Because true botanical illustration, however simplistic or complex it is drawn, needs to accurately represent the morphology of a plant.
One thing I really enjoy about the work I do is that for large parts of it, it isn't about me. But, sharing things daily about what I know and learn about plants takes that away. And, there is a beauty about keeping what you've learned just a bit longer to yourself. To let it brew, to question it, to make connections whilst doing so.
So, this week I shared a little less, researched a lot more, and probably got a less sleep because it was good to be in full on article mode once more. Why do this project, if I don't like sharing on such a consistent base—if I need time to reflect. Partly because I'm an ambitious dummy when it comes to the scale of my projects and partly because projects like these connect me to a larger community. It's a way to find your people and to discover new work. Because creating in the dark can be damn right scary, but there's breathing space as well. And, even when it's nice to share your progress, I don't want my drive to create to depend on each like.
Let's see how the next week unfolds. Create on.
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Day 19 on Instagram
DAY 20 + 21
I posted Day 20, 21, 22, and 23 simultaneously as it was the combination of a brand new article 'How to Name a Banana' and a new illustration.
How to Name a Banana
Bananas are oddballs when it comes to their naming process. Species of wild banana follow the standard binomial process: Musa acuminata, Musa Cheesmanii, Musa Velutina, etc. Their cultivars however have a nomenclature all their own. Developed by Norman Simmonds and Kenneth Shepherd in 1955, the system classifies cultivated bananas into genome groups and subgroups.
SIGIL SCENT is a small batch and natural perfume company that grew out of a love of nature—each scent smells like a bottled walk through different landscapes and seasons—and a fascination for the history of perfume. The fragrances are modern, yet rooted in tradition.
The monsoon jungles of Kerala provide the perfect environment for black pepper to mature. The pepper vine grows best at elevation with frequent rain and plenty of tree trunks to wrap its near 10 metre length around. After the nourishing monsoon comes a dry season when growers meticulously lay out its berries under the sun until they turn black, and spicy, and good. Today, black pepper is produced in Vietnam and elsewhere, but none secure the same prices as Keralite appellations, like Malabar and Tellicherry. The greatest attempts of empires, corporations, and botanists have failed to devise a better way to produce great black pepper other than just leaving it be.
Samorn Sanixay is the owner of Eastern Weft, a company based between Laos and Australia. They produce silk and linen goods for you and your home. I approached Samorn because of her stance on natural dyes. Eastern Weft, as well as Samorn’s personal projects are dyed solely with dyes that can either be grown or gathered. Turmeric to create varying tones of yellow and orange. Pure indigo to create their blues. Black rice patties to create black and greys, and avocado peels to conjure pinks.
A short history
We live in a world filled with colour, endlessly complex, but subjective to us as a species. We give meaning to it, meaning that has evolved through culture, time, and region. We are so used to experiencing the world through our own culture and individual experience of it that it can be hard for us to consider viewing it through the lens of another. A kind of historical and cultural empathy. Take black for example, when viewed through one lens, black is a symbol of death, for piety, and mourning. Of surrender to religion, of decay, and of evil. When viewed through another, black can be a symbol of life, for the Nile swelling and making fertile land of its shores. A symbol of class, rebellion, counter-culture, and eventual normalcy.
Abel Organics grew out of founder Frances Shoemack’s need for a truly organic perfume. Unable to find one that didn’t sport any mystery ingredients on its label, Frances decided to create one herself. Abel is a blend between essential oils and food-grade grain alcohol, but more than that Abel is crafted as an indulgence or as Frances says: "A Good Vice, crafted for your pleasure". Each ingredient, responsibly and ethically sourced, creating a whole, other than the sum of its parts. A perfume, but good enough to drink. And, that’s exactly how it’s served at the Ritz in Berlin.
WHAT'S IN A NAME
Human beings make sense of the world by naming things. We point towards the night sky, connect the dots between the stars, and give them meaning through stories and names. When it comes to plants, we have been as creative as we were in naming the stars. Often with plants, names can derive from physical features, be poetic, or even an inside joke. Take the beautiful Medlar fruit, for example, in French, it has the unfortunate name of cul de chien, accurate in its description, maybe not the most flattering, since it means dog's arse.
A STORY OF A FIG AND A WASP
Imagine a tiny wasp, black, the appearance of an ant and about the same size. Free-living, meaning without a colony, and alive for a mere few days. They're born inside of a fig, mate, and pregnant make their way out of the fruit in search for a new immature fig. Their antennae perfectly honed through evolution to pick up the chemicals an unclaimed fig will send out. Once found, they'll make their way from the ostiole, the bottom part of a fig and narrow entrance to the centre, into the fig. The passageway is barbed, the body of the fig wasp long and narrow, suited to the task , still struggles and often loses her wings and part of her antennae on her way in.
Eating in London
Retreat Cafe Soho
To start us off is the Retreat Cafe in Soho. I first discovered this incredibly warm and cozy cafe around Christmas time. Kim's welcoming personality and a menu me and my food intolerances didn't have to tip-toe around made me feel at home at once. Kim Parsons, Retreat Cafe's founder and CEO, kindly took some time out of her busy schedule to answer some of my questions.
THE LAURACEAE FAMILY
A Phoenix, close to death, will make its nest out of cinnamon and myrrh. Spent, it burns itself up, and from its ashes a new Phoenix is born. In Rome, many a coin bought a funeral pyre laden with cinnamon. And, none so more than the emperor Nero at the funeral of his wife Poppeea.