Saturday, June 5, 2010

inspiration--the color blue and iris

Last Saturday was the Iris Show in Shelburne Falls. Now this is not just any iris show but it is the Western New England Iris Show. And while most of the people are from Franklin County there were exhibits from across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. For me this is something I look forward to every year. I actually close my studio for an hour--even though there are people in town-- and look at the iris--absolute perfection. Each one so distinctive in its own way. Tiny as my little fingernail. Big as my DH's hand. What colors and designs.  Of course I buy a few more iris. There is so much hope here.

Now I love my garden. It is not carefully planned with just the right hues and colors. It would never be on a garden tour. I try to label the plants--but labels do get lost. I try to arrange the flowers but sometimes I just have to tuck something in. I never have enough time to get rid of all the weeds. But there are dreams of purple and white. Pale blue and midnight purple.  I have rows of flowers that I just had to have--sometimes I move them into my more planned beds. Sometimes I just look at the flowers--the detail, the color, the awe.  A present that I get to constantly open.

Now I know there are true gardeners out there who are already shaking their heads in dismay. They would carefully decide which of two irises would be best in a particular spot.  I admire them. I love The Bridge of Flowers and the formal gardens of those who carefully plan them. But it's not me--I'm a kid in a candy store. When a friend asked if this was inspiration, I paused a second--but then realized that indeed I was getting inspiration--perhaps even at a deeper level than I realized.

Now some of it is the color blue. What is it about this color? There are so many different shades of blue--the purples, the greens, the greys. If you've ever tried to coordinate fabric--blue can be so hard.
Iris is blue. Sure there are other colors of iris, but think of the Siberian iris. The most wonderful intense blue. The iris remind me of the feelings of the color blue in so many different ways.

For instance look at this sweep of color. For about a week there is an intense sea of blue Siberian in front of our house. Isn't it wonderful with the red poppies and the barn red of our house?

It is so hard to capture the deep rich blue. Made more intense by the variations in the individual iris. It takes my breath away with the pureness of the color. Such an expanse of dreams. I could take pictures of this all week.

But then there is the wonderful little papillon--I think that's French for butterfly. I love how it grows in clumps of dancing white and blue. Aren't they absolutely wonderful and delicate? Not sure I'll ever make a quilt about it--but it is just so joyous.

And the individual plants--each with their own subtle variations. For instance consider the blue of this iris--doesn't it just glow. It really is this color.

Or this one--it is called mad magenta. Look at the range of colors in this one. So much to see and absorb. Absolutely outrageous.

And an earlier Japanese iris--so many different colors in one flower. How do you absorb it all? Such perfection--even with the ant. Again I look at this one again and again.

I could show you pictures all day--what a way to procrastinate. The deep intense blues of mountain lake--a Siberian. Or the intense purple of starlite velvet--a tall bearded. But you get the picture. I am surrounded by blues right now. These colors of the sky. Always something new. Some fleeting beauty to try to remember until it makes way for yet another one. But I think that is part of the inspiration because in the haste of the iris to bloom I have to concentrate intently on each one of them to absorb all their beauty in just a few short days until it becomes a part of me.

Yes I know I'll make a quilt that tries to capture this feeling sometime--the colors of the ocean, the expanse of the sky, the whisper of early morning. My quilt won't duplicate the individual flowers or even the flower beds. That's not what I do. But maybe I can capture the essence of this color--the feeling of the color blue. And that is part of the reason I buy more plants even though I don't have space.  And I know that in some ways my quilts will be like my gardens--lots of wonderful fabrics that I purchase because I just have to have them--and then arranged to create wonderful color sweeps that try to convey some particular feeling or emotion--the sweep of the sky, the mystery of the ocean, the intensity of my iris. Part of the reason that my quilts are inspired by life.

And you? Do you think of blue as the color of spring?


  1. This is great, Ann. To me, of course (because I don't have your eye), green and yellow always represented spring--but I've always loved blue flowers (they don't seem quite real somehow) and think blue may be the new spring. Thanks!

  2. Oh sigh, ... the blues are so rare and special.

  3. Oh Wow! I feel just the same way. I could have every blue flower known on this earth, and still want more. Irises are something so special, that even the deer respect them in my garden. :~)Robin

  4. Yes I know what you mean Tinky, Kari and Robin. I should buy my blue asters now. What else is blue--bachelor's buttons....

  5. Spring blue for me is an English bluebell wood - lost of them in my childhood, fewer there now. My attempts to introduce them into my Massachusetts have been poor. Sad little specimens, not the robust invaders of the UK. Climbing to the top of my next quilt list is one to celebrate bluebell woods.

  6. Oh Pam that wood sounds lovely. We had bluebells on our farm in Illinois but I haven't grown them successfully here in Mass either. Your quilt will be lovely--love to see a picture when it's done.