Have you heard of Longwood Gardens? You probably have. It is a world famous and enchanting indulgence in plants of all kinds. Located in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania on over a thousand acres, they are always changing up their displays, and have some very spectacular seasonal shows. Lucky for me, I’m only an hour away or so, and I love getting to stroll around the gardens and marvel inside the conservatories. And a million and a half people agree with me, and visit every year!
But what does this have to do with temari? A few months ago, I was fortunate to meet some of the amazing people that work all year long on planning their seasonal displays. They develop coordinating themes and bring in artwork to enhance their botanical showcases. They labor months and months ahead of time, to come up with new and creative shows, and every year is different from the last.
They had invited me to meet with them, and to show off some of my temari. I was able to explain to the team the history and traditions of this wonderful fiber art. But, as you probably know, seeing temari in person is always so much more impactful than any speech! I was happy that they really liked my work, and also pretty quickly fell in love with this craft.
They told me a little secret, which I’m going to share with you. Every year, their holiday season is one of the busiest times, and they work very hard to make amazing displays. However some things are sacred and never change… like their bonsai display. (Though they do rotate different plants in an out of the display). This year Kevin Bielicki, the head of the Bonsai department, was given permission to do something a little different with the bonsai for the holidays. Everyone in the room was bursting with excitement telling me this….this is a big step for Longwood, and they are thrilled to have the chance to mix things up. And of course, they want it to be impressive.
So they have decided to highlight two very special trees on each end of the hallway where the bonsai are displayed. Behind glass, each tree will be the center of a display with a Japanese scroll on one side, and a traditional Japanese gift on the other.
Perhaps by now you can guess where I’m going with this…
After they saw my temari and learned about the very special nature of this craft, they commissioned me to make two temari to represent the gifts in this display. Kevin wanted large balls, about 5 inches in diameter, so that they would set off but not dominate the scenes. After all, the real stars of the show are the bonsai!
And here they are! I delivered these last week to Longwood Gardens. The first is a traditional flax stitching, done with Silk Lamae threads by Rainbow Gallery on 32 faces:
My lighting in this photo was very bright, so it is hard to see that the silk threads have just a touch of white metallic in them, which I hope will sparkle delightfully behind the glass of the display.
The second ball has an interlocking motif stitched on a combination 10 division with some very sparkly Kreinik braids. This was stitched with pearl cotton 8, and took quite a bit more stitching and time than the first ball:
The holiday display should start after Thanksgiving, and I am anxious but also excited for it. I am so honored that they will be displaying my work, and that thousands of people will be able to see them! Even though I was nervous about this commission (talk about a HUGE client!), I am lucky that that I will be able to see them again soon. I sincerely hope this stirs up more interest in this amazing craft. Though, in truth, I just hope that people enjoy seeing them.
And finally, I am keeping my fingers crossed that there may be even more ambitious collaborations of temari art with Longwood Gardens in the future!