More On The Fruits

You may be bored witless with what I have had to say lately about delle robbia wreaths and faux fruits-but it appears I am still talking about them.  Humor me, please.  The fresh fruits-I love all of them.  I relish the apples, the peaches and plums-the cherries.  Watermelon-what could be better?  Musk melon-delicious. The grapes-so many different kinds of grapes-from champagne grapes to green grapes-all of them taste great.  Plums, apples of every different sort, an embarrassment of riches in varieties of pears-fruits taste great. But like most natural things, they also have great shapes, textures and colors.  A bowl piled with fruit on the kitchen counter delights the eye, as much as the taste buds.            

The faux fruits enable a visual discussion about color, shape, and texture. How each fruit is placed in relation to the others, and in relation to the whole makes a composition.  To compose sounds like a fairly serious activity, but it seems like what it takes to compose a letter is much like what it takes to compose a painting or a symphony.  This is big talk coming from someone that has never composed so much as a melody, but there are times when the way certain things go together makes music to my eye.  The pleasure I take in this is why I keep composing in one form or another, over and over. The geometry of this staircase is compellingly strong.  One could decorate it for the holidays by simply repeating these rectilinear shapes.  The garland could have run below and parallel to the railing.  Swagging the garland introduces curvy shapes that contrast with that severe geometry.  So how do I choose this composition over any other?  A client who says she likes natural things for the holidays.  I interpret that as not only natural materials, but a more natural way of displaying them.  The mixed cedar garland is doubled up.  A single strand of wired garland can have an awkwardly wired appearance.  Adding the weight of a second strand permits gravity to make graceful and continuous swoops.     

I did use some of the faux fruits in the wreath over the fireplace, but they are mixed with dry fan willow, fresh red bud pussy willow, pine cones, acorns and reindeer moss.  The mixed concolor and douglas fir wreath has a strong and lively texture and color that pairs well with the stone surface.  The gold bow?  I usually ask a client should they see some metallic element, what would that be?  This particular ribbon is a dream come true for anyone like me who has trouble composing a decent bow.  A translucent and thin green organza has a feathery god stripe down the middle.  The edges and center of this ribbon are all wired.  Even I can poof this.  

The garland is attached to the stair rail with zip ties. We tied garland whever there was a break in the glass sides of the staircase.  A branch of noble fir, wired with fruits, pine cones and cinnamon sticks covers the zip ties, and provides a little punctuation and a sense of rhythm to the change of direction.   

A family room fireplace is faced in a very beautiful stone.  A pair of simple fiber pots stuffed with red twig dogwood and greens sit on either side of the hearth.  The greens are done in a half round, so the pots do not intrude on the living space.  Beaded coppery bronze acorns are a nod to the holiday-and to the bronzy color in the stone floor. 

The natural garland over the windows is complimented by a garland of gold and bronze oak leaves.  Bronze brown glass pine cones and pine cone ornaments are an element in the composition that speaks to festive.      

Pam fussed at me for taking this picture before she had trimmed the bow streamers into swallow tails.  The finishing touches that come after the big gestures are important.  I check to be sure there is no evidence of the construction.  Every element of the composition needs to be securely, but not visibly attached.  The ribbon tails need to be recut.  There should be no evidence I was ever there-beyond the decoration.  That is a major reason why I do as much of the contruction in my studio as possible.  The 14 faux fruit medallions for the staircase garlands were made at my work bench, and taken to the job, ready to be attached. Even so, there is vacuuming to be done at the end.  Even when I design and install a landscape, one of my favorite moments is when the sidewalks and driveway gets washed off.  Once everything is cleaned up, there is time to look over what has taken so much work to compose.  By no means am I suggesting that things will not need adjusting or reworking-that is more the norm than the exception.  I am suggesting that making things is satisfying and fun.

Luca Della Robbia

Luca Della Robbia, an Italian sculptor from the 15th century, is somewhat responsible for my passion for decorating with fruit at the holidays.  Known for his glazed terra cotta rondels, he and his family sculpted voluptuous swags of fruit-the interpretations of which are still treasured by gardeners everywhere.  Hand made Italian terra cotta pots ornamented with lemon swoops and mixed fruit swags in his style- sign me up.      

Perhaps more responsible for my love for the holiday fruits is Louise Fisher.  Put in charge of flowers and decor at Williamsburg in the mid 1930’s, she had a considerable hand in creating what I call the Williamsburg holiday look.  Colonial Williamsburg was decorated for the holidays for the first time in 1936.  Within a few few years, her research at the Library of Congress regarding American colonial holiday expression prompted her to sponsor a holiday decorating contest-the rest is history.     

I grew up on those pictures of Williamsburg homes so beautifully decorated for the holidays.  Each display was hand made-each incredibly thoughtful and beautiful.  I was enchanted by the fresh garlands with tie backs of fresh fruit.  The evergreen wreaths with an in-circle of apples-gorgeous.  There is a long history of fruit ornament in this country.  Vintage beaded fruit, glittered or sugared fruit-a sure sweet sign of the holidays-American style.

OK-I did make an evergreen wreath with fresh fruit for my front door.  The second I finished piercing and wiring on all of my fruits, I was pleased.  What came later was the dripping juice that froze on the porch-and the inevitable rot.  Fruit can last a very long time.  Once pierced, decay is initiated.  I do not have the time to replace the fruit in my della robbia wreath 4 times over the holidays.  I am thrilled that the faux fruit available to me now is incredibly beautifully done-convincing.  These fruits have a plaster core-for weight.  Who knows what material is used to create the surface.  Who knows how the color is done.  These faux fruits are astonishingly real in color and texture. 

The fruits on this mantle will last the entire holiday season.  They can be boxed and stored-and used for any number of holidays to come. When I use the fruits on a mantle, I pierce the skin with a long pick-that pick provides ballast.  Each fruit is true to color and texture to a specific variety.  Granny Smith apples, and pomegranites, lemons, limes and plums-they look delicious.

An evergreen garland attached to a stair rail-a beautiful and fragrant nod to the season. My fruits, acorns, pine cones and ribbon wired in now and then, and at the newel posts-a traditonal American holiday expression.    

The back door wreath features mixed greens, a hemp rope bow, pine cones, red eucalyptus, reindeer moss, and bark wire garland.  My faux fruits-the cherries.  That red is intense.  That each cherry needs to be glued on individually speaks to hand made.  
A red and white wreath for the front door-this my client requested.  The red comes from the Michigan holly stems, the cherries, a few red roses constructed from wood shavings, red twig dogwood, and some faux Washington apples.  A red double faced satin bow-beautiful.  The white-dried cirrus dusty miller and white glass ornaments.  The intermediary-white variegated oregonia, green reindeer moss, and green/brown acorns.

The faux apples and pears in this wreath-they do fine.  This holiday wreath has a broad mix of real, right from the garden, and faux. The double faced red satin ribbon has no problem handling the weather.  The magnolia wreath came from a long ways away, but seems perfectly at home here.  Faux fruits-they have come a long way too.  They are really convincing.  They do their part to help me express my admiration for Luca Della Robbia.