The Regency Wardrobe collection - research & making - Wildflowers

African Daisy - "The scientific name..." Osteospermum " derived from the Greek osteon (bone) and Latin spermum (seed). It has been given several common names: African daisy, South African daisy, Cape daisy and blue-eyed daisy..."



Collection: The Regency Wardrobe

Garment: Woman’s paper fan Materials: paper, cartridge paper, quilling paper strips, card, Japanese rice paper Mizuhiki cord, tissue paper, embroidery thread, lacquer, pencil

This piece was created in parallel with the production of a series of wildflower photographs commissioned from photographer Ray Sullivan. On the front of the fan are small drawings of thirteen of the flowers from his final series.

These are: Osteospermum - African Daisy; Taraxacum officinale - Dandelion; Rosa canina - Dog Rose; Calystegia sepium - Wild Morning Glory; California Poppy - Eschscholzia californica; Potentilla reptans - Creeping cinquefoil; Papaver rhoeas - Poppy; Centaurea cyanus - Cornflower; Bellis perennis - Daisy; Calendula officinalis - Marigold; Malva sylvestris - Common Mallow; Taraxacum - Dandelion clock; Coreopsis - Tickseed.

Whilst the names of two of the parts of any fan link to botany, its leaf and sticks, this piece is inspired more specifically by the colourful semi-translucency of tiny, often overlooked, common wildflowers. The fan is made from sheer paper as a means of suggesting a gentle breeze across a wildflower field. Wildflowers was inspired also by the Botanical Fan, a printed fan from 1792, held at The Fan Museum, Greenwich. Printing had begun to make the mass production of fans possible even before the Regency; spreading particular fan designs around like wildflowers. Another Botanical Fan can be found in the V&A collection. It was printed by Sarah Ashton, one of many prominent female publishers of fan leaves in the late 18th century and a member of The Worshipful Company of Fan Makers from 1770. Many Regency era printed fans were decorated with text, partly or wholly, thereby informing and educating the ladies who used them. On the back of Wildflowers is a little about the taxonomy of each flower portrayed on its front, written faintly in pencil as if written during a lesson.


First we photographed wildflowers

Throughout the period of making The Regency Wardrobe collection I have also been working with the impressively talented photographer Ray Sullivan. That is, both in documenting the pieces I've made and by my requesting images of specific subjects to support the pieces, such as when I've asked for a background image for a certain shoe. In the case of Wildflowers I planned to draw wildflowers on the surface of the fan and needed images to work from; that was all I asked for but what he created was a beautiful photographic series, important in its own right.

There are more images in the entire series than are shown here. For the entire series please see: (to follow). The 12 shown in this post are those that I chose to incorporate into The Wildflower Fan. There is more about the rest of the background research behind the fan below, including why I chose to look into the etymology of the names of each flower.

12" sq flower photograph prints will be available for sale please see the shop page of

Dandelion - "...a contraction of dent-de-lioun, from Old French dent de lion, literally "lion's tooth" (from its toothed leaves), a translation of Medieval Latin dens leonis. From Latin dens (genitive dentis) "tooth," from PIE root *dent- "tooth" + leonis, genitive of leo "lion"..." Scientific name Taraxacum.


Dog Rose - "The botanical name is derived from the common names 'dog rose' or similar in several European languages, including classical Latin and ancient (Hellenistic period) Greek. It is sometimes considered that the word 'dog' has a disparaging meaning in this context, indicating 'worthless' as compared with cultivated garden roses. According to The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, the English name is a direct translation of the plant's name from classical Latin, rosa canina, itself a translation of the Greek κυνόροδον ('kunórodon'); the name arose out of the belief in classical times that the root was a cure for the bite of a mad dog. It is known to have been used to treat the bite of rabid dogs in the 18th and 19th centuries. The origin of its name may be related to the hooked prickles on the plant that have resemblance to a dogs canines. The Roman naturalist Pliny attributed the name dog rose to a belief that the plant's root could cure the bite of a mad dog. It is not clear if the dogs were rabid. Other old folk names include dogberry and witches' briar..."


Wild Morning Glory - "...scientific name is Calystegia sepium. This comes from the Greek kalu “cup” and stegos “a covering” for the genus name Calystegia and sepium means “of hedges” or “of fences”, because of its climbing tendencies. In addition to wild morning glory, the plant has...common names including old man’s cap, devil’s guts, bride’s gown, white witches’ hat, Rutland beauty, great bindweed and hedge bindweed. It is a member of the Convolvulaceae, the morning glory family..."


California Poppy - Scientifc name Eschscholzia californica."The early Spanish settlers of California saw vast displays of the California Poppy lighting up the coastal hillsides, and it is said they could guide their ships by the sight. They called the California coast the “land of fire,” and the plant the “cup of gold,” (“copa de oro”). It is also known as the Golden Poppy and Cups of Flame. The botanical name Eschscholzia (despite the misspelling) honors German surgeon and naturalist Friedrich Gustav von Eschscholtz, who saw the San Francisco Bay area hills emblazoned with California Poppy while on a Russian expedition ship in the early 19th century..."


Creeping cinquefoil - scientific name Potentilla reptans - " Potentilla, the genus name, means 'powerful, despite its small size' and is a reference to the claimed medicinal value of plants in this genus. The specific epithet reptans means creeping or crawling [like a] reptile."


Poppy - "...late Old English popig, popæg, from West Germanic *papua-, probably from Vulgar Latin *papavum, from Latin papaver "poppy," perhaps a reduplicated form of imitative root *pap- "to swell." Associated with battlefields and war dead at least since Waterloo (1815)..."


Cornflower - "Centaurea cyanus, commonly known as cornflower or bachelor's button..."


"...any flower or plant growing in grain fields"...1570s, from corn (n.1) + flower (n.)..."


Daisy - "...daiseie, from Old English dægesege, from dæges eage "day's eye;" see day (n.) + eye (n.). So called because the petals open at dawn and close at dusk. In Medieval Latin it was solis oculus "sun's eye." The use of dais eye for "the sun" is attested from early 15c..."


Calendula: "The genus name Calendula is a modern Latin diminutive of calendae, meaning "little calendar", "little clock" or possibly "little weather-glass". The common name "marigold" refers to the Virgin Mary..."


Comon Mallow - Scientifc name Malva sylvestris. Sometimes called buttonweed, cheeseplant, cheese cake, cheeseweed, dwarf mallow and roundleaf mallow. "...Our English word "mallow" and the genus name Malva have a common root in the Greek malache or malakos, meaning "soft". Etymologists do not know whether this refers to the plant's downy leaves, to the "soothing, gelatinous properties of the roots" uses medicinally, to the emollient which can be made from the seeds or leaves, or to the relaxing powers of tea made from the plant. Around 1000 A.D., the name of this plant was written as malwe, malua, mealwan, and mealuwe...The French call it "mauve," from the same root as mallow; in English this word has come to designate a color...Malache also has given us "malachite' (copper ore)-a stone "the same shade of green as mallow leaves"..."


Dandelion clock - "...folk names, like tell-time refer to the custom of telling the time by blowing the white seed (the number of puffs required to blow them all off supposedly being the number of the hour), or to the plant's regular opening and closing with daylight. Other names refer to its diuretic qualities (Middle English piss-a-bed, French pissenlit)..."


Coreopsis - "...a genus of flowering plants in the family Asteraceae. Common names include calliopsis and tickseed, a name shared with various other plants....The flowers are usually yellow with a toothed tip. They are also yellow-and red bicolor...The flat fruits are small and dry and look like bugs...The name Coreopsis is derived from the Greek words κόρις (koris), meaning "bedbug", and ὄψις (opsis), meaning "view", referring to the shape of the achene..."


One of the first research visits I made for this project, in order to see garments and accessories from the Regency era, was to The Fan Museum, Greenwich. They had on an exhibition entitled Early Printed Fans. I quickly understood that the range of subject matter printed on late eighteenth and early nineteenth century fans was expansive but there was one fan in particular that has stayed at the forefront of my memories from that visit.

Called Botanical Fan in the exhibition, it seems to sum up many of the changes afoot in society, in particular regarding female society at that time (for fans were mainly used by women). The fan is dated 1792 and the fact that I've since found another fan exactly the same in the V&A collection neatly demonstrates how printing had begun to make the mass production of fans possible by that date; this made them more affordable which in turn of course made them more accessible to women of all classes.

Many printed fans from that period include text (some are covered only in writing) which shows that many women were able to read. But looking at the particular subject matter printed on fans of this period also tells us what women were keen to read and learn about, as they sat together, keeping cool, reading from their fans.

I have said elsewhere that I love the fact that the paper part of a fan is called it's leaf. I also smiled at the slightly risque fact that the imagery and text on this particular fan is not only a general lesson in botany but, in particular concerns the reproductive aspects of that subject - "...the front leaf is etched with botanical drawings of the sexual anatomy of plants arranged according to Carl Linnaeus's (1707-77) classification" - for it seemed to me to contradict (or happily expand) the impression I had of what might have been considered proper subject matter for a young lady of this time to read about.

I also love that the leaf of this fan was published by a woman: "It is worth mentioning...that many printers in England were women: Honour Chassereau, Martha Gamble, Marth and Esther Sleepe, Sarah Ashton, to name by a few..." from The Fan Museum - Early Printed Fans (exhibition guide).

Detail of the front of the Botanical fan, or Botanick Fan as it was originally called

"Sarah Ashton advertised 'The Botanick (sic) Fan' on 1 August 1792 in 'The Public Advertiser'..." Each drawing on the front is "...numbered with a Roman numeral and briefly described...On the back of the mount there are two lists of the drawings on the front with botanical descriptions...An image of a flower and a description of a flower's principal parts are printed between the lists, followed by some lines of verse from 'The Botanick Garden', a poem written by Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802)..." The stanza quoted begins "...'Come ye soft Sylphs, who fan the Paphian Groves...Erasmus Darwin's stated aim in writing 'The Botanick Garden' was to 'inlist the Imagination under the banner of Science', 'to induce the ingenious to cultivate the knowledge of Botany', and to introduce them to the 'immortal works of the celebrated Swedish naturalist Linnaeus'...The fan would have appealed to the many female readers of 'The Botanic Garden'. Darwin supported female education. In 'A Plan for the Conduct of Female Education in Boarding Schools' (1794), written as advice to his two daughters, the Misses Parker, who had opened a school in Ashbourne in 1794, he recommended that the girls should learn botany, chemistry, mineralogy, and short hand, and should take plenty of outdoor exercise...Sarah Ashton was a prominent publisher of fan leaves in the late 18th century from her business in Little Britain, near St. Martin's Court, Covent Garden. She was admitted in 1770 into The Worshipful Company of Fan Makers and carried on the printing business after her husband’s death." -

Fo more about the fascination for botany during the Georgian, Regency and Victorian periods please see:

The back of the Botanick Fan

To read more about my visit to The Fan Museum please see: