Loved ones are expected to pay an astounding total of $2billion dollars on flowers this Valentines day – plus a further $1billion on cards, according to the National Retail Federation. Like it or loath it, this international day of romance has been a lucrative industry for centuries, with the very first Valentine's Day said to have taken place all the way back in 270 A.D during the pagan festival of Lupercalia. Today, many Selvedge readers often opt for homemade flowers instead of store-bought bouquets, and whether it's a paper pansy or a cotton coronation, it's a timeless, thoughtful gesture that's sure to outlive the buzz of February romance.
Avid Selvedge followers will already be familiar with Alabama Chanin's How To Make Cut Flowers project and Tiffanie Turner's How To Make A Pom-Pom Poppy project in the current issue of Selvedge – both of which make wonderful gift ideas for other halves. But while we love these contemporary handmade botanicals, the craft of flower making actually stems from way back in The Old Testament Book of Kings, when the Queen of Sheba asks Solomon which of her twelve lilies are real, and which ones are fake.
In the Middle Ages, nuns often decorated church statues in winter with flowers made from silk, and it wasn't until the 19th century when artificial flowers made their way into fashion adorning hats, clothing and hairstyles. This trend blossomed around the world after France hosted the highest calibre flower factories and artists such as T.J. Wenzel – the royal flower maker for queen Marie Antoinette.
After the Huguenots took the art of flower making to Berlin, the artificial flower market continued to grow around the world until the 1920s, and didn't rise again until after the second World War when European flower manufacturers started to see competition from Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, China and Thailand, where flowers were increasingly used for interior decorating. Out of this rivalry eventually came the corsage; a ritual accessory for prom-goers in the States and for formal events around the world.
Now, however, as we're seeing a rise in contemporary craft (explored by Amelia Thorpe in the current issue of Selvedge) the artificial flower is poised to make a come-back in the world of interior design and also, perhaps, in the ever lucrative world of romance.