I just realized I do not have my 2011 show documented here. That was my first exhibit in the Philadelphia Flower Show and I was a last minute entrant. Someone had to drop out and I had given my name months before at the desk at the PHS library when I was dropping off book donations for the annual book sale. I guess it pays to be charitable because I got a call on New Year’s Day asking if I was still interested. Foolishly I said yes because, seriously, it takes a year to do one of these exhibits correctly. I didn’t know how to build the box, grow the plant, create lighting, or make enough miniatures to populate a scene. But our chair that year, Chris Donahower, was kind enough to show me her previous entries and I was able to learn from those what a good display should look like. It took me two more years. I think, to get it right.
What I did have that first year was a story and that is the important place to start. I also decided on a style, Steampunk, which matched my story perfectly. If you don’t know what Steampunk is, check out the Pinterest page my students and I made showing Steampunk styles. My story was showing Jules Verne’s office and the garden outside it. Jules Verne is a major source of Steampunk culture inspiration.
The office was where Verne wrote and it is very formal and scientific, in keeping with the content of his books. The garden, however, was a fantasy world with a time machine (to honor H.G. Wells, that other Steampunk influence, and the 1960 film with that hunky actor, Rod Taylor, who is in my 2014 garden based on The Birds), an oversized “Trip to the Moon” scenario (from the Georges Méliès 1902 film based on a Jules Verne book and one by H.G Wells), tortoises carrying pots, and weird planters. I was pleased that I got third place that year.
I spent too much time on the inside of my office display which could barely bee seen from the outside. But I learned a lot about setting up interiors and I got to use miniatures I had collected at least 25 years earlier. Here is Jules Verne’s office:
The garden has quite a few plants and I learned then how to train them up a wall for a nice effect. It wasn’t a bad garden but I assume the judges did not like the off-scale objects. Mostly, my lighting was too low and it was hard to see (I was trying for a night scene).
I certainly learned a lot that first year and applied the lessons on lighting, scale, and plantings to my next two projects. The display was a crowd pleaser because I think people like the mix of reality and fantasy but appealing to the judges requires more accuracy and craftsmanship.