Queen Anne’s Lace is one of my favorite wild flowers, and I often use it in my botanical pottery pieces. In Vermont, where the growing season is short, the Queen Anne’s Lace is starting to go to seed. Though there has been plenty of time to work with this plant, my summer was quite full running Clay Play Camp and doing a myriad of other things, so I am feeling squeezed to make the Queen Anne’s pieces that I had hoped to make before their season ends.
Just as its name suggests, this plant is both delicate and regal. Like a queen, it has a certain strength. It doesn’t blow over in the wind, or bend with heavy rains, and its white flowers stay proud and white before curling up to a strong boney frame that lasts through the winter months, poking out of the snow so you can remember the warmer days behind you and those yet to come. In the summer it grows in fields and on roadsides, volunteering itself with ease. Yet, when you go to pick it, it doesn’t break free from where it has rooted itself very easily. I must remember to collect it with clippers in tow and a bucket of water to place the picked flowers in. For if the Queen Anne’s Lace is without water, it quickly shrivels up into a wilted mop, and its white petals become dust.
In Victorian times, flowers and plants were assigned meanings, and remembering this symbolism in modern day is still popular. I enjoy thinking about these meanings when I work with a particular plant. In the secret language of flowers, Queen Anne’s Lace is a symbol of femininity and represents perseverance in love. It is a prolific plant which spreads its seeds in the wind and is even considered an invasive plant in some states. Originally a native plant of Europe, Queen Anne’s Lace was popular in the during the reign of Queen Anne. It is also known as Wild Carrot because it is related to the carrot, but it is actually in the parsley family!
Queen Anne’s Lace has medicinal uses. The seeds have been used to help clear out urinary stones, and the roots which are like carrots, have been used as antacids. A poultice of roots can be used to relieve itchy skin.
Invasive or not, I love the wispy appearance of this plant despite its true tenacity.
There are so many aspects to running a ceramics and pottery business, and taking photos of my work is one of them. I have tried many techniques over the past few years, and I continue to make tweaks to my systems for ease and better quality. My photographs are by no means professional quality, and I still have a lot to learn, but I can do it myself.
The best part that I notice over and over, is that when I do a photo shoot of my work, I find myself falling in love with each piece. Looking at each item closely, trying to show how it functions and convey what makes that piece special is kind of magical. It makes me excited to get back to clay and make some more. Since I specialize in one-of-a kind work, and I sell a lot of pieces on line, I spend a lot of time photographing and editing photos. Lately I have been wondering if I should start making more multiples, but that is another story. So for now, I photo and edit constantly.
Back story and my current system for taking photos:
Once upon a time, I went to a workshop on how to take photos of your artwork. It was a fascinating class, and I came away from it equipped with knowledge and ideas. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the budget to support all of the professional photography equipment that I learned about. My photographer cousin gave me directions on how to create the budget version lighting system, and I tried. My husband, the engineer, got really excited about it too, and he tried to make me a light box and worked on various lighting solutions. All of our attempts added up to crappy photos, so I went back to what I had been doing. Below I address three main points: light and background set up, camera, photo editing.
Instead of a light box and professional lighting, I photograph by the natural light of a window. I used poster board as my background for several years, but have recently upgraded to a photo paper background. I have also moved my station to a permanent set up on a table instead of getting up and down off of the floor and constantly rolling up my paper each time between photo shoots. (The pets in the house always think that the photo paper is the best place in the house to walk, of course!)
I learned in the photo workshop that I should use a “real camera”. Again I tried, but I like things that are REALLY simple. When I take photos using a “real” camera, I also have to use a desktop computer to load the photos and edit them. Unfortunately sitting at a desktop to load, organize and edit photos does not agree with my personality type. We have to be true to ourselves, right? So I continue to use my iPhone to take photos, and I have fully come to peace with that. Fortunately the camera on the phone keeps getting better and better.
For editing photos, I kept hearing about a popular software for the desk top computer. I tried it, but it felt too complicated and laborious for me with the multitude of photos that I have to edit. I just can’t sit in front of a computer for that long! So I went back to my happy way on the iPad. I use a photo transfer app to shift the photos from my iPhone to my iPad, and I have created albums in my iPad such as “to edit” and “ready to list” for my work in progress. It is so easy to do a transfer, as all I need is wifi- and no cords. To do the editing, I use the app called Snap Seed. I like the portability of the iPad for editing, and I am just so much faster and adept at using the touch screen.
A few simple tips:
Pick a bright day that is not too sunny. Sun reflects off the pottery glaze and makes big glare areas.
Set up an area with a background that allows you to show off your work. I have stuck with white, though I have tried a few other backgrounds. Why? My work has a lot of color and variation, and the white background shows off the pieces the best, in my humble opinion. I am glad that I invested in photo paper because it is much wider and longer, so I don’t have to worry about the edges of the paper as I did with poster board. However, I went for years using inexpensive poster board, so that is a good inexpensive option if your pieces are not too large.
Take a lot of photos. Take them from every angle, and turn the piece around. Prop it if you need to catch the light in different ways. Find things to put around your piece to show how it fits into the everyday world. Take time to fall in love with your creation so that others can fall in love with it too.
Be honest. Don’t disguise defects. Don’t over edit. Allow your piece to speak for itself. With that said, one of the hardest and most challenging things for me is to make the photo of the piece look half as beautiful as the piece itself. My work almost always looks better in person, but then pottery is so tactile and three dimensional, and it is very difficult to represent in a 2-D format.