The Secret Garden Series
I have spent the last few months meticulously planning each concept for the garden. Creating mood boards, drawing in my sketch book, thinking of colours and ideas, watching fashion shows, movies, looking at fairytale illustrations and being inspired by master story tellers like Tim Walker and Eugenio Recuenco. I have every concept already planned right until the series comes to an end. Sometimes a new concept will slip in and I will begin to develop how it will fit into the series. In my mind every concept sort of follows a pattern almost like a story. It helps me to understand where I want to take the garden series. The 'Ice Queen' used her sadness to put the garden into a deep freeze, The 'Queen Awakes' restores the garden with her light and wisdom after the long frost. 'The Bee Keeper' is a tricky queen who only cares for her precious bee's. Her distant relative is 'Madame Papillon' who tells her butterflies little secrets and the 'Wisteria Princess' lives in her own dream world of lush purple. I love the colour purple.
I love the way it photographs and I have been photographing purples since the very beginning. In my mind I knew the garden's only warrior needed to live in a purple world.
The colour purple: Purple combines the calm stability of blue and the fierce energy of red. The color purple is often associated with royalty, nobility, luxury, power, and ambition. Purple also represents meanings of wealth, extravagance, creativity, wisdom, dignity, grandeur, devotion, peace, pride, mystery, independence, and magic. (www.bourncreative.com)
Secret Garden has always been about showing the strength of the female characters so it was no wonder I kept thinking about a warrior character. A character who would protect the garden with her strength but also guide the others with her kindness and heart.
In real life this character means so much to me because I have decided to dedicate her to someone who is very close to my heart. It has taken me sometime to open up on my own blog and as a photographer in general. (as funny as it sounds) however I have finally started to let a side of myself show these days and it truly feels wonderful.
The Garden Warrior is dedicated to my mother in-law who has been suffering with a terminal illness for four years now. I have never seen someone with so much strength in my life. Life continues to deal her some very unlucky hands but she pushes through all of it. It is like she has the strength of a thousand men and it is quite inspiring to see. Her pain is sometimes unbearable and yet she finds the heart to laugh. The warrior is for her because she is a warrior in my eyes.
With that, I dedicate the warrior to any woman who has had to put her armour on. Whether it was to protect her children, her passion or whether it was to find her strength through the darkness.
Some very interesting things have been happening with the series in a few short months. I have been catapulted onto this unknown land and to say I have been feeling many different emotions is an understatement but when I'm standing in front of the garden set in my attic I am grounded again.
It all makes sense to me. I understand why I need to do it and the reasons I set out to produce the series in the first place. There have always been three goals: show others that they only need their passion and open mindedness to create whatever their heart desired. Do something to make someone else's life better. I am still in the early stages of the charity work for the series but I really feel more now then ever that I can do something more. Lastly, Do something that makes me happy and conquer my fears.
I am at times amazed how far of a reach the series has had especially as of late. I am also amazed how far I have come with the series. The Warrior is the sixth installment in the series and the first shot is the 17th image. It is crazy to think that I almost didn't continue the series after the Ice Queen.
The Garden Warrior will see the last of this much purple in the series as it is time to move into a new spectrum of colours. I'm sure hints of purple will creep in as somehow they always do but I do believe it is time to explore and to delve deeper into this little garden world.
Now onto how I conceived the Garden Warrior. She was one of the first concepts I thought of and for a while she was faceless. I find many times when I think up a concept I know exactly who should become the character. With the warrior I knew I needed someone with strength and other worldly beauty. In came Nicole and I knew it had to be her. Nicole's long flowing hair and magical features have always reminded me of a fairy. I could see her as the warrior when I closed my eyes and imagined the scene.
A massive inspiration for me was the Alexander McQueen Autumn 2011 show ( I know, I know I can't help myself when it comes to McQueen) as well as the McQueen Autumn 2006 line. The models in the 2011 show were drifting down the runway with bold shoulders and strong eyes yet the clothing flowed effortlessly in waves of magic. That was how I saw my warrior.
I used two purple ruffled pieces that I sewed a year ago. The first piece is a shorter dress inspired by under water anemones and the garden. It took days to sew on every ruffle that I made by hand. The collar is adorned with little lavender pieces that I sewed onto the collar by hand as well. The second piece is a long ruffled skirt. Again every ruffle is hand made and sewed onto the skirt and this one took me even longer then the first. Sometimes when I sew I get into this zombie-like mode. I know I have to keep going and going until everything is complete.
I had this sense that she was almost like this female wizard. I was reminded a lot of Gandalf for some reason. She is a wise and strong sorceress who protects her land. I knew she had to have a scepter with billowing smoke. Her power had to be shown in the images and her scepter would be the tool that she would use to release that power.
I originally planned to use one large carousel horse I had invested in a few years back as the top of the scepter. The horse represented strength and beauty to me which made sense for the character. However no matter how hard I looked around my house I could not find the horse anywhere. On the day that I was creating the scepter I ferociously looked in every craft box in my house but had no such luck. As I stood in the center of my room frazzled I happened to glance at a carousel Christmas ornament. It hung on my shelf tinkering back and fourth as it swayed. I purchased it at a thrift shop this passed Christmas. It was in a random bag of other trinkets. I didn't know how or why I would need it but boy am I glad I purchased it that day.
When I picked up the ornament there was a small hole at the bottom. I inserted the scepter stick into the hole and voi-la it was perfect. It fit like it was always meant to be. So I spray painted the scepter and the carousel and little flowers. I glued everything together and added the little flowers and lavender onto the scepter.
The backdrop was where things became interesting. I had originally wanted to create a circle using the wisteria's as the outer edge. So I began with spray painting the set back to purple then adding the wisteria to the sides. Something just clicked and I realized that I had enough wisteria (if not more) to decorate the entire backdrop. It would really start to become as three dimensional as I always hoped it would. Little purple sprayed flowers would peek through the wisteria vines.
I sat the dresses and the scepter on a stool in front of the new backdrop and starred in awe. I know I should be used to it by now but I just can't believe what my hands create sometimes. It's almost like the creative gods just come into them and do away as they please and I have no control. It's a wonderful feeling and I think everyone should get to feel it. The weather is also getting much warmer these days and it was the first time in awhile that I opened the windows of the attic and embraced the fresh air floating in. The smell of spring is always welcoming.
The interesting thing about the attic is it really changes with the weather. It's almost like being outside.
Every night before a new Secret Garden shoot my stomach swirls around in excitement. I had a feeling that this would sort of be the last chapter of the first little part of Secret Garden. The last time purple would be incorporated so heavily into the series and I could feel it was going to be that little step before the turn of the series. I know it all sounds bizarre but in my mind the series is about to go bigger and get a bit more challenging and intense.
On the afternoon of the shoot Nicole arrived with her big smile and positive energy. Having Nicole on set is wonderful she is so charismatic and ready for anything. It's really great to work with people like this on the series just because sometimes I feel as though I need to ask some strange things out of my models. When they are 100% ready to delve into this little imaginary garden world it also makes me so much more confident in what I have created.
Nicole took over the make-up job as well for this one and my wonderful mother (yup my mum) did they crazy rolled and teased hair for the shoot. It kind of felt like the old days. My mom was a hair dresser in her 20's so she's really good at those 80's teased styles (haha). It's not the first time I asked her for her help with a shoot and it probably won't be the last.
It was a quieter shoot then normal. More like 'The Queen Awakes'. Where it was just me and the model laughing and having fun in the little garden attic. My dad has become a frequent visitor to the set and his enthusiasm when he see's the character submerged into this little world always makes me chuckle.
Nicole and I laughed and chatted away throughout the entire shoot. The vibe was just wonderful. The weather was a lot nicer outside which means that the attic wasn't freezing cold. It's always nice to work in comfortable temperatures.
At first I wanted Nicole to look as though she was having her portrait painted. So she is bold and strong in the first image. As the warrior progresses you see her emerging and awakening from the flowers. Her eyes open and then at last her magic scepter begins to spew lavender and her powers to protect the garden come into play.
The very last image of Nicole holding her power strong is exactly how I imagined it in my head. She has the posture of a strong warrior queen, her face shows her loyalty and her opposite hand is kind and welcoming. She encompasses everything that a garden warrior should and would have.
My husband mentioned to my mother in law that I was dedicating one of my concepts to her. He told me she mentioned that she was honored but more so I am honored to have someone so wonderful in my life. I can't wait to show her what her strength represents to me.
My husband, father and mother in law on the day of my wedding :) (Photo by George Dolanjski) Last Image