Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Naturalist Collection

I've been obsessed with wallpaper ever since I moved into my grandmothers house at the age of 10. Her wallpaper was from the 60's and had yellowed and deteriorated from years of smoking in doors and zero up-keep, but I still thought it was beautiful. We don't have wallpaper in our current home because we rent and I feel like plastering a rental with wallpaper is the equivalent of leaving original artworks on the wall when you move out. How could I bring myself to do that? Mind you I love renting and I'm not eager to be a homeowner anytime soon, so there will be no wallpaper for me in the near future, but I still lust and fawn over it.

My friend Jen just sent me a link to Grow House Grow, who design and hand silkscreen all of their wallpaper in Brooklyn, NY. They recently released their Naturalist Collection and it's so beautiful that I'm
almost tempted to buy some and save it for when we do buy a home!

The Naturalist Collections pays homage to 3 inspiring women in the world of nature and science.

First, my personal favorite, Ms. Ward.

Mary Ward was an Irish scientist born in 1827 to a renowned scientific family, but since Universities didn't accept woman during that time, she was forced to learn and study on her own with the help of family and friends.

She was an avid insect collector and would study and draw them by looking at them through a magnifying glass. When her father finally bought her a microscope, she was able to transform her insect obsession into full-blown, self-taught microscopy. She had the honor of being one of just three female recipients of the Royal Astronomical Society's newsletter (one of the other two women was Queen Victoria!) and she self-published 250 copies of her first book "Sketches with the Microscope", which she thought no one would buy because she was a woman. To her dismay the 250 copies she printed sold out in weeks, and the book was republished as "A World of Wonders Revealed by the Microscope" and reprinted eight times between 1858 and 1880. It eventually became a bestseller.

Tragically, Mary is also well known as the victim of the world's first motor vehicle accident. She was killed in 1869 when she fell under the wheels of an experimental steam car built by her cousins.

I think Grow House Grow's homage to Mary is perfect, with it's pattern of late-Georgian silhouettes and over-sized insects, it really is an entomology enthusiast's dream!

The other 2 brilliant women immortalized in the Naturalists Collection are Mary Treat (1830 – 1923) and Jeanne Villepreux-Power (1794-1871).

Mary Treat was an entomologist, an ornithologist and a botanist, focusing mainly on carnivorous plants. She published her first scientific article in 1869 at the age of 39, and Charles Darwin has written about her experiments saying that they were "by far the best, as far as known to me, which have ever been made." Mary Treat is responsible for discovering a new species of an orange aphid, an Ichneumonid fly, two spiders and an ant. She also collaborated with Darwin in research on carnivorous plants and Darwin acknowledged her contribution in his book, "Insectivorous Plants", published in 1875.

Ms. Treat by Grow House Grow

Last but not least, Jeanne Villepreux-Power was a pioneering female French marine biologist who in 1832 was the first person to create an aquarium for experimenting with aquatic organisms. She is known as the "mother" of aquariophily and her writings can been found in leading Natural History libraries. Jeanne also was the first woman member of the Catania Accademia, and a correspondent member of the London Zoological Society as well as sixteen other learned societies. In 1997 her name, "Villepreux-Power," was given to a crater on Venus discovered by the Magellan probe.

Mme. Jeanne by Grow House Grow

While the Naturalists Collection is by far my favorite endeavor from Grow House Grow, I have to give an honorable mention to their Spring 2009 Parlour Room Collection.

I won't go into detail about the 3 amazing people they chose as the inspiration for this collection (Aleister Crowley, Captain Edward John Smith, and Ellen Liddy Watson) because that would have to be an entirely separate post on it's own, but as you can see above, both the designs and the subjects are brilliant.

No comments: