Flower motifs often spring up across Soane Britain’s collections and the inspiration for these lies, rather surprisingly, in Lulu’s studies of Egyptology. A love of simplified representations of nature – such those used in The Petal Wall Light or The Daisy Mirror – grew out of hours spent meticulously copying hieroglyphs. ‘I was captivated by the beauty of the symbols,’ she says, ‘particularly those representing the animals, birds and plants that I so adore.’
Of course hieroglyphs are more than pictorial art, providing an important, decipherable record of the everyday lives of Ancient Egyptians. But the charming symbols of the Egyptians’ natural and manmade world captivated Lulu. Visual accounts of agriculture, crafts and all sorts of professions delighted her, especially the small details indicating items such as furniture, baskets and rope.
The Ancient Egyptians had a vital connection with nature and hieroglyphs record many palms, papyrus and lotus. There were also reeds, rushes, ears of corn, bundles of flax and fruits and vegetables, though no obvious hieroglyphs for flower types other than the ubiquitous lotus (worshiped by the Egyptians as a symbol of creation). Only one possible flower – a petal shaped cross – can be found, probably because hieroglyphs focused on the more practical uses of flowers in agriculture.
Egyptian art and architecture also reveal the importance placed on nature, from the temple pillars which evolved into ‘stone plants’ with flower capitals such as those at The Temple of Edfu, to friezes depicting a life in which trees, plants and flowers played a significant role . The Egyptians were keen gardeners and the shady sanctuary of a walled garden could be found in both homes and temples. Trees and ponds were formally set out with planting ranging from vegetables, herbs and vines to cutting flowers. Sculpture and paintings depict floral arrangements and records suggest varieties included cornflowers, poppies, chrysanthemum, daisies and even roses.
Exploring these ancient representations of flowers, we find the classic flower shape that Soane uses today – four thousand years on – in The Dahlia Table. Man’s desire to connect with nature and to replicate its many forms in the decoration of our surroundings, transcends time. Watching our 21st century rattan craftsmen working by hand, steam-bending cane into petal shapes for The Dahlia Table, or weaving rattan strands to create The Daisy Hanging Light, reminds us of this. “I always jump at the opportunity to work with plant-derived materials such as rattan, rush and willow because of their depth and atmosphere” says Lulu.
Top image gallery: The Interior of The Temple at Esna, Upper Egypt by David Roberts; Image of mirror-mounted Petal Wall Lights by Soane Britain; Image of Ancient Egyptian relief art showing a woman with flower offerings; The Double Petal Wall Light on Palampore Blossom Wallpaper.