Petal power

Petal power

Two things got me thinking about today’s topic…

The first was a visit to our Geelong Gallery. In addition to showing the acclaimed Archibald Prize finalists, the gallery had a fascinating exhibition of gorgeous work created by the Australian contemporary artist Elizabeth Gower. Viewed from a distance her art looks like very elaborate computer-generated patterns, but up close you can see that they are actually impossibly intricate collages created from bits and pieces from everyday life – teabag tags, labels, fruit stickers, and words cut from junk-mail catalogues. All the things that we have scattered about our home, this insightful artist had captured, treasured, and turned into something special.

Elizabeth Gower, 'Savings 11' (detail), 2010, paper cuttings on canvas 45 x 45 cm, Courtesy the artist, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne and Milani Gallery, Brisbane.

Elizabeth Gower, 'Savings 11' (detail), 2010, paper cuttings on canvas
45 x 45 cm, Courtesy the artist, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne and Milani Gallery, Brisbane.

The second thing to inspire me was when one of the lovely mums who attends our Meet Move & Make playgroup sessions arrived with a plastic tub brim full of rose petals. These soft, colourful and fragrant petals were woven into our crafting for two weeks. Amazingly they survived fresh in the fridge in the meantime!  

Both of these events reminded me of a simple truth: creativity can come from the things we have at hand, things that we may well overlook.

Too often, as adults, we overlook creative opportunities. Children don’t.

When those freshly picked rose petals arrived at playgroup I wasted time pondering how to best use them. I wondered which glue would be best to attach them, and how they might be preserved. The playgroup children on the other hand wasted no time wondering - they dived straight in and got busy creating. They happily rummaged through the tub of petals, they chose colours and textures they liked, and then used simple glue sticks to add petals to their drawings and pastings. Brilliant!


At this time of year Victorian gardens are full of bright petals. I have fond childhood memories of afternoons spent plucking petals from my own garden – to arrange into fairy rings or distill into murky brown “perfume”. I wore crowns of ivy, and poked tiny twig “arms” through fuchsia flowers to transform them into ballerinas. Mum gave us free access to plants such as old roses, geraniums, calendulas, daisies and hydrangeas; all hardy and safe blooms. If you steer your own young ones to plants such as these, and show them which ones they’re allowed to pick and play with, they’ll lots of surprising ways to be creative.


A lovely idea for creating with petals is to set out a piece of clear sticky vinyl onto the ground or a tabletop, the sort of vinyl you use to cover school books. Fix it flat with stones or tape, sticky side up, and let the kids use it as a base for arranging petals. Once filled, cover it with a second piece of clear sticky vinyl. Trim the edges and hang it somewhere to catch the sun and remind you of the simple beauty we can find around us - if we can just take the time to look through the eyes of a child.

Simple Science: Volcanos

Simple Science: Volcanos