Artificial Flowers

15 Oct

Let me preface this by saying that I always prefer fresh flowers to artificial. Always.

But I’ve been thinking about artificial flowers a bit more kindly today.

It all started this morning when I was tidying the kitchen while listening to Woman’s Hour. Jenni Murray did a feature about artificial flowers, whether they’re as good as the real thing, etc., and about recent trends in really gorgeous silk flowers which are making them a bit more popular these days.

So it started me thinking about how this isn’t a recent trend at all.

I used to live in Providence, Rhode Island, once home to Cal-Art, an artificial flower company. Cal-Art was founded as The California Artificial Flower Company in the early ’20s by Michael D’Agnillo, an Italian immigrant. It was in Rhode Island, so I’m not sure why he named it after California, but perhaps that had a bit of cachet at the time. Originally, D’Agnillo created paper and fabric flowers for use in shop window displays but, as they became more and more popular, he started selling his flowers to retail customers. By the ’30s, his company had grown so much that in 1939 he had the gorgeous art deco Cal-Art building constructed on Reservoir Avenue:

During its heyday in the ’40s, Cal-Art had extensive landscaped gardens, including a brook and a duck pond. Plants and flowers were imported from all over the world to be grown in Cal-Art’s gardens and to be used as living models for the paper and silk flowers D’Agnillo’s designers produced.   

In the ‘5os, Cal-Art began producing plastic flowers and it was all downhill from there.

I’m not sure if the company is still in existence but, luckily, the building is – although I believe it now houses a host of medical and legal offices. A far cry from the grand flower exhibition rooms that were once there.

And then, to top things off, just this afternoon I saw today’s post on the Café Cartolina blog about making paper flowers! I love coincidences like that!

You can find the original paper flower tutorials for six different flowers, including these two stylish lovelies, on Knuckle Salad:



One Response to “Artificial Flowers”

  1. The Buzz - Diane James Home October 15, 2010 at 8:39 pm #

    I love the fact that Calart’s gardens served as inspiration for the artificial ones they produced. Great story!

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