Archive for March 2014

Iron in the Garden

March 28, 2014

I have a thing about ornamental metal work in the garden. I like it a lot, if it’s well designed and works with the space it’s in.

There are so many ways to use it – benches for a start. OK, so they probably aren’t as comfortable as wooden benches, but they can really smarten up the space. The Victorian style of this iron bench works well with the Ripley Garden.

ornamental ironwork, garden benches, Ripley Garden, Smithsonian Museum

A heavy, well-painted iron bench invites visitors at the Smithsonian’s Ripley Garden.

More commonly, you may come across beautiful garden gates and fences to add a special touch to the garden; to let passers-by look but not touch, or just to serve as a backdrop to a glorious planting area.

ornamental ironwork, garden gates, Charleston gardens

This circular design on a gate leading to a small garden in Charleston SC is inviting. I wanted to step inside!

ornamental ironwork, garden gates, Charleston gardens

Detail of an ornamental gate in Charleston. Love the brass insets in the shape of a star and flourishes.

garden gate, Corinna Posner, ornamental ironwork

A custom-designed iron gate in a northwest DC garden designed by Corinna Posner of European Garden Designs.

ornamental ironwork, fences, Magdalen College

A glorious iron fence with decorative panels at Magdalen College, Oxford sets off the herbaceous border in front of it with style.

ornamental ironwork, Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace’s gates are very grand and have lots of nice glittery gold bits.

Then there are opportunities to think outside of the box a little bit, either practically or to add a stand-alone sculpture to a space.

ornamental ironwork, Chanticleer Garden

A custom-made bike rack near the parking lot at Chanticleer – where form mimics function perfectly.

ornamental ironwork, Morris Arboretum

Another iron bike rack, this one at the Morris Arboretum outside Philadelphia.

ornamental metal sculpture, University of Georgia Botanical Garden

A freestanding metal sculpture (OK, probably not iron!) that would look right at home in someone’s garden. This, however, is found at the University of Georgia’s Botanical Garden (in Athens, Georgia).

What about the front garden, you say? Small space? How about an interesting railing or two?

ornamental ironwork, railings, Chanticleer Garden

Chanticleer’s magic includes a whimsical iron railing with supports that look like plant tendrils.

ornamental ironwork, railings, Georgetown gardens

Iron railings enclosing a front stoop in Georgetown are designed along a musical theme – a lyre.

For something really out of the box – if you have a sizeable garden – consider rusted ornamental orbs like these or commissioning something from Andrew Crawford’s ironworking shop in Atlanta. Or let me know if you’ve come across something in your travels you’d like to share, and I’ll add it to the list!


Ban Rarra in Action

March 15, 2014

One of the things that struck me while in Cuba was the passion for the arts that I saw in almost every setting. Dance, music, visual arts, every aspect you can imagine. The very first day, our SFWorkshops group was treated to an amazing “rehearsal” event by a dance group called Ban Rarra, in a beautiful but decaying theater within walking distance of our hotel.

Cuba, dance, Ban Rarra

Ban Rarra practices and performs in a large, crumbling theater space in downtown Havana.

The dancers are apparently all professionally trained graduates of the Escuela Nacional de Arte. Their energy and talent were unmistakable. We watched an hour-long “rehearsal” that was almost non-stop, and were allowed to photograph from any and all perspectives – on the main floor as well as from two levels of balconies (which required careful navigation). Because the light was very low and tripods not an option, I chose to shoot almost exclusively using camera motion and shutter priority set on 1/20th of a second (the ISO settings were insanely high). Hope you enjoy this look at an incredibly talented troupe, and if you’re every fortunate enough to visit Havana, try to get to one of their performances.

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