Sunday, November 24, 2013

Franklinia Seed Pod Pendant

Franklinia alatamaha. Photo by Mimi Favre
Franklinia alatamaha is an extinct tree species that was once native to Georgia. It was named after Benjamin Franklin by William Bartram, son of colonial era naturalist nurseryman John Bartram, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Bartrams were the first commercial plant nursery in the colonies and are responsible for sending thousands of native plant species from the colonies to Great Britain.

Their home was once part of a 1,000 acre tract of land along the Schuylkill River south of center city Philadelphia. The site was originally settled in 1648 however excavated archeological finds indicate that this land was also home to native Indians 3000 years ago. Born to a Quaker family, John Bartram spent his life learning about science and botany with boundless curiosity. Bartram’s Garden is open to visitors throughout the year.
Bartram's Garden Program: Twilight in the Garden- Fundraiser 2013. Bartram's Garden©
'Twilight in the Garden' is the annual fall fundraising benefit for Bartram’s Garden. This year, a friend on the event committee asked if I could create a pendant from a Franklinia seed pod that she had collected a few years back from the grounds at Bartram’s Garden. The seed pod is from a living, flowering franklinia alatamaha that been thriving at the garden.

Sometimes, jewelry projects find their way to me and this was a project I was eager to help with. Even though her one and only rare seed pod, would have to be destroyed in the process, she was excited that it would become a pendant to be offered as a Raffle item at the Twilight fundraiser.
Franklinia seed pod. 

Franklinia seed.

Franklinia seed pods. M Favre©.
The mature seed pod has a magnificent structure. Once round, it expands as it dries into  five sections that split, allowing the seed to release. The tip of the seed has a five pointed shape. Unable to mold the entire pod, I decided to cast it. That is, burn it out and fill the void with metal. But thinking ahead, that maybe we would want to make others in the future, I decided to cut the original casting in half. That way we could mold the halves and put it back together later. Also, there was a seed in the middle that had come loose from the outer shell. I gently pulled it through. That piece was also molded. 
Franklinia pod. Two halves. Mimi Favre©
Three pieces, once cast, were re-assembled (soldered together). The sterling silver casting was hand finished to retain all of the interesting textures and the center seed is still loose and free to move.
Sterling Franklinia seed pod. Mimi Favre©

Franklinia Seed Pod. Sterling silver ©Mimi Favre.

Much has been written about John Bartram and his legacy as naturalist, botanist and nurseryman. I recommend this recent book: The Brother Gardeners, Botany Empire And The Birth Of An Obsession,  by Andrea Wulf. Knopf 2010.