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The Making of my New Flower Collection ‘Best in Show’

Above: At the studio looking at a medium size ‘Daphne’ photographic print which has just come back from the printers.

Flowers are such a great love of mine, I’ve had a lifelong obsession with them and I had been longing to do a collection dedicated to their pure beauty.

When I decided that my new print collection would be inspired by this great love, I went on a journey from the farmers market, to the kitchen table, to an old-fashioned flower show presented by the Dahlia Society in pursuit of their beauty. It felt serendipitous.

Here’s how it unfolded …

Left: I treasure this photograph of a stranger that I keep on my moodboard at the studio. Right: A wider photograph of ‘Dot’ in her judging bottle from the Dahlia Society Show. I considered shooting the flowers in their bottles with hand-written tags, but decided against it.

I had kept this photograph of an older lady on my moodboard for years. A friend took the photo and shared it with me to show me where she was that day, at a flower show in a country hall in Victoria.

I treasure this photograph. Everything about this image spoke to me and I knew if I was going to do a flower collection I was going to somehow incorporate the nostalgia of old fashioned flower shows and women like the lady in the photograph, women of bygone eras, into the collection.

Left: My mum and dad, with Edie and Alby at the Sunday market. Right: My daughter Edie and our market trolley, filled with glorious dahlias and fresh produce.

So when vibrant pink and orange coloured dahlias started appearing at my local farmers market I started to get very excited!

It’s a beautiful market set under Moreton Bay fig trees that brings the very best produce from the country to the city, and it’s a market I love to attend with my family, even my mum and dad come along.

Needless to say getting to the market early each Sunday morning became less about the fruit and vegetables and more about getting there to buy flowers.

Left: A details of the frilly blades of dahlias. Right: My make shift studio on the kitchen table at home, which I used to experiment and develop my flower photography style.

I would bring the bunches of dahlias home from the market and set up a little make shift studio on our kitchen table, while our children played in the background and lunch cooked on the stovetop.

Working along to Edie and Alby’s laughter and little voices in the background was so precious. Sometimes they would get a little too raucous and I would have to stop photographing, but it was always a beautiful way to work.

I tested out what I loved about the dahlias, and gave myself time to experiment and to be curious, to try different things when capturing the work.

Since becoming a mother I’ve felt this stage of my life has been more creative, probably because it’s also more raw.

Being a woman artist, motherhood has put me in direct emotional contact with the forces of nature. I can feel the cycle of life now, rather than previously just observing it.

Left: The bunches of dahlias I would buy from the Sunday market. The abundance of petals was mesmerising. Right: A test shot on the back of my camera.

I thought I was really onto a great thing with the market flowers, which were grown by New View Farmers, based near Stanthorpe / Tenterfield, on the border of Queensland and New South Wales, when I heard they had experienced a severe hail storm which had destroyed all their dahlias for the season.

So apart from this being completely heartbreaking for the growers (Holly, Bec and Justin, who I had now informally become friends with), I found myself without dahlias for my print collection.

Above: The interior of the Dahlia Society Show, with all the bottles filled with homegrown dahlias.

With peak dahlia season coming to a close in the coming weeks I started to worry I wasn’t going to be able to complete the collection this year.

Then, by coincidence I saw the Queensland Dahlia Society was bringing their annual show to town. I anxiously made contact with them to see if I could come along and photograph the dahlias. They agreed.

The vision of the lady on my moodboard came to me and I started to dream about how I could bring the nostalgic elements of the old fashion flower show to my new body of work.

Left: I just couldn’t get over the beauty. So many sensational natural forms. Right: Edie in her pram while visiting me capturing the flower collection.

On a Sunday morning in Autumn I attended the annual Dahlia Society Show, along with my children and husband Timothy O.

Walking into the flower show was like time travelling to another era. The 1970’s auditorium of the Botanic Gardens was a hive of activity.

Egg sandwiches cut in triangles had been made to sell, cakes and slices had been baked and endless cups of tea were being poured from teapots with knitted cosies.

Then there were the flowers…

Left: Some of the prize winning dahlias. Right: I thought this flowers colours were incredible, almost tie-dyed.

Above: Rows and rows of endless natural beauty.

Hundreds of stems of flowers had been grown by devoted hands in various country gardens and brought to town to be admired and judged.

Tables with rows of old green glass bottles, top heavy and bulging with the most magnificent and breathtaking natural floral forms in shades of brilliant colour filled the room.

Some flowers plump and perfectly round with an abundance of petals, others elegant and tall, with exaggerated frilly blades. Their unique forms and poise reminded me of a generation of women from a bygone eras.

It was there and then I decided each print would be named after such women.

Left: I love all the details that go with such old fashioned shows like the silky ribbons on the flowers. Right: Each flower lovingly cared for to reach this moment here at the show.

I was completely overcome by the beauty in the room. The flowers, the atmosphere, all of it.

I picked up my camera and got to work. I could feel tears welling up in my eyes from joy and happiness, but most of all feeling so grateful to have this opportunity to be photographing such breathtaking beauty.

I set up my natural light studio and started excitedly photographing flower by flower. Taking the time to observe each perfect bloom and its personality and how best it should be represented. It felt electric.

Left: I would carefully removed each bottle from its spot and take it to photograph it, then return it to its exact spot. Right: A stunning ball dahlia.

My most precious childhood memories with my grandmother are connected to flowers. She grew flowers by the front steps of her small and humble home and would keep her green watering can full of water to care for them.

After visits with her she would cut a handful of flowers for me and wrap the stems in a little damp tissue with alfoil to protect the flowers on the drive home. I will always remember my grandmothers hands wrapping the flowers.

I felt a similar atmosphere here at the show. So many busy, yet caring hands.

Left: This particular dahlia took my eye. It’s bulging beauty sitting so proud upon its narrow stem. Right: A riot of colour at every glance.

I think dahlias are the happiest of all the flowers and always bring an abundance of joy.

Timeless in their natural beauty, yet strikingly modern in their form, they set the most deeply nostalgic atmosphere.

Left: Test shots on the print tables at the studio. Right: Editing the prints for the collection upstairs at the studio.

After the show I got to work. I edited the collection down to ten prints. I selected the very best flowers which spoke to me and which I knew would make the most impressive photographic prints to live with at home.

I wanted colour. Uplifting and positive colour. An explosion of colour and beauty!

Left: ‘Mavis’ just being printed at my printers studio. Right: ‘Edith’ on my printers production tables.

I worked with my photographic printer and based myself at his studio while we printed test shots and test strips, checking for quality.

I must admit it was so thrilling working so close with him and the large scale printing machines. He has printed my work for 20 years and it was so lovely to chat about ‘old times’ as we worked away on the new collection together.

Left: At the studio holding a test print of ‘Daphne’. Right: Making sure the test prints are faultless and are perfectly colour balanced. P.S. I’ve just added my favourite ring to the shop, you can see a sneak peak of them stacked in this photo.

I want to introduce you to each of the ‘ladies’ in the ‘Best in Show’ collection, the ten different dahlia cultivars which make up the collection.

All of my ten still life portraits of dahlias are available in four sizes. Each photographic print is inspired by the emotional romanticism of bygone days.

Left: Me, at home in our living room with an extra large ‘Edith’. Right: ‘Edith’.

This is ‘Edith‘. I adore her boldness. She brings a different form to the collection with her gentle flat ray shaped petals. Her vibrant colour palette is strikingly strong. ‘Edith’ is a collerette dahlia.

At home I have ‘Edith’ in my extra large size 44 x 66″ with my signature framing on the lean in my living room. She sets such a welcoming, yet impactful tone.

Left: ‘Mavis’. Right: ‘Mavis’ at home in our dining room.

This is ‘Mavis’, who is actually named after my garden loving grandmother. When I saw ‘Mavis’, the flower, from across the room I knew she would be a spectacular print. Her variegated petals in pink ombre are so beautiful and sophisticated. She truly has a presence. ‘Mavis’ is a cactus dahlia.

I have ‘Mavis’ in my dining room as a free standing extra large 44 x 66″ print on the lean, again in my signature framing style. All of my prints are available either framed or unframed, it’s entirely up to you and your budget. This size creates an artful tone here at home.

Left: A medium size ‘Daphne’ on the sideboard at home. Right: ‘Daphne’.

‘Daphne’, possibly the most elegant of all the photographic prints in the collection. She has such poise and quite frankly perfect in her form. ‘Daphne’ is a ball dahlia.

At home I have a medium size, 20 x 30″ ‘Daphne’ leaning on our midcentury sideboard. She adds such dimension resting here, as this size is perfect for all sorts of nooks and brings life to dead spots around the home. Let’s face it, we all have dead spots.

Left: ‘Coral’. Right: ‘Coral’ in my large size in the living room.

‘Coral’ could be the most eye catching of the entire collection. Her extravagant petals are an explosion of colour.

She creates a statement in any room and wants to be seen. ‘Coral’ is an exhibition cactus dahlia.

‘Coral’ is hanging in our living room in my large size, 32 x 48″. This size is such a generous portion, which creates a memorable atmosphere and a talking point within your home.

Left: ‘Dot’. Right: ‘Dot’ in the entrance way of our home in my medium size.

‘Dot’, short for ‘Dorothy’, makes me smile the most. I think it’s because she looks a little eccentric and kooky in her style. She has splits in the tips of her florets and she looks fanatical. I love her classic red frilly petals too.  ‘Dot’ is a fimbriated dahlia.

I have ‘Dot’ in the entrance way to our home in my medium size, 20 x 30″. I know I will move her around the house, as this size is really versatile and works everywhere.

Left: A test print of ‘Lillian’ in the studio. Right: ‘Lillian’.

‘Lillian’ is an abundance of beauty. I love her and her spectacular eye catching petals. I could stare at ‘Lillian’ for hours and happily lose myself in her beauty.

Her pale pink collar which turns hot pink on the tips of her petals is just so radical and so utterly feminine. ‘Lillian’ is a trailblazer.

‘Lillian’ is a cactus dahlia. I’m holding a test print of ‘Lillian’.

Left: ‘Gladys’ on the print table at the studio, alongside ‘Edith’ and ‘Coral’. Right: ‘Gladys’.

‘Gladys’ is glorious in her size and is larger than life with her dinner plate proportions. She is brilliant with her large rounded petals and her soft peach tones.

‘Gladys’ is a form decorative dahlia.

Left: ‘Yvonne’. Right: A test print of ‘Yvonne’ at the studio.

‘Yvonne’ is divine with her golden warmth, you can’t help but gravitate towards her aura.  ‘Yvonne’ doesn’t conform to convention, her florets are twisted, curly and wild, much like her.

‘Yvonne’ is an informal decorative dahlia and I’m holding a test print of her.

Left: ‘Sylvia’ on the bedside at home. Right: ‘Sylvia’.

‘Sylvia’ is the most confident of the collection, it must be her French heritage :) Her perfect petal blades are faultless in their ethereal sorbet colours of soft pink blush and lemon. ‘Sylvia’ is a cactus dahlia.

‘Sylvia’ is on the lean in my small size, 11 x 14″, on my bedside table at home. Bedside tables are a really special place to add the beauty of framed art. It’s one of my favourite places to position small framed prints, as it immediately feels very sentimental being placed in the haven of the bedroom.

Left: ‘Audrey’ in front of our bookshelf at home. Right: ‘Audrey’.

‘Audrey’ is a classic beauty. Her mesmerising elegance is utterly timeless and her warm colour palette of ombre red and orange is exquisite. ‘Audrey’ is a waterlily dahlia.

I have ‘Audrey’ framed in my small size here at home, 11 x 14″. She is actually a piece which I ‘float’ around the home when I think a particular area needs a lift. The same approach to when you bring home a bunch of flowers.

I will place ‘Audrey’ on the wall, lean her on a side table, or even against our bookshelf to add some femininity to the our room. She moves around and I adore having a piece so versatile.

Left: ‘Audrey’ in the bedroom. Right: ‘Audrey’.

I hope you have enjoyed hearing about the making of my new print collection ‘Best in Show’.

This collection has been a journey of the heart and I’m utterly proud and so in love with each of the photographic pieces.

If you have any questions about sizes, or deciding upon the perfect prints for your home I would love to help you. Please get in touch with me here.

Remember to use your 10% welcome code at checkout when purchasing prints too.

Click here to receive the code.

And if you are in Brisbane be sure to visit the exhibition, it’s on now. All the exhibition details are here.


Kara x



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