When Fashion and Nature Collide – November 2019: Camouflage

In which plants barely get a mention – but there are bugs, spiders and snakes!

I will start with the usual reminder of who we are, for new visitors.

The team consists of Dominique Nancy of 3C Style in Canada, Lisa Lawrence of Lismore Paper in the USA, and myself in the UK. We work closely each month to bring you three intertwined posts with a common theme. We are all three very creative people who met via our WP blogs. We have a shared ethos and a close friendship. Our motto – ‘An ocean apart but we share the same heart’ describes us perfectly. The five hour time difference means I spend my morning commute catching up with their conversations during the night, and waiting for them to wake up so I can join in!

Make sure you visit Dominique and Lisa via the links above, to see the whole of the post.

Well I did at least post in between WFNC posts this time!

Camouflage is this month’s theme, which you might think odd when style should be about standing out from the crowd. There are numerous plants that camouflage themselves as protection against grazing animals, but the real inspiration this month was insects and spiders that I have photographed over the years. Even as far back as 1999 when I visited South Africa. However most that Dominique chose for her outfit inspiration were taken in the wilds of deepest darkest Lancashire. Specifically in my garden!

Lisa has produced some stunning art and photos this month. Her Birch and Maple photos fitted with the outfits beautifully. I love her Birch art too. I love the bright stems of silver birches in winter. The fresh yellow of their autumn leaves is gorgeous and I like them in late winter too when the twigs take on a red tinge as the new buds swell.

Personally I think the outfits are inspired matches and Dominique has excelled here. The spider and moth/birch outfits are such a beautiful match for the photos that inspired them. Lisa’s art this month beautifully takes this colour palette and works wonders.

Garden spider collage by Dominique

European Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus)

This is a common spider here in the UK. It is very variable and is always beautifully marked. Mostly they tend to be black/grey/brown/white but this specimen living in my greenhouse had the most beautiful autumnal shades on its abdomen. It was also a very co-operative subject as it was quite accustomed to my presence. They build big and decorative webs and hang in the centre of them and are especially visible in autumn. Each pane of our living room bay window has had a web and spider since August – on the outside I hasten to add (otherwise the big house spider who lives under our TV would have been VERY grumpy…)

Collage and styling by Dominique, Art and Maple photo by Lisa, Incy-Wincy Spider by Darren. See 3c Style for fashion photo credits.

These spiders are harmless to humans and a big specimen has an abdomen around the size of a thumbnail – though I once found one in our old garden that had an abdomen the size of a large grape.

Arachnophobe or not – I hope you can agree that this is a really beautiful spider.

Collage and styling by Dominique, Birch and Peppered birch by Lisa, Moth by me. See 3C Style for fashion photo credits.

Peppered Moth (Biston betularia)

I was very pleased to see this on the windowsill at the front of our house. It stood out markedly there but Dominique has done a great job of illustrating its camouflage by placing it on a birch-bark background in her collages. This species is a special one to any biologist as its story beautifully illustrates evolution. The predominant colour form always used to be this light coloured version, but when tree bark was blackened by air pollution from industry in the 19th century the less common dark form had an advantage as it was less visible to predators and eventually became the dominant form. A situation which has reversed since the air became cleaner as less coal is being used. You can read more here.

Peppered moth against Birch bark; collage and birch photo by Dominique, moth photo by me.
Collage and styling by Dominique, bug photos by Darren. See 3C Style for fashion photo credits.

Stink bug and Hawkmoth

The Hawkmoth here was photographed by me, in Crete in 2010. It seems to be the ‘Striped’ or ‘Silver Striped’ Hawkmoth. This holiday was memorable for several reasons. Not least because I got ‘stuck’ there by an Icelandic volcanic eruption stopping all European flights for several days. It also marks the last time I was completely without my stress-related tinnitus! It came back six months later and is still with me.

The stink bug is better known in the UK as the common green Shield Bug and is only relatively recently found this far North in England. Though regarded by some as a pest in gardens I have never known one do any damage and they overwinter in my greenhouse where I happily leave them alone.

Extra bugs!

Collage by Dominique, bug photos by Darren.

The three critters in the collage that have not yet been mentioned are all crickets or grasshoppers.

You can probably make out the green one at bottom left because it is on dry grass – but when perched vertically on a green grass stalk it would be invisible. This is Acrida ungarica – the Cone-headed grasshopper or Mediterranean Slant-headed grasshopper. It was photographed in Crete in 2010

The top central and bottom central ones were both photographed in South Africa’s Knersvlakte in 1999. The top one is beautifully camouflaged against the red sand and the bottom one against the quartz pebbles that are characteristic of this habitat (and which support a unique array of succulent plants too).

Here is a bigger version of the latter in case you are struggling to see the bug (Stone Grasshopper) – which is dead centre in the photo and pretending to be a piece of quartz:



And one of its well-hidden neighbours….

New Fashioned by Nature products.

I hope to cover these in more detail in a separate post – perhaps with some work-in-progress pictures for those based on my drawings. The three of us had a great time working together on these and hope these collages (compiled by Dominique) give a taste!

WFNC is taking a break – see you in the New Year! Everyone have a lovely Christmas!

Shop links:

My own prints

Fashioned by Nature Threadless Store

NEW: A series of Aprons is now available via our Cafe Press Store

42 Comments

  1. The big house spider who lives under your TV deserves its own post on your blog. Lol Such a fun November edition. Your photos are sooo inspiring, Darren. It was easy to come up with outfit ideas. Glad you talked about the link between the moth and air pollution from industry. Fantastic example of how animals can act as indicators of environmental change. Great work!

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Thank you Dominique, you are very kind!
    I will try to take photos of TV spider again but last time I tried it grabbed the camera and beat me round the head with it ๐Ÿ˜‰
    I was happy to get the chance to talk about the moth story as it is one that fascinated me when studying biology as a teenager.
    x

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Well Darren, Iโ€™ll be honest and say Iโ€™m not a huge fan of spiders but somehow youโ€™ve managed to make the arachnid world look so visually stunning. As always Dominique blends into nature beautifully and Lisaโ€™s creations are picture perfect. You three are amazing!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Thank you so much Miriam. I think you folks in Aus are quite justified in being wary of spiders! Probably a good thing I don’t live there – I would be so fascinated by your spiders and snakes that you could measure my life expectancy in minutes…

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Haha, yes indeed! I had a huge back huntsmen scurry across the ceiling near my bed last night and I nearly had a pink fit! Told the hub I wasnโ€™t going to bed till he relocated him! ๐Ÿ˜ง

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I am always excited to see your photographs because there is magic in them. This is such a fantastic post! One of my favorites. Great work!! I particularly loved the spider, what a beauty. I love to hear the stories about your house spider. Im waiting for him to crawl into your gym bag and take a field trip. Of course he would have to come home with you. Do is right, he deserves his own post ๐Ÿ˜„ Love to you my friend!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. In the US Hawk moths or Hummgbird moths are also imagined to be fairies. Oddly, many people kill their caterpillars and laud the moths! The hungry caterpillars are horn worms or tomato worms and absolutely disliked…there must be a lesson in that somewhere. How part of something is abhorred and the other part of it is adored. (or at least really liked!) I love watching them around evening primroses or in the violets that carpet the yard in the spring.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. I just googled tomato worms and I think the caterpillars are beautiful too but I maybe would be less keen of I grew tomatos!
    Hawkmoths do occur in the UK but are certainly not common, at least not this far north. I would love to see them here.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. I am a big fan of spiders and small creatures but I have not seen a peppered moth till now. It is beautiful and blends well with the silver birch – another favourite. You were lucky to spend extra days in Crete during the infamous ash cloud. I was stuck at Gatwick! I did not get to Madeira for the flower festival.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Such lovely insects, Darren. Not sure about the shield beetle though. They do their worst to my tomatoes in summer. ๐Ÿ™‚ Those hawkmoths are like the luxury jet liner of the insect world. The little garden spider is just beautiful with its mosaiced back. Dominique seems to have gone missing in the photos. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Have a great break and I hope you see lots of new plants and animals to photograph and draw.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I’m very sorry but I will stand firm – there’s no such thing as a beautiful spider!! ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ˜‚ I do respect their roles in nature and in gardens though, but it’s best we see as little as possible from each other. ๐Ÿ˜‰
    The moths however those are beautiful even to me! Especially the peppered one! (I’ve learned about them at school and always was fascinated by evolution since then. )
    And what a clever quartz looking grasshopper!! If you hadn’t pointed it out, I’d never have seen it! ๐Ÿ˜€
    And I’m so sorry that your stress-related tinnitus hasn’t left you since 2010 – mine (the new one from a few months ago) isn’t leaving either and still drives me crazy. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Two nights ago I was even woken up by another particularly loud tinnitus that even invaded my dream (a nightmare anyway so that was halfway okay) – a new stress level even for me.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Thank you – I was very pleased to see the moth as I have only seen them once or twice before.
    I was lucky indeed. The people who were due to be in my accomodation after me were stuck with you at Gatwick so it was not a problem to stay longer.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I don’t really get the spider hate Sarah but fair enough – I feel the same about cockroaches and earwigs.
    The quartz grasshopper fascinated me and I only saw it because it moved. I showed this slide at talks when I used to do lectures and nobody could ever spot it!
    The tinnitus has not been so bad this month as I have been less stressed apart from occasional days. Interesting what you say about yours and your dream – I find mine is very bad if I wake suddenly or have a shock. I guess because of an adrenaline surge. So if you were having a nightmare that totally makes sense. I really hope it goes away for you Sarah.๐Ÿ˜

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Thatโ€™s a good point….maybe I dislike snake so much because Iโ€™m italy we associate to the bad relatives๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃโ€Parenti Serpentiโ€๐Ÿ’๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ

    Liked by 3 people

  15. I’m so glad that your tinnitus isn’t this bad this month, Darren! It can be such a straining thing, right? And what you said about the adrenaline surge makes total sense. I think we both need to learn meditation! ๐Ÿ˜ I’ve already tried it several times but simply can’t get it right. ๐Ÿ˜‚ Wishing you a lovely and creative weekend! โค

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Funny thing is that I went to meditation classes for a time over a decade ago, and there is even a meditation room at the university where I work and I used to use it at lunch times. But it is the tinnitus that made me stop because I can’t stand being in a silent room with it. Maybe I should use the tapes they have in there to give some background noise?
    Hope you have a lovely weekend too Sarah๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜

    Liked by 3 people

  17. I have had a love for creepy crawlies since… We’ll forever really. But,…. Furry house spiders on the ceiling used to make my heart beat rather fast, fearful that they would drop on top of me. I think it might have been the fact that they could run so fast, that I found disconcerting. Take your eyes off it for a second, and it disappeared, prompting a frantic room scan to see where it went.
    House Spiders are endangered now… They are very vulnerable and not as strong as they look. They are actually a form of cave spider that adapted to live in our houses, especially preferring damp attics, dark places (like under the TV) and bathtubs (where they were likely to find moisture) and could migrate through the sewer system. Nowadays, houses aren’t such ideal dark sanctuaries. Our affection with Dyson-like vaccum cleaners, and a myriad of cleaning chemicals (that kill us as well as them) have decimated their population.
    Well done you, allowing your ferocious house spider to live in yours Darren. He could use a mate, but then, I doubt that you want a hoard of them. ๐Ÿ˜

    Liked by 2 people

  18. By the way Darren… I suspect that you did that drawing of the Hob Nob Coffee shop… Are you thinking of opening one?
    Hope you have a great Christmas. I think a break will give the group time to renew energy. You all seem so busy with your ventures. I have looked at your beautiful flower prints on your shop. I hope you put a link to it for people looking for unique Christmas gifts. I don’t actually celebrate or do the gift exchange thing. I don’t have any space for more art either, but I have to say that I was sorely tempted… I have not given up on the idea that I may come back to purchase… You just don’t see beautiful precision like yours, very often.
    Happy Christmas Darren. โค๏ธ๐ŸŽ„

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Thank you for this lovely comment Colette ๐Ÿ™‚

    I would actually be quite happy to have loads of them. But I suspect my wife would be less keen! She is ok with them but is definitely less of a fan than I am.
    They certainly can run fast and often all we see is a blur as it runs across the carpet. We worry that one day it will hide under the rocking-chair rocker and, well, someone in the chair moves…..

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Actually the Hob Nob Coffee house is one of Lisa’s designs but if I opened a coffee shop it would be one that opens late ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thank you for your lovely feedback on the prints in the shop and on my work. I really need to work more on marketing generally. And the Fashioned by Nature project with Lisa and Dominique needs some marketing attention too. We are making progress with this but we are all, as you point out, busy with day jobs etc.
    A lot of the drawing I do for FBN has allowed me to be less precise and therefore faster than my own botanical work, and I have benefited hugely from that. I am working on a graphite piece at the moment and I have not used graphite for years!
    Have a lovely Christmas yourself Colette ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Autumn is pretty mild here normally, but we did have a nice rain. The plants here, I have to imagine, are tickled about the rain.๐Ÿ˜Š My thoughts on snakes… Iโ€™ve seriously contemplated how Iโ€™d make a move to New Zealand to be free of them once and for all. I know they have their place but, thereโ€™s so often a but with snakes, we seem to have lots of rattlers here. They donโ€™t even try to be nice and Iโ€™ve heard they can jump six feet! No sir, I donโ€™t like that. ๐Ÿ˜ Hoping you and yours have a relaxing weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

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