This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
Maize, or Indian corn, as it is called in America - to which it is indigenous - is so decorative in every phase of its growth that it seems to us remarkable that its adaptability to the purposes of design should have been so long ignored in Europe. Even in the United States its possibilities in ornament seem to be but half appreciated. One would imagine that, with the effective form and colouring of the plant, its suitableness alike for natural and conventional treatment, both in the flat and in the round, it
Design for a Frieze
Maize Motive by Catherine Morrill would long ago have been seized upon by the great Republic for its national symbol, which we believe has yet to be officially selected.
Probably nothing more impresses the British tourist in his progress westward across the American Continent than the vast areas of rippling maize through which he passes, in numerous cases extending for hundreds of acres; but there is no portion of the country where the broad wavy leaves of the Indian corn, with its strong stalks, elegant "tassels," and black, red, or yellow "ears," are not familiar. Its beauty and utility made it sacred among the aborigines centuries before the sailing of Columbus. The Spanish chroniclers declare that plants of it, wrought in gold, were to be seen in the underground gardens of the Incas at Cuzco, and it is probable that there were really golden representations of the corn used in tribal ceremonies, which, as with the Zunis at the present day, took place in dark chambers or cells entered through trap-doors.
In our designs this month we make somewhat a feature of suggesting the possibilities of this noble cereal for the purposes of decoration. In the incipient stages of its growth it lends itself charmingly to the requirements of the designer of printed silks, cretonnes, and muslins, and in its full development - the stage with which we are most familiar with it in this country - it is eminently sculpturesque. Its possibilities in the hands of a master of ornament we consider superior to those of the pine, and equal, at least, to those of the pomegranate. One can well imagine what their development might have been by this time had the plant been known to the great designers of past ages. It is not too late for us to avail ourselves of them now, and we confidently submit the suggestion for the consideration of our leading ornamentalists. There need be no lack of opportunity for studying the growth of the plant from nature, for, although it is not cultivated in Europe as a cereal, patches of it are to be found throughout the kingdom in kitchen gardens and shrubberies, where it is grown chiefly for the sake of its beauty.
A few words may be said about the designs. In
Design for Wall Paper Maize Motive by Catherine Morrill that for wall paper, by Miss Catherine Morrill, the general pattern is a diaper formed by the gracefully curving green leaves, the spaces between being filled with the brown and yellow "tassels." On a ground of pale turquoise this makes a striking and harmonious design, so little conventionalised a-; to its main elements that there is not a line in it which might not have been drawn directly from nature. The frieze departs a little from the natural forms, but without doing violence to the character of the plants. Miss Van Salisbury's graceful silk design shows that there are forms of the cereal no less suitable for the expression of a tender and delicate treatment of the motive than that there are others which call for bold and forcible handling.
Silk Design Maize Motive by Jennie van Salisbury
The book cover, by Miss Jessie Van Brunt, which is of a greenish gray, suggests in a very interesting manner the use that may be made of several distinct elements of the plant. Let us examine the border. First, a broad line of a paler gray than the material, imitating the stalk of the corn and showing the joints; within this a broad yellow line, making a mosaic of the grains; then a border of the leaves, loosely pleated; and inside all the creamy line of mosaic repeated. In the centre is a wreath of gray leaves and yellow ears and a monogram in red and yellow. Attention, too, may be called to the ingenious use of the stalk and grains on the back.