Flemish Flower Dipping

I think we can all agree that the 1960s were a strange period in history, defined by the music, the fashion, the politics, the war, the social revolution, and the general overall strangeness. Nowhere is this better exemplified than the “New Wave” of science fiction authors who came to the forefront in the latter part of the decade…

No, wait, wrong essay.

Nowhere, in fact, is this better exemplified than the arts and crafts of the period, which remain strangely fascinating in a so-terrible-it’s-kitschy sort of way. Amid all the things we remember from crafts of the ’60s – the yarn, the yarn! – it’s interesting to stumble across things which have been damned near erased from the collective consciousness.

Take, for instance, Flemish Flower Dipping, an incredibly 1960s way of taking fake plastic flowers and… well, uglifying them, let’s be honest:

Craft ideas that are just a little bit messy seem to catch on faster than anything that doesn’t involve something sticky or runny.
That’s the case with Flemish flower dipping, which involves dunking plastic flowers in a mixture of turpentine, varnish, and paint.
The result is an exquisite frosted arrangement that has women from coast to coast returning to their workshops to experiment with variations of the basic technique.
In addition to being a dunk, drip, and dry project, it’s an inexpensive one and in any woman’s language that’s cheap.
The cheapest plastic flowers are the best, say the women who’ve tried it. Old flowers that have become faded from the sun work fine too.
There are three variations loosely referred to as Flemish flowers: porcelainized flowers, antique Flemish flowers, and Chelsea flowers.
The basic recipe is 1 cup of distilled turpentine, one 8 ounce can of clear varnish, and one 4 ounce can of gold leaf paint.
Mix the ingredients together in a coffee can or plastic bleach bottle which has been cut down. Dip artificial flowers and leaves in the solution. Shake flowers in a paper bag to remove excess formula and allow to dry for at least one hour.
The flowers can be hung on a clothesline or stuck in soda pop bottles to dry.
The varnish gives the overall flowers a pearlized look and the gold paint collects in the ridges and along the petal edges. Some women spray the dried flowers with clear spray to preserve the finish.
For antiqued flowers double the amount of turpentine and add one 8 ounce can of light oak, walnut, or mahogany stain to the basic recipe.
The Chelsea formula gives flowers a greenish overcoat and a pastel over-all effect. The recipe: two cups of turpentine, one ounce of jade green enamel, one pint of white semi-gloss paint.
The dipping – drying technique is the same. After the flowers are arranged they may be touched up with gold paint.
The flowers are typically arranged in a close formal nosegay. A styrofoam ball or block, stuck to the bottom of the bowl, is used as a holder. Flowers may have to be wired to florists sticks.

That’s brought to you courtesy of the Tuscaloosa News, December 14th, 1965.

Apparently, everyone was on drugs in the 1960s.

A small prize is offered to the first reader to attempt one of these flowers…

Published in: General, History | on November 23rd, 2011| 3 Comments »

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  1. On 11/9/2014 at 4:15 am Maggie Hurll Said:

    This article is exactly what I have been seeking, for a long time. Thank you.

  2. On 3/9/2016 at 11:40 pm Colette Gideon Said:

    I have been looking for this long lost recipe for ever. I wanted something to do with my 12 year old Granddaughter over Spring break and VIOLA! She will be here in a minute and trip to the Dollar Store and we are SET!

  3. On 11/8/2016 at 7:54 am jean myers Said:

    I was thrilled to find this on the Flemish flowers. I made some nice

    attractive flowers out of what a lot of people would discard