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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

Artificial-flower Making

Artificial-flower Making.

Artificial-flower making is one of the most interesting of London home industries. It is also one of the worst-paid. Great skill and a natural aptitude, combined with intense application, will enable a worker to earn 2d. per hour. Few workers, however, combine all these characteristics, so 1½ d. per hour may be considered a liberal average of the earnings of the ordinary home-worker, though many fall below this standard.

Physical strength and endurance play no unimportant part in making of roses and other flowers, whose petals have to be subjected to great pressure that they may assume and retain the requisite concave form. This is necessary that flowers may present a natural appearance, whether it be bud, half-blown, or full-blown flower.

The worker obtains from the factory all the material for flower-making, excepting gum, paste, or glue. These consist of spiral coils of thin wire, which has to be drawn and cut into suitable lengths; a special kind of paper, which has to be cut into various strips and wrapped tightly round the wire to form a stem, little rubber tubes to slip over the wire stem to give the necessary gloss and thickness for the stalk of the flower; petals flat, hard, and dry, in cakes that have been stamped out by machinery at great pressure; and little green things made of composition that represent the calyx of the flower.

Drawing and cutting the wire is not altogether pleasant, for the thin wire is liable to cut the hand, unless the worker is well protected. But shaping the petals is really hard work. Sitting hour after hour at a table, a stiff rubber pad in front of her, a small gas-stove beside her, in which she warms her steel tool, the worker proceeds to separate the cakes of petals, and subject them all to pressure of the warm tool upon the rubber pad until they assume the necessary contour. This work makes a great strain on the wrist, the arm, and the chest. Having her stems ready to hand, her thousands of petals pressed, her paste or dextrine pot handy, the worker now proceeds to flower-making.

The centre of the flower is first made; for upon this the whole flower is built, in the creation of the centre the skill of the artist is apparent, for this gives the character of the flower. This centre is firmly fixed on one of the wire stems, the under side being coated with paste that the petals may adhere to it. One by one sufficient petals are added, the calyx is slipped along the wire stem and firmly glued into position; the little rubber tube is slipped along the wire then and firmly joined to the calyx, a few deft touches from clever fingers press the petals into the required position, the warm curling-tongs are skilfully applied to the edges of the petals, and, hey presto ! the flower is finished, and has become "a thing of beauty" if not "a joy for ever."

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The prices paid for making roses vary from 3s. (id. per gross for the best down to 1s. 4d-per gross for button roses, but in the latter case a gross of small buds has to be included for the 1s. 4d.

Confirmation Wreaths.—Beautiful Parma violets, now so popular, are made for 7d. per gross, scarlet geraniums at a similar price; buttercups at 3d. per grow do not touch the lowest limit, for in the making of beautiful confirmation wreaths less money is earned. These wreaths, which are largely for the export trade, contain about a gross of small white flowers. Each flower has to be made separately, and the wire stem has to be covered with white lawn, then intertwined with silver leaves, which are supplied to the worker, and the whole shaped into a complete and beautiful chaplet; 1s. 9d. per dozen is the price paid for completed wreaths. One need not inquire the average earnings of the worker.