A Wallpaper That Came to Life: The Magical Story Behind Our Collection of Butterflies

My own journey to China began in Oxfordshire, in a room at Broughton Castle, where butterflies dance on the 18th Century Chinese wallpaper.

The little butterflies hidden amongst the foliage of the pattern gave me the initial inspiration for my collection of butterflies. My first sketches blew away into the encircling moat of the castle, dissolving into the water. It was not until I set off to China later that year, that I began to sketch again my "Collection of Butterflies". As I travelled in China and delved back into its magical history, my butterflies came to life. I named each one after the various names given to China's capital cities over the centuries: Beijing, Peking and Nanjing. Each butterfly individually crafted which together replicated the vision of my sketches floating away, harnessed together by a gentle breeze.

In Beijing, I remembered staying at the Mandarin Oriental in Wangfujing. It was there while enjoying a wonderful meal outside and drinking in the view over the rooftops of the Forbidden City that I created the kaleidoscope of butterflies that had been wandering in my mind. The first restoration works were being made and, from my beautifully laid table, I could see piles of glazed tiles yet to adorn the roofs. Graphite lines in my sketchbook became outlines of wings while the coloured tiles became emeralds, rubies and sapphires with sparkles of diamonds. There it was: my Beijing Butterfly.

From then on, I kept noticing colourful butterflies everywhere. I found them now fluttering amongst the billowing peonies and tumbling wisteria in the gardens of The Forbidden City. The little golden Peking butterflies were sketched with their open wings, set with sapphires or diamonds, hovering here and there, on stems and flowers as if collecting nectar.

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