Hello lovelies. It’s Mandy today. What can I say, I’m spinning over here. I’ve stumbled across the ultimate rabbit’s hole for fundis of natural history illustrations. You know, the vintage variety that we all love for their cabinet of curiosities aesthetic and thrilling historic provenance from a time when explorers, adventurers, romantics and scientists boarded ships for shores unknown to amass collections of natural ephemera from plants to insects and marine life to geological specimens. I dream of having a wall-to-wall gallery of images to gaze at and spark my own and my children’s imaginations, but I’m not in a position to be spending huge amounts of money on prints from Etsy and other sources. Which is why I am OBSESSED with Wikimedia Commons. Did any of you know about this (and if you did, WHY didn’t you tell me sooner?). You know the whole Public Domain thing: a whole lot of catalogued artworks, illustrations, photographs and other media including audio material becomes free to use for the public, being you and me. Basically if you want to decorate your walls for free – other than the costs of printing either at home or at a specialist print shop, which is what I would do on some nice paper stock – then set aside
some lots and lots of time and get browsing. I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of what’s available for free download but here’s a sampling, starting with some beauties of plates from Ernst Haeckels Kunstformen der Natur (Artforms of Nature, 1904). No, I mean, have you ever. And most of the files are big, as in 8MB, which means even printing to poster size, the vibrancy of the colours and clarity of detailing will be really, really good. You could extend the idea and print onto fabric (oh my giddy aunt, imagine that), onto garments, greeting cards, wrapping paper… Literally, the possibilities are endless. It takes a bit of work to refine your searches on Wikimedia Commons but that’s part of the satisfaction when you stumble across a Byzantine map or seed chart of a sweet pea or a 15th century colour chart or obscure Chinese or Hungarian stamps (I’m imagining a whole series of these, postcard size, in white frames) or vintage advertising design or travel posters or historic fashion plates or architectural drawings… Check it out, say goodbye to any free time you had, and start digging into this archive of incredible free-to-use material. You’re very welcome.