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California Arts and Crafts Botanical Tiles

The name "California" derives from a 16th Century romance novel written by a Spanish author named Garcia Ordonez de Montalvo. When explorers crossed the Sea of Cortez from the Mexico to Baja California, they believed the peninsula to be an island, and named it after the magical island:

Know that, on the right hand of the Indies was an island called California, very near to the region of the Terrestrial Paradise, which was populated by black women, without there being any men among them, that almost like the Amazons was their style of living. They were of vigorous bodies and strong and ardent hearts and of great strength; the island itself the strongest in steep rocks and cliff boulders that is found in the world; their arms were all of gold, and also the harnesses of the wild beasts, on which, after having tamed them, they rode; that in all the island there was no other metal whatsoever...

On this island, called California there were many griffins ... and in the time that they had young these women would --- take them to their caves, and there raise them. And ... they fattened them on those men and the boys that they had born... Any make that entered the island was killed and eaten by them ... There ruled on that island of California, a queen great of body, very beautiful for her race, at a flourishing age, desirous in her thoughts of achieving great things, valiant in strength, cunning in her brave heart, more than any other who had ruled that kingdom before her ... Queen Calafia.

Botanical Tiles

These ceramic tiles are based on the botanical watercolors done by Albert Robert Valentien between 1898 and 1918. You can find most of these flowers at the Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens in Mission Canyon. Valentien painted 1094 California botanicals on a commission by Ellen Browning Scripps between 1908 and 1918. The first ten of the original watercolors will in on exhibit in summer 2016 at the library of the San Diego Natural History Museum, with other watercolors rotated seasonally.