Today is Valentine's Day, a holiday that I have always adored—whether I'm in a relationship or not. That philosophy comes in handy for me this year since I'm in the midst of a breakup (and it's not one that I was expecting or wanted). Despite the lingering heartbreak, I decided to mark the event by making myself a botanical sculpture. (Here's looking at you Makoto Azuma.) As with most of my projects, this arrangement was the result of many seemingly disparate ideas/discoveries over the last several months. It makes me happy to see all of these different thoughts coalesce. It's a process I want to write about, though the flowers (and their fragility and ephemerality) speak more eloquently than words of mine ever could.
The Encyclopedia of Flowers, Mokoto Azuma's stunning showcase of his botanical sculptures, has been much on my mind these days. I've read the preface many times and the marvelous honesty and beauty of his words expand my heart with each encounter. He describes his life as a florist/artist as an existence that's "in the middle of the life and death of flowers." His preface really must be read in its entirety. There's no way to excerpt a few lines and convey the full spirit of his philosophy. It's operatic. It will pull on your heart strings. And it's the kind of thing I'd like to have read at my funeral. I think it could even make people feel less sad about the inevitability of death.
With the florist/artist's words (and work) at the forefront of my consciousness, it was no surprise that a rack of humble wire tomato trellises spoke to me in the garden section of my local hardware store. They seemed like the perfect framework with which to create an Azuma-inspired, plant-filled pendant to suspend over my stairwell. And luckily, I already had some incredible greenery, and a bunch of magnificent proteas, from a recent trip to the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.
First, I used floral wire and twine to bind the two trellises together. It was tempting to do a quick (sloppy) job, but I wasn't sure if the twine would show in my final design (it does). Happily, I took my time. I always want to rush and start placing flowers—but that's really the easiest and fastest part. A lot hinges on the much more time-consuming construction of the base structure.
I wired and wove sticks together to create a solid foundation, followed by a layer of greenery and heather.
For the next step, a big ball of slender twigs is essential. Thanks to a post-windstorm twig-gathering session last weekend, I had plenty on hand.
Packed inside the trellis framework, a dense mass of twigs is ideal for keeping greenery and flowers in place. Since it's composed without water, this arrangement will soon start to dry out—but that's OK with me. I love how cut flowers morph over several days and weeks. I'm hoping this sculpture will be something that I can keep around for awhile. We'll see how it evolves.
My project was also inspired by a fantastic installation at the Seattle Wholesale Flower Market, crafted by several local floral designers in a workshop led by the creator of Flower House Detroit, Lisa Waud. And I'm indebted to newfound insights in the charming Prince Eugen's World of Flowers. It was this book that gave me the idea to uses masses of twigs to hold my sculpture in place. That was an exciting revelation. So simple, but positively genius.
Happy Valentine's Day!