(Photography By Jennifer Kathryn Photography)
What Does Fine Art Floral Mean?
Many of our clients have an appreciation for fine art floral designs. More often than not, our weddings will include creative centerpieces that are admired for their imaginative aesthetic and uncommon, interesting textures and blooms. Fine art, or creative art, in the world of flowers is a visual yet imaginative practice. In my early days of designing, I kept hearing veteran designers explain "the right and wrong ways to design". Although I will always appreciate the years of experience they have and the knowledge they've shared with me, and I do agree there are absolutely required mechanics essential for designing properly, I realized that what is "correct" to some people is not the case for others. My style evolved almost immediately when I became a floral designer, and I soon recognized the inspiration behind my designs came from a very different place.
In nature, flowers grow in a wild, untamed, unorganized way. Yet, it is so beautiful to look at. The most impressive part is how nature managed to do it without any help from any of us. I look at nature as the ultimate guru, the ultimate teacher, and the most sensational designer that exists in life. Maybe it's because I grew up so connected to the outdoors and spend so much time outside, but when I see things growing wildly and beautifully, I stop and stare as if it were a painting in a museum. Most of my inspiration as a fine art florist comes from nature, and a lot of my designs require me to imagine how the flowers I'm working with would have grown in nature if they weren't laying on my table.
I'm a huge fan of the low centerpieces for several reasons, but mostly because I like to place them where they can be admired the best. I love the idea that flowers can elevate the space with their focused colors and aesthetic, evoke emotions deep from within, and enhance the overall guest experience. The arrangement above is an example of a low centerpiece I designed that would be placed on a round table, or in a grouping down a long table. It serves an incredible purpose at the reception and we almost always include them when we create proposals for our clients. So how can an arrangement like this one be paired with something elevated? I spent a day with my dear friend and talented photographer, Jennifer Kathryn Photography, who photographed my process of designing an elevated floral arrangement to match this low centerpiece. The goal was to show the steps from start to finish, which I honestly though would be an easy thing to do. I quickly realized that so much of my process as a fine art florist doesn't have designated steps. Its more of an improvisation that requires intentional thought and creative visualization. As designers, we create things based on other things that inspire us, and so much of this process involved making adjustments until it felt just right. I've always enjoyed learning about different artists and the process behind their work, and wanted to share my own. Enjoy!
How I Begin
The first thing I always do is I determine the color palette I'll be working with. If you follow La Rue Floral on Instagram, you'll hear me talk about color palette a lot. That's because I feel it's the most important step. After all, how can an artist paint without the proper paint colors in front of them? The original low arrangement was inspired by fall, one of my favorite seasons of all time. I chose a variety of greens in all shades, because that's how I imagine the trees when I think of fall. My flowers included a medley of yellows and peach, burnt orange, and browns. And of course, I use flowers that are in season. Always and always. The reason for this, is simple. They will always look the better than anything else.
After my flower colors and types have been selected, processed, and sorted, I begin by creating a general skeleton with my greens and large branches and stems. This part can be so much fun because it's like the blueprint of the design. As a general rule of thumb, I start with my biggest or longest pieces. But believe me, the order of this is different every single time, based off what I'm working with. You get used to being flexible with the product, and going with the flow. The images below show the first stages of designing.
Keep in mind that I have the low centerpiece right in front of me, and the goal is to create an elevated arrangement that compliments the lower version. Clients often ask what each centerpiece will look like when they have multiple levels, and I always do my best to explain this process verbally. I'm excited to share this demo to help explain it from now on. The lower centerpiece has a few dark accents, so I'm adding dark agonis to help give our elevated arrangement the same kind of vibe. In my mind, I'm visualizing a tree that has all these colors and foliage types. I ask myself how it would grow in nature. That would be one pretty tree. So let's design it.
My Thought Process When I'm Adding Flowers
Next, I begin to place my blooms one stem at a time. I do this in two ways, and again, it depends entirely on how it feels and what I'm working with. I either start with the darkest flower I have or the largest blooms I have in the selection. Beginning with the darkest colors is my preferred method because I've learned the darker colors will always appear even when covered by lighter colors. Visually, our eye tends to lead to darker colors over lighter colors, so using the darker ones in your first "layer" is generally a good idea. When I'm working with larger blooms, such as roses or amaryllis I try to incorporate those early on as well because they tend to have larger stems. As flowers get added to the arrangement, a "nest" is created by the stems criss-crossing one another. The stronger this nest is, the better it will be to keep more delicate stems in place later on.
Then I start to add other interesting textures using the same color and size principals as before. I'm slowly building layers of color and texture and working my way outward toward the longer greenery stems. Side note...they say that fruit is supposed to be "trending" in 2018 for centerpieces. I'm all for it, but fruit (especially berries) has always been something I've enjoyed working with in my designs, and I sincerely hope we do not "overkill" fruit this year. So keep it minimal and subtle. Doesn't it look amazing though? Most fruit types grow on stems, and it's really amazing how much color they can pull in to an arrangement.
As I enter the final stages of designing, you can see how I've waited to incorporate the lighter blooms toward the end. The arrangement is slowly beginning to fill out and I'm adding a few more stems of peach spray roses to the design for a little more color. Below is a technique I learned in my early years of designing, which involved blowing a stream of air into the bloom. I do this to open it up a little bit more. Our fingers carry a lot of oils that can hurt flower petals and blooms and make them wilt faster. So by blowing into the spray rose, I force it open gently enough that it doesn't hurt it. You learn something new every day, huh?
Finally, and this is probably my favorite part of the process, I'm ready to make adjustments. What? But isn't it all set in place when you first place the stems? Yes, mostly, but now we can make any final tweaks that help with the overall aesthetic. This is my own personal step that I do every single time. I look at the design from all angles, and sometimes I find holes or areas that need a little something. I felt this arrangement needed a bit more hanging elements, so I added pepper berry foliage at the base. It always amazes me what one little adjustment or addition can do for a finished product. This is definitely something that took me years to practice and I'm still perfecting it. The most important thing to remember here is that you are the artist. So make the adjustments based on what you see as beautiful. Everybody has a different eye and a different style, I love that I have found my own and know exactly what to look for when perfecting a piece.
The finished product is below. Is it identical to the lower arrangement? No, and it really shouldn't be. This elevated arrangement requires different branches and stems in order for it to look the way I envisioned it. It does, however, pair very well and honors the color palette in the same way. I always design elevated centerpieces in vessels that are narrow enough to see around or completely clear and transparent so that it really doesn't block the view across the table. I love when a pair of elevated flowers frames the couple at a head table or at the altar. It creates a sense of drama and makes for a stunning photograph.
Thanks so much for reading about my design process! The most important take away is that everyone's design style and process is different. Artists do what works best for them. Our style here at La Rue Floral is organic, heavily textured, and nature-inspired. Color palettes are an important part of the process, and it's crucial that when you meet with your florist, they can really offer you some great suggestions for your floral color palette. And be opened-minded to what is suggested, even if it's not what you originally had in mind. You'd be amazed at how much your flowers can elevate your wedding and kick it up a notch in a level of sophistication. I'd love to meet with you to discuss more ideas about your wedding flowers!