A couple of years ago, I was scrolling through instagram and I saw something incredible. Images of the very first Strawberry Hill House Flower Festival were flooding my feed, and as I looked at my flowery heroes creating such masterpieces in this fantastic space, I thought to myself firstly 'I'd love to do that more than anything' and secondly 'No one would ever ask me to do that though'. Well, let that be another reminder this year for me that you really can do anything you put your mind to. I'd very much love to go back in time and show past Marianne all the things I've been able to do this year, I think she might well fall off her chair.
When I first spoke to Leigh about doing the festival, I really did get the sense that her and Janne, as curators, were so enthusiastic about the art that goes into flower arranging. I think a lot of people do see it as more of a function than an art form, that we need flowers for certain ceremonies and rites of passage, but I feel, as do so many others, that I am an artist, and flowers are just one of my mediums when I create. There is something so magical and validating when others see this too and I think that's why this flower festival is so unique. It's about artists and their response the incredible space of Strawberry Hill House and it's also about sustainability which in itself is a form of art. No floral foam was used in any of the displays, and as someone who has spent a lifetime of art education on 3D art, these displays are as akin to fine art sculpture as you can get. The mechanics we used to hold flowers in the air, to drape them from windowsills, to suspend them upright, then to cover them up so you'd not know they were even there - I think that's both art and magic.
A bit about my piece... (and then we can get to the pictures)
I was asked to dress the most beautiful little room, filled with light, and to the joy of my legs, on the top floor of the house. Unlike a lot of the other rooms, mine was pale and bright and I wanted to reflect that in the flowers and display. I opted to use different glass vessels to suspend my displays in the air, almost as though they were floating and when the light came through the windows they gave the impression that they were glowing. I opted for a more summery pallet, rather than the deeper colours of autumn I'm usually so drawn to, I wanted to reflect the lightness of the room, getting those last rays of summer breaking through. I also very much wanted to give some semblance of simplicity to the design as well, I was very grateful that Strawberry Hill House decided to stock my book in their lovely gift shop, so I actually used the technique from my Summer Bowl project in the book to create the main floral displays. The whole idea of the book is that you can give flower growing and creative arranging a go if you want, and I really wanted this display to be a reflection on that (albeit on a slightly over the top scale). I also brought some of my mark making and painting into the display by very subtly placing circles of paper into the bottoms of the supporting cylinders. I made these the week before using the flowers I knew I would have available as my colour inspiration and I hope (I think) they added another element of the reflective glow of the piece. I loved working responsively like this, reacting and creating with what I find stimulates me right in front of my eyes.
It was a pure joy to create, I felt so free and alive just making something magical surrounded by all the other designers - when you all work on your own a lot of the time, this sort of thing is like your own Christmas party, but in summer, in a super stunning house, with flowers.
All the incredible images here have been taken by the amazing Janne Ford. Please enjoy.