This post was meant to be about floral designers, but it also turned out to be about the stealthiness of hobbies, and childhood and its echoes.
I used to love to wander around my mom's garden as a kid, picking huge bunches flowers. I'd come back to the house, dig through the cupboards to find some interesting vases or bowls, and make the bundle into several bouquets. By trial and error, I learned to start with an armature of thick-stemmed flowers or leafy branches and fill in from there with progressively smaller and more delicate things, adjusting the heights of stems, placing and replacing flowers in different spots to get the composition right. I tried to create a visual balance that worked, even though maybe you weren't sure why, because that was more fun than making a design that had a more regular or predictable symmetry.
I didn't think of it as flower arranging or a hobby or anything that had a name. I kept doing it the way a dog or a snake keeps deciding to lie in the sun. It just felt good. It felt effortless, or inevitable, like being carried along on a slight current.
And, as tends to happen when we do things over and over, I got pretty good at arranging flowers. I definitely got better than grown ups expected a kid would be, and surprising grown ups was its own satisfaction that still lingers in my brain chemistry. I hope everybody has at least one of those therapeutic childhood echos in their lives that ripples inward and outward at the same time. We can always make more of those, too, or find more.
And finally - we get to the florists.
Following interesting florists' work on the internet and in books feels a little to me like lying in the sun and soaking up only the healthful rays. It provides a lot of compositional and color inspiration for Navy Midnight designs, too.
Perhaps you would like some of these florists as well! Here are a few (a small subset) of my favorites. When I see their work, I feel a distant sympathetic echo of what (I imagine) they felt when they made it. I don't mean that to sound oovy groovy. I think it's like the thing someone who played soccer throughout childhood feels when they watch a World Cup goal being made - an awareness in the muscles and the mind of the countless invisible hours of practice and repetition that made possible a fleeting bit of magic.
Katie Chirgotis of Eothen
Her work is free-spirited and sophisticated at the same time, which I think is deceptively difficult to pull off. It usually looks like she's just kind of messed around and somehow managed to accidentally paint the Sistine Chapel through an extreme excess of talent.
Katie's work was a big part of the inspiration for this Navy Midnight design:
Max Gill of Max Gill Design
Photo: Max Gill
Among other projects, Max has been doing the flowers for the legendary Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley for years and years. Going to Chez Panisse is a rare special occasion immersive experience splurge for me. When I walk in the door and see Max's huge swirl of blackberries and roses (or whatever he picked that week) spilling out of the vase and twining up the staircase railing like it grew up through the floorboards, I don't care how much the bill is going to be. I've already gotten my money's worth.
Holly Carlisle of Rosegolden
Photo: Holly Carlisle
My favorite work of hers looks what you'd get if you gave an ikebana virtuoso the humble windblown weeds and flowers you found along a roadside, instead of their usual formal stiff materials, and they made a masterpiece of airiness and movement.
I looked at Holly's work a lot while working on a couple of the new fall card designs, including the one at the top of the post.
Livia Cetti of the Green Vase
Photo: Livia Cetti
I think of Livia Cetti as an honorary florist - she makes paper flowers, amazing amazing paper flowers. Endless hours of fascination looking at her work.
Photo: Amy Merrick
Amy Merrick used to be a florist and now she's a writer - and I'm not sure what else - besides being a highly artistically attuned flower and atmosphere savant. Just check out her work. It grabs me by my rural New England heart and makes me almost wince from the rush of halycon half-imagined memories. Her book On Flowers is an idiosyncratic and beautiful thing.
Hope you, too, find some inspiration from these magicians.