The Fine Art of Floral Arranging
© Becky Linhardt 2013
Every two years the Cincinnati Art Museum wows the public with an event called Art in Bloom. The museum’s curators select works in the collection that they would like to see highlighted and various professional and amateur floral arrangers are invited to create an arrangement that compliments – but does not overwhelm the work of art.
Younger ”flower arrangers” were invited. “Twelve children participated in the program which was held afterschool at the Walnut Hills Branch Library on November 4th,” said Branch Manager Kate Kraus. “The children ranged from Kindergarten to 7th grade. The group was asked to create flower arrangements based on the Chinese work of art, Wenshu, Patron of Learning, at a Writing Table.”
Museum docents Camille and Monica led the program aided by a floral arranger, volunteer, and staff at the library. Camille talked about the artwork, its colors and forms, and shared examples of Chinese art work in the library’s nonfiction juvenile books. Nancy, the floral arranger, introduced the children to their Chinese take-away container “vases” and the chrysanthemums and other floral material they could use. “The children got to work and created wonderful arrangements,” said Kraus. “After they were finished with the arrangements the children made name tags using ink stamps and added some decorative shredded paper around the top of the vases.” The children’s small arrangements, assembled in a group display at the museum, were an impressive addition to the larger “show piece” arrangements created by adults.
There are as many styles as there are arrangers. There are a few basic guidelines I learned years ago: asymmetrical is more dramatic and using an odd numbers of each flower provides more interest. Those were the guidelines that I followed as I organized the flowers for my arrangement in from of the Mihrab. I selected 3 types of flowers in different shapes and with the larger Pompon I arranged 7 blooms asymmetrically although only 5 can be seen from the front. The tile work of the Mihrab is such a busy pattern that I decided to use all white flowers in a simple blue vase to which I added a “collar” of metallic gold banding. I worked in cooperation with the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati. Our intention was to honor the rich cultural heritage of the Islamic peoples: their artistic creations and other contributions to western civilization, including math, science, and astronomy. I cut two squares of gold paper and placed them at angle to create an eight point star as a reference to the sciences of astronomy and math/geometry.
One of my favorite arrangements was completed by Ikebana teacher Brenda C. Baird. Her use of the vertical blue flowers was unlike anything I had ever seen and complimented the vertical tree forms in this Van Gogh painting – but, in a unique way.
To compliment the painting shown above the arranger used similar color ways and the active diagonal format that the painter followed.
With the Head of a Dignitary I was faced with a big challenge, I was not to overwhelm the art work and the sculpture was small and dark. In 2000 BC the use of copper to create the art work was technically cutting edge – for that time frame.
“We must welcome the future, remembering that soon it will be the past. And we must respect the past remembering that once it was all that was humanly possible” Santayana
I thought some about the sands of time, the layers of history and decided to use neutral tones. The grasses harkened back to the rise of agriculture, the grains that allowed people to settle into villages and cities to form.
Art in Bloom is only a 4-day event because cut flowers do have a limited “peak” time. It does not have to be a special event for you to enjoy flowers in your home and you do not have to be an expert floral arranger to place a few blossoms in a vase. Yes, many of the arrangers plan their designs months ahead because they are trying to match the art work but you can find a way to give even dandelions picked from the yard by a four-year old a place of pride in your home. Flower arranging is not “rocket science.” A few flowers, artfully arranged can brighten any interior.
Cincinnati Art Museum: www.cincinnatiartmuseum.org