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Floral Engineers

Friday, May 17, 2013 - 12:17

There are artists using plants and flowers as their medium and who are challenging our notions of floral ‘arranging’ and design. These are the new wave, at the cutting edge of floral artistry. These are the Floral Engineers and they are yielding exciting results as they harness nature and manipulate cut flowers in to the architecture of their designs.

We have featured fashion's favourite Thierry Boutemy both in our Floral Couture & Flowerland blogs. Now we bring you two more Floral Engineers.

Makoto Azuma, owner of Jardins des Fleurs now located in Minamiaoyama, Tokyo exhibits his pieces internationally, but his shop still sustains the essence of his craft and his ethos that flowers are gifts and should be treated accordingly.

Makoto Azuma’s ‘shop’ somewhat resembles a laboratory yet it doesn’t render his processes clinical. It seems to emanate the ultimate in care and respect for nature.

Makoto Azuma says “Ultimately I have respect for plants. Plants can lead me, and vice versa. I believe I should be at the same place in the same direction as plants are. Also I’ve been managing a field for growing seasonal flowers and plants for 4 years. I think it’s very important to grow plants. Of course I do create works using the plants I grow. I think a great deal about the distance between plants and myself. I want to accept plants and want plants to accept me. So I’ve been farming as a spiritual place to train myself.”

Here are a selection of Azuma’s creations and exhibitions from his career so far as he continues his forays into experimental botany and blurs the boundaries between art and science.

Daniel Ost, the second Floral Engineer we have been exploring has a floral emporium located on the Rue Royale in Belgium. Ost’s exuberant arrangements and installations often appear other wordly as if they have ‘landed’ on our planet and subverted nature.

Ost has been nicknamed The Bridge for his ability to blend Eastern and Western styles and sensibilities throughout his international exhibitions.

Ost says “In the West we use flowers in a purely decorative way, but in Japan they work with the flowers’ soul to express not just beauty but ideas like death”, hence his recent interest in the decay of plants as he himself grows older.

Ost regards himself as a bloembinder, derived from an old Flemish word. Ost says “It’s a word that’s hard to translate. It refers to what you do to bind flowers together, but it’s not like ‘florist’ in English of ‘fleuriste’ in French. It’s much more beautiful than that.”

As the Flower show season opens up here in the UK heralding the start of Summer, we will continue to bring you new innovations both in Landsculpting and Floral engineering.

The Floral Engineers SourceBook: NY Times Makoto Azuma, Colossol, Thierry Boutemy, Park and Cube, Shift, Sky my Limit, Trender, Hc Gardens, Klaus Leidorf, Ziplevel, Jardins des Fleurs, Botanemy.

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Thursday, December 5, 2013 - 11:44

As April failed to bring us any blossom or indeed any signs of Spring (at all) we refused to be disheartened. The focus shifted instead to bringing the outside in again, planning Cut flower gardens for the upcoming seasons and engineering some powerful arrangements. We wrote for the Oxford Times Homes & Gardens themed Alice in Wonderland issue, talking about making it vintage and therefore on trend. Liz Nicholls did an amazing job of bringing inside and out together and it was a pleasure to be a part of it. It's all about striking a balance between modern style and upholding our heritage.

The start of May has kindly brought the sunshine with it and somehow a promise of a fine month ahead. Every where you look the landscape is 'greening up', and it feels quite magical.  We have gathered up all of our inspirations from the last four weeks and are kicking off a season of flowerpower here. This week... welcome to Flowerland.

Jo Malone...bloomin' beautiful. They never fail to deliver, year after year they push the boundaries and delight with innovation. Looking forward to this year's Spring & Summer surprises from them. 

From a Hendy Curzon Cut flower garden

In season - the much coveted Wisteria tunnels of Japan

ahh... bliss in France

A mini moss meadow - Hendy Curzon Gardens Ox Times Flowerland shoot

Marqueyssac-chandelles - okay there's no flowers but it's in theme!

Nail gardens by Alice Bartlett

Mid month we took part in the Spirit of Flowers workshop taught by Charlie of the Flower Fairies who create stunning wedding flowers. It was a brilliant day and for a worthy cause. The creations ranged from super sharp contemporary to vintage chic. The flowers were breathtaking. There is a link to The Flower Fairies at the end of this blog. Money was raised for Vision Rescue who are doing some amazing work for thousands of children in Mumbai and there is also a link at the end to their website to learn more about what they do.

 We are looking forward to sharing the launch of our new portfolio online very soon. We have created some big landscapes and hopefully magical garden spaces and places... with a little help from our very own resident office Cheshire cat.

We look forward to bringing you the ultimate in Floral engineering from around the world next week...

Enjoy the first weekend of May and don't forget to water your garden!

The Flowerland Source Book:  Hendy Curzon Gardens, Thierry Boutemy, Anna Garforth, Jo Malone, Marqueyssac-chandelles, Cochran Andrea, Esther Glumace, Makota azuma,, Lostateminor, Boredpanda, Styleinception, Oxford Times, The Flower Fairies, Vision Rescue.

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Strike a posy : Floral Couture

Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - 21:17

Well the big chill is truly upon us this week here in the UK. Spring was just around the corner… wasn’t it? We remain ever hopeful as we reach for our thermal socks instead of our flip-flops. We have rounded up some floral couture inspiration for the blog this week in hope that it gets us all a buzzing about again, like busy little creative bees, as we should so rightfully be at this time of year.

Bee on lips for Vogue 1995, Photographer Irving Penn

The margins between lifestyle, design, art, interiors, nature, architecture and fashion are narrowing, as one and the other influence each other. Fashion houses are trending towards statement interiors, homewares are replicating catwalk fashions and so on. Nature has always had its influences over design and fashion but this Spring it seems like everybody is thinking about bringing the outside in. Editorials, catwalks and advertisements are just bursting with blossom. In this post we bring you the very best and most innovative of floral couture, both past and present. 

Spring IS coming…

Vogue Russia

Vanessa Paradis photographed for H&M Spring 2013 collection

Danil Golovkin for Collezioni 

Naomi Watts  for Vogue Australia

Wonderland series by Kirsty Mitchell

Twiggy Vogue 1967, Photographer Richard Avedon

 by Mattijs Van Bergen, fashion designer & Anouk Vogel, landscape architect
Vogue Italia

Marilyn Monroe for Vogue 1962, Photog. Bert Stern. Her last sitting.

Taylor Swift Teen Vogue 2011

Oh miss flower shoot Photog. Bo-Lee for Vogue Korea 2010

Arizona muse by Inez & Vinoodh Vogue Paris 2011

Dior haute couture set by Mark Colle. A million flowers... more on that later.

Photog. Irving Penn, fashion photographer

Photog. Patrick Demarchelier

Savage beauty, floral couture dress by Alexander McQueen

in to the blue


Kirsty Mitchell Wonderland Series to date, 2013

Colour Crash

 Alice Burdeu Vogue Australia by Floral Tribute photographer Troyt Coburn

Yulia Gorbachenko NY photo Fashion

Carolyn Murphy for Vogue US 2013

Suresh Natarajan for Vogue beauty


Hot house flowers

Givenchy’s ‘Victorian Rose Punk’ heads photo Victoria Will

Irving Penn for Vogue


 Kati Nescher, Photog. by Camilla Akrans for Vogue Germany

 seeing red

Photog. Tim Walker for Vogue UK

Garden of Delights shoot Vogue US,  Photog. Steven Meisel

Irving Penn

Harpers Bazaar Floral Shoot, Photog. Mark Seliger

Photog. Mario Testino for Vogue US

dress green


Haute Culture for How to Spend it 2012, Photog. Damien Fox

Moss collar by Tara Boooth Mooney centre for sustainable fashion at the London college of fashion

Oscar de la renta Vogue UK collection for Balmain. Photog. Peter Lindbergh

Photog. Steven Meisel

Lady Gaga Vogue US 2011, Photog. Mario Testino. Wearing Alexander McQueen. Floral artistry Thierry Boutemy

Tye Sokkvan in Burberry for Vulture 2013. Photog. Lester Lai. Floral artist Dan Takeda

Floral Couture by Alexander McQueen

Feel a little bit of a hop, skip and a jump coming on yet? Maybe a roly-poly down a hill or a prance through a meadow perhaps? If you are not feeling the spring in your step just yet then maybe this last blast of inspiration might help...

spring greens

Garden of Delights shoot for Vogue US. Photog. Steven Meisel

Runway 2013 by Raf Simons for Christian Dior

Chanel's Spring Summer 2013 Haute Couture collection Paris

Takaya Hanayuishi male Floral Couture

Lee Jong Hyun for Vogue Girl Korea 2012

by Mattijs Van Bergen, fashion designer & Anouk Vogel, landscape architect

Yardley campaigne by London based artist & polymath Petra Storrs Art Director

strike a posy

Madonna for Louis Vuitton. Photog. Steven Meisel

Well it seems like Madge got in on the act some time ago...

Madge sourced from Fashion limbo

Well that's it. We hope you liked this post. We are in the Oxford Times Homes & Gardens section again this week so if you are local make sure you pick up a copy. Liz Nicholls has had a lot of fun with this month's issue and it will inspire you if you love interiors and garden design. (We particularly like the cover this month). We have been talking to Liz about... well, you'll just have to wait and see. The good news is that it will be availble in e-version via Twitter, The Oxford Times and us tomorrow.

We hope all this Spring fervor and inspiration hasn't gone to your heads!

Buxus head- Oleksandr Hnatenko

& as promised... Dior haute couture set by Mark Colle. A million flowers...

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Beauty & the Beasts

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 08:11

The renowned environmental photographer Morten Koldby has bravely approached his series of wildlife portraits for the World Wildlife Fund in a strikingly paired down and minimalistic manner.

By stripping away any context or setting, each magnificent beast can stare back at us from a stark white background and tell us their story.

This series was created to promote the new and comprehensive WWF App for iPad.

The focus on the wild creatures enables them to ‘speak’ to us individually whilst sustaining a common link between each portrait.

Sometimes the effect is haunting as a range of expressions are displayed across the series, and many of the emotions emoting are oddly human. Some are definitely sad, others evoke wisdom, some seem a tad annoyed and then there are the few that ebb towards the mischievous, seemingly possessing a sense of humor. All of them are compelling.

The portraiture technique and lighting highlights the textures of each species. Their fur or feathers, whiskers, antlers, beaks, skin tones and so on, almost seem exaggerated like a form of heightened reality, yet they remain tactile and disarmingly approachable.

Most smartphone and tablet apps used for campaigns aren’t very successful and that is understandable because they often only work for a short time for a single cause. WWF understands this and is doing it all a lot better with their newly launched app.
 The app scored over 100,000 downloads in its launch weekend in January of this year.

It is a combination of learning, sharing, interactivity and playing and is a wonderfully designed format for constant updates and development. Perfect for use at schools and interesting for children and adults alike.

WWF Together initially incorporates interactive elements to unfold the stories of eight animal portraits, with new species to be added regularly. Tiger vision is one of our favorites.

Each animal portrait includes editorial content, high-definition videos, photography, unusual facts, and downloadable related origami crafting/folding instructions for each animal, which we think is important so that kids (and us adults) are still crafting and learning physical, not just cyber-based creativity, (and they kind of act like tactile WWF desktop reminders to us)

By completing the individual animal stories, social media and email functionality is unlocked in the form of animated origami videos that can be shared with friends.

WWF Together was designed and developed by AKQA.

No, we don’t all have iPads but on your computer you can connect to the WWF’s website here  and enjoy a wealth of knowledge and interactivity. To further promote awareness for the WWF we are running a little social experiment over on our   page to see which portraits people feel connected to or are compelled to like. Join us over there live all week or log onto this blog or Twitter next week to view the results. Some say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder… so which portrait appeals to you? All of them we hope.



The Beauty & the Beasts Source Book:  Buy The AppWWF, Morten Koldby


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The woman who lived in a shoe

Thursday, March 7, 2013 - 07:22

Love or loathe her art, it’s undeniable that Niki de Saint Phalle was a visionary and a woman who blasted her way (literally) through an era of art dominated by men.

Niki de Saint Phalle was obsessed with altering environments with her art. As her work developed this chiefly became a quest to alter and affect landscapes and gardens with the placement of her highly detailed and mostly enormously scaled sculptures and projects. Her work sparked much controversy, mainly as a matter of taste but ultimately her legacy seems pretty remarkable, especially once the origins are understood.

Born in 1930 to a French aristocratic family and raised in New York, de Saint Phalle embarked on adulthood as a model.

Working notably for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, at 23 de Saint Phalle suffered a nervous breakdown and turned to painting as part of her recovery.

This became the gateway in to a world where de Saint Phalle could find her voice and release her creativity, thus her demons.

She began to experiment wildly and boldly, originally being seen and heard for her ‘Shooting paintings’.

This project evolved in to an ‘art experience’ for audiences where a catsuit clad de Saint Phalle would appear in front of them and shoot plaster panels (concealing pots of paint inside) with a rifle, exploding the works in pigment and with unpredictable results (and reactions).

These works represented a period of sardonic commentary on her part,  mainly about male chauvinism and the 'type' of art prevailing over society at the time.

After a visit to Spain de Saint Phalle reacted to the bullfights by making a life size paper mache sculpture of a bull and then by blowing it up in a street. There are no images of this piece. (that we know of!)

This month Elle Decoration pays tribute to Niki de Saint Phalle remembering her as ‘The French artist who made her home inside a monumental sculpture”.

Perhaps most well known for her iconic Nana sculptures, de Saint Phalle brought these colourful and voluptuous beings to life in their droves and they remain all over the world, the largest standing at 27 metres tall.

In 1974 Tuscany, de Saint Phalle progressed to her next level and started to build a world for her imaginary beings and for her imagination to thrive in. It took 20 years to build her Tarot Garden featuring 22 sculpture buildings, one of which The Empress, she made her home in.

In her words “I wanted to invent a new mother and be reborn within its form”.

That she did, living there for several years developing the interior spaces and the subconsciously Spanish-feel gardens.

By the time de Saint Phalle’s world was completed and opened up to the general public in 1998 as a Sculpture Park, she had moved out of the body of The Empress to reside in La Jolla, California.

Niki de Saint Phalle designed and built three other large scale ‘Sculpture Environments’ in her lifetime. Noah’s Ark in Jerusalem, Israel, The Grotto in Hanover and Queen Califia’s Magical Circle in Escondido, San Diego.

Niki de Saint Phalle collaborated and shared her unique universe with Jean Tinguely for over 30 years until separated by his death at age 66. The unconventional “marriage” of de Saint Phalle and Tinguely enabled two artists to work together and create art that neither could have realised alone.

Tinguely made vast kinetic sculptures out of industrial waste, a method he named “meta-mechanics”.

Although they collaborated on most of each other’s projects they never jointly ‘signed’ any of them. They were always owned or named to one of them. Tinguely’s “Cyclop,” a vast mechanical head in the forest at Milly-la-Fôret epitomises their collaboration because it seems to represent both of them fifty fifty with neither one’s style prevailing over the piece.

It is both comfortably masculine and feminine, yet is credited as Tinguely’s work and de Saint Phalle seems to have no ego or problem with that.

A posthumous reunion between the artists was organised in an exhibition in Switzerland, 2006. The curator (Andres Pardey) said of the couple “Theirs was a strategic marriage. It was important for them that, after they died, someone would look after their work, and they trusted each other absolutely.”

Though never monogamous in their relationship they remained eternally faithful & committed to one another creatively. Throughout the 1960’s, with Tinguely a leading member of a Duchamp-influenced art movement called the New Realists, they were inseparable.

Tinguely had initially made his name in 1960 with “Homage to New York,” a performance that involved building, then destroying, a sculpture in the Museum of Modern Art’s sculpture garden. Ten years later, he organized a similar ritual of fire and smoke in front of Milan’s cathedral to announce the demise of the New Realists.

When Tinguely died in 1991 de Saint Phalle was true to her word by looking after his legacy and giving 55 large works of his to the new Tinguely Museum in 1996.  She was the one who actually completed “Le Cyclop,” and in turn donated many of her own works to the Sprengel Museum in Hanover.

Queen Califia was de Saint Phalle’s last work and it represents the final realization of de Saint Phalle’s dream to provide a legacy to a place that she had grown to dearly love. Niki de Saint Phalle spoke of California as a place of rebirth for her soul, “and an earthquake for my eyes – sea, desert, mountains, wide open sky, brilliance of light and vastness of space. I have embraced another way of life and have let my discovery of this landscape manifest itself in my work.”

"The devil is in the details." Although Niki de Saint Phalle’s sculptures are on a monumental scale the attention to detail was never compromised.

The work on the exteriors and the interiors, notably de Saint Phalle’s signature mirror mosaic technique is quite simply mind-boggling. The effect of being inside or on the outside of her pieces affects people in a multitude of ways, and that was what de Saint Phalle set out to achieve, art that affects us. In this same vain, her sculptures don’t nestle comfortably in their landscape settings, nor settle in to their environment over time.

Instead they jar and they react, sometimes a little violently with their surroundings, somehow refusing to be quiet at any given time. With that they unapologetically represent an alternate world and an altered state of being.

In one of her last interviews Nike de Saint Phalle spoke of Queen Califia as a place for families to gather, play and engage with a visually rich world of ideas, symbols and forms.

“My first really big piece for kids was Golem (1970, Jerusalem) and three generations know and love it. Here is Escondido you can also touch the sculptures. They feel nice and you won’t harm them. You can be a part of them… it’s like a marriage between the sculptures and the child or adult. Maybe it brings out the child in adults too.”

Some say that Niki de Saint Phalle died for her art because in 2002 she succumbed to emphysema caused by years & years of inhaling the toxic fumes of polyester. We think that she is really someone who truly lived, for and by her art.

Escondido is Spanish for hidden. It seems befitting that de Saint Phalle’s last works is set here. Like the depths and hidden meanings that her art is laden with, Niki de Saint Phalle herself mirrored this. Life imitated art, yet somehow she always managed to stay hidden in plain sight.


The woman who lived in a shoe Source Book: Niki Charitable Art Foundation, Tarot Garden official website, New York Times, The Guardian, Elle Decoration, Elle, Fontaine, Alisanne, Notesonnyc, 3 graces detail, Dennis hopper, Giardino-dei-tarocchi, Gardian-angel-zurich-train-station, N-Phalle-Hannover, Tarot Garden, Nikki de Saint Phalle, Niki-lacabeza-final-elownes, Nikki de Saint Phalle biography-bio-sculptures, Nikkitoilet, Phallehouse.

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