There is nothing like a beautiful flower arrangement to lift one’s spirits. The charming thing about flowers is that they speak volumes without saying a word. So it isn’t surprising that flowers are seen as a great way to express how we feel to others. Flower arrangements celebrate occasions like births and birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, at funerals to celebrate life of deceased, or say get well to someone who is ill, I love you, I’m sorry, I’m proud of you, or say just because!
Flower Arrangements are a decorative trade
Flower arrangements or floristry is seen as both a decorative trade and a creative art form. At Zayah World, we’ve seen the term art and design being used interchangeably when it comes to flowers. Perhaps it is our background but art and design while they have many things in common, at least in our heads are quite different. So we were quite puzzled by this usage in floristry and started a debate and some research on whether flower arrangements are art or design. This is what we discovered. Before we get started, to clarify, we are only looking at western flower arrangements (we will cover flower arrangement of other cultures separately).
The Argument For Design
Flower Arrangements are governed by elements & principles of design
Any good design should be something that can be repeated consistently. To this extent, good design in any field is governed by elements and principles of design and flower arrangements are no different.
Five elements or building blocks of a good flower arrangement:
This is probably the most important element of flower arrangements. Cleverly done colours, can connect with you and make you feel strong emotions when you look at the flowers.
Lines in Flower Arrangements
This is the way the eye gets drawn through a flower arrangement. So you can have vertical, horizontal, diagonal or curved lines. If you look at flower arrangements that use different lines, you’ll observe that you probably feel differently about each of them because the eye is drawn in different ways.
This is the overall shape of the flower arrangement. Again with the same flowers, sometimes one achieves such a different effect simply by changing the shape of the arrangement.
Most design practices whatever the area will tell you that having a variety of textures is great to stimulate the senses. Flower arrangements benefit from combinations like velvety and waxy or rough and delicate, smooth and coarse.
This is not just the space between the components of the floral design but also the space around. When you draw or paint, there is aspect of looking at the negative space, which is the space that surrounds the image. Similarly, looking at the space that surrounds the flowers is as important to create the perfect arrangement
Space in Flower Arrangements
5 Principles of Flower Arrangements:
Proportion is the principle of size or scale of the entire arrangement. A typical rule of thumb is that the design should be about twice either the height or width of the container. Also it should be proportional and in keeping with the space or room it is in.
This is about the sense of equilibrium or sense of stability that one feels in a good arrangement. A symmetrical arrangement is where with an imaginary axis, one side looks like it is the mirror image of the other. Arrangement can be asymmetrical where two sides have different things but equal visual balance. Arrangements that don’t have this sense of balance can create a sense of instability for the viewer which can make them feel uneasy.
This is about the sense of movement created by how the flowers are arranged. So good designs will create that sense of movement before drawing the eye to the focal point.
4. Focal Point or Emphasis
This is the point of the arrangement that is emphasised because it has the greatest visual impact. A good floral arrangement ensures that the viewer sees the whole arrangement before the eye comes to rest on one particular element.
5. Harmony and Unity
This aspect of design is what makes the whole flower arrangement look and feel coherent and like one piece rather than individual parts.
The Argument for Floral Art
Now the interesting thing is that if you took those elements and principles, they can equally be applied in the analysis of some of the best art in the world. When one learns art, you get taught some of these very same aspects. For instance, look at a Picasso, and see the beauty of the rhythm, emphasis, lines etc etc. But yet, it isn’t possible to create a formula for a good painting. The same applies to outstanding flower arrangements. We’d like to illustrate this in practice with two phenomenal floral artists who have different styles.
Flowers tend to have a short life, so it makes a lot of sense to work with dried flowers to create art installations. When we looked around to find those who identify themselves as floral artists, Ignacio Aracil was one of the first that caught our attention. Ignacio creates beautiful and harmonious art installations with dried flowers.
We caught up with him since we were curious to understand how he got into this in the first place. He said “I studied at Wimbledon College (BA Fine Art) and Chelsea College of Art and Design (MA Fine Art), and it was during my time in London when I got into botanics and how they could be use in art. There is a strong tradition of gardening in the UK which attracted me very much, and through it I started to visit gardens, learn about plants and garden design. To keep a bit of the beauty of a season in a sculpture became an urgent challenge for me. It took me almost one year to find a successful way to preserve flora in a three dimensional piece. The time and effort required to make each sculpture is part of the essence and magic of the work. Nature is an endless source of inspiration, and I am motivated by the idea of incorporate some of its beauty in my art practice.
Nature does not stop, and to capture the moment takes a lot of time, I am very interested by that timing.”
This interesting combination of a passion for nature and botanics along with education in art and design, creates this unusual and uncommon art. We believe that artists like Ignacio should be celebrated and supported and hope you do too.
Nicolai Bergmann, the Danish Floral designer who has taken Japan by storm is the other floral artist we showcase. Nicolai is quite a celebrity in Japan having very successfully combined floral art with fashion and design. His floral installations are used for fashion product launches and top end corporate dinners. To understand what we are talking about, look at these spectacular installations of his. Nicolai holds solo floral art exhibitions when he isn’t creating amazing installations for some of the top brands in the world.
So what’s the verdict? Art or design?
Generally we use the rule of thumb which is well articulated by Inc.com as
“Design is intended to accomplish a task, but the role of art is to transform the viewer.”
In the case of something like flower arrangements, which is about beauty and the way flowers make people feel, the lines blur even further than in many other areas. So yes, there’s a set of design rules that can make a good floral arrangements. This is the category that the vast majority of floral arrangements that you see around fall into. In our view, the spectacular ones that don’t look like any flower arrangements you’ve seen before and cause you to draw your breath in are true works of art.
Pictures from Ignacio Aracil & Nicolai Bergmann’s facebook page.