Thursday, 28 March 2013

A millionaire for a few pence

Back in 2004, I went to see an exhibition at the Design Museum showcasing the life and work of the floral designer, Constance Spry. It was a radical show, with walls painted shades of black and grey so dramatic the colours of the flower displays popped and pulsated. Sprays of delphiniums were twinned with ivy leaves, sprigs of lilac sat alongside enormous dahlias, and kale leaves were artfully arranged in a vase, their curly fronds spilling over the glass below. I'd never seen anything like it.

Spry is accused of democratising flower arranging. Opening her first florist shop in 1929, she chose to move away from the formality of floristry popular at the time (at a price only available to the rich and famous), instead encouraging everyday folk to ransack attics and kitchen cupboards for vases, vessels and jars, and to forage in hedgerows for foliage, or visit the greengrocers to buy cheap greenery (hence 'A Millionaire for a Few Pence' - the name of one of Spry's books). The resulting displays were eccentric: gravy boats filled with kale leaves; pussy willow, weeds and vines arranged in tureen lids or baking trays.

The images above are from the opening of a new Toast shop, with copious decorations by the Flower Appreciation Society who adorned the shop and shoppers alike. Their approach owes more than a nod to Constance Spry, I think - just look at those little swan vases, the dizzy heights of the lupins, and those beautiful Frida Kahlo-esque headdresses. Alas, I wasn't at the launch (these pictures are from the Toast website), but had I been, I think I might have died. Beautiful clothes, incredible flowers, Sipsmith gin (my favourite), and edible flowers (another fave)? Total perfection.
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