Yesterday I had to arrange flowers in a house I am looking after. The owner’s brief had been: “Make it look homely, but no ugly flowers”. So I used local fynbos – or the indigenous flowers and greenery that grow in the Cape. And contrasted that for a little softness with Tulips (imported) and St Joseph’s Lilies (imported). I avoided the roses (imported) because I never get it right with roses. They sag their little heads after a day – regardless of how carefully I have treated them. And they don’t smell like roses anymore. Sad really, that in a country like SA we don’t grow the range of cut flowers our soil would seem ready to embrace.
The house was expecting a man – so I kept it simple. The big glass vases I found suited the scale of the fynbos and I bought a couple of inexpensive vessels for the tulips. Nothing was arranged – just transferred from packaging and fluffed. I thought it looked pretty good. Of course, no-one commented but for one of the building contractors, who was in attending to some last-minute snagging: “Looks like a magazine,” he said, “only home-made”. The greenery did make the space feel like a home, so I took that as a compliment.
I have a tearsheet in my inspiration pile, featuring the work of French floral painter Claire Basler. I tore it out of French Vogue Decoration a couple of decades ago and have kept it ever since. Promising myself that when I am mad-rich, I am going to ask her to create a painting for me to use as a headboard to my bed. I have no other flower art – though I have always loved Cy Twombly’s Four Seasons. My art tastes tend to be a bit more hard-edged: but there is something in Basler’s work that appeals to the tiny flicker of Stevie Nicks’ that still lurks in my soul.
On the way home today I picked up SA’s Elle Deco and found an article on her studio. Claire Basler lives and works in a former schoolhouse in Les Ormes, right outside of Paris. Every day, she creates huge floral arrangements and scatters them around her house. Her ‘bowls of blooms’ (really anything but) become sources of inspiration for her paintings. Her garden is literally her muse.
“The observation of nature brings me the ability to listen and to be open. I am but a link for the transmission of its vitality, its force, its violence, its sensuality. Its wealth is an inexhaustible source; its tenacity is a teaching; its beauty is an emotion that finds itself every day renewed.”
After a day of giving up softness to glass and granite, I wished I was driving to Les Ormes. I know Basler would have poured me a glass of something delicate and sent me to wander through her home. The gentle antidote to a long, long week.
(Claire Basler’s website, Images copyright Basler and SA’s Elle Deco.