Dutch Masters with Arne Maynard

A Floral Workshop April 2015

All images by Britt Wiloughby-Dyer

In this workshop we made use of the amazing array of flowers available in spring and celebrated the season by making flowers inspired by the Dutch Masters. 

By conceiving an art work as lively and performative, asking questions of us and initiating a response we by-pass representational readings of flowers and seek to tease out the disruptive, joyful and unruly aspects of flower paintings resonating beneath the surface, as a way of informing our own engagements with flowers’ characterful movements, the differences seen in changes in light and seasonal change more generally.   Using distinctive varieties of flowers, flowers with a narrative, chosen with mindful consideration, lively with personal nostalgias, small stories of association and yet to be discovered affinities we encouraged new ideas and perspectives on immersive, creative floral practices. 

Tammy from Wild Bunch flowers came along with a van load of her amazing tulips, arriving just after us with our choice picks from our Cornish cutting garden. Our season is a few weeks earlier than that in the Welsh borders and so we had an array of narcissi, early, mid and late tulips, anemones, ranunculus and catkins, blossom, muscari and forget-me-nots. 

We started the day by taking a closer look at several paintings and a quick dip into the golden age of Dutch flower painting.  Suitably immersed in the atmosphere of a 17th century artist’s studio we went on to look at the flowers we grow through the eyes of a painter.   

In our workshops we try to encourage creative, playful encounters with flowers, foliage.  We want to give people the opportunity to really think creatively, as more often than not we are working to a brief.  For lots of different reasons we always find ourselves returning to landscapes and the places in which we find ourselves and so the chance to explore a style contemporary with the Tudor farm house and the Dutch golden age was an opportunity not to be missed. 

The vitality of the flowers themselves is all the more prescient in the knowledge of their pending decay.  Embracing this aspect of their journey, and finding joy in the shapes and curls of their growth and decline is something we celebrate.  As in Arne Maynard’s beautiful garden and the wider landscape, seasonal change and growth, decay and revival are both common-place yet never cease to surprise the senses.  

Britt Willoughby-Dyer is a garden and interiors photographer and has a history of working here, in this quiet Monmouthshire valley, with Arne Maynard and his team.  Her skill behind the lens and her knowledge of gardens, flowers, seasons and the place, meant that the photographs each student received were spine chilling in their beauty.  The clarity of light, and intimacy of the dark interiors so cleverly captured by Britt produced photographs of arrangements which are all so different yet somehow each is haunted by the time and place in which it was produced.  

A morning of arranging lead to a delicious home cooked lunch next to the stream which runs through the gardens.  We were blessed with warm spring sunshine and good company.  The afternoon consisted of a lesson in styling as Britt and Kristy Ramage expertly found nooks and corners, birds’ nests, small skulls, fruit and antique books, candles and fossils with which to evoke the age.  Such Vanitas paraphernalia has resulted in a picture book of stories, each telling a different tale of the season, pointing to different interpretations from, say an exotic passion fruit, split to spill its pips, to a small pile of books and a dead butterfly, stilled by time and preserved by the lack of light in all its summer colours.  

We had a day packed full of flowers.  We really encouraged people to break the rules of flower arranging and explore the limits of your creative floral approach.  We hopefully inspired our guests to go out and explore the landscape and bring home mementos in the shape of foraged greenery, twiggy bits, remarkable stones or fruits of the season. Not only does this link your flowers to the places and seasons, it encourages us all to really think about our environments, to pay attention to the details, be mindful of how we grow and the flowers we use, the histories competing for our attention, and the beauty of nature in both its minute detail and its exuberant livlines.

In all our workshops we hope to change your perceptions and expectations about cut flowers, widen your eyes to those you can grow yourself and the effects you can achieve using your surroundings a source of material andinspiration.  We want to show you how the flowers you can grow yourself or forage from the shrubbery can form the basis of exciting, elegant arrangements that are just a little bit wild.

These amazing arrangements were all styled by the florist/artist with input from Kristy Ramage and Britt Willougby-Dyer. 

2017 Classes

Spring Riot: Cornwall 28th & 29th March.

Wedding Intensive Class with Green & Gorgeous: 25th 26th April.

Collaborative floral class with Sarah Winward: dates and information to follow.

Forage & Feast: Autumn - dates to follow.

One 2 One class: available throughout the floral season.


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