Our December Art of Healing program presents Flower Power with floral design experts Gretchen Cuddy of Gretchen Cuddy Floral Designs, and Clara Varga-Gonzales of Tiger Lily Florists. Flowers have a powerful impact on the senses and can communicate a variety of sentiments. Gretchen and Clara were kind enough to answer questions about their philosophy of floral design in preparation for this event. Learn more from this talented duo on how horticulture enhances health and healing with moderator Dr. Jeb Hallett on December 10 at 6pm. The Thomas Bennett House will be decorated for the holidays—join us for this festive affair!
Tell me about your background with floral design. When did you begin working with flowers and how has your work evolved over the years?
(Gretchen) My floral background started in college when I took a watercolor painting class, I would often create floral still life arrangements for the class to paint. Color combinations and the use of varied greenery and unique vases was a big part of the process. The use of texture and the contrast of natural elements in an arrangement have always interested me; it makes the final creation less expected to the viewer’s eye. Over the years, I have spent quite a bit of time working with florals for churches and sacred spaces. Presently, I create arrangements for numerous events in Charleston and love to use local plant materials to evoke a relationship with the beautiful Lowcountry.
(Clara) I started working with flowers 18 years ago. My husband and I bought Tiger Lily florist in 1996. Weddings are always evolving depending on what the style is at the time. Our goal has always been to have big bright flowers in arrangements. American send much fewer flowers than Europeans do. It’s just not our tradition as much as it is overseas to have flowers on a daily basis. Therefore it’s very important for us to carry flowers that have a long vase life so that the consumer feels like they received a good value.
What is it about working with flowers that is healing for you?
(Gretchen) I find that when I am working with flowers I can allow myself to be as creative as possible. It is almost like an out of body experience for me at times, and is better than any therapy. I can completely forget my troubles and transport myself into another world where the beauty of an arrangement gives me the greatest joy. It is self-healing in a way that is very personal.
(Clara) I think working with flowers in the flower shop is a different dynamic then working with flowers at home. When I work with flowers at home it’s more relaxing for me because there’s not the stress of getting it right for the client or making sure that the flowers are the correct shade or variety. There also isn’t the pressure of time constraints and delivery complications as far as transportation.
What are your favorite flowers to work with? Are there some types of flowers that are your least favorite?
(Gretchen) My favorite flowers to work with are sunflowers. I love the contrast of the yellow petals against the dark brown center. I almost always have a bouquet of them in my kitchen….they just make me smile. My least favorite flowers that I honestly cannot use are the ones that have been artificially dyed. It is simply a violation of nature and denies the flower its true color and beauty.
(Clara) My favorite flower to work with has always been tulips. I had tulips at my wedding and I enjoy them so much because they don’t need a lot of design and they continue to grow even after they are cut. Peonies remind me of my father, but they are not always available. My least favorite flowers have always been the more common ones such as statice and Alstromeria, although I do like daisies and carnations.
Describe your creative process. Do you begin with a color or type of flower in mind? Or is more about a client’s preference?
(Gretchen) My creative process to begin an arrangement consists of several variables, namely the season, the style of the event, the budget. From there, I select the vase or container to compliment the overall design, and then work to define the line and scale of the arrangement. I love going BIG with arrangements and I always remind myself to try and keep that in check as sometimes a smaller arrangement is really what is needed. In the end, I personally have to be satisfied with the final product before I can part with it.
(Clara) If the choice is up to me I prefer to work with 5 to 7 different types of flowers, each with different texture and shapes. I’ll lay them all out in front of me and then create the arrangement in my mind based on the shapes and sizes that I have to work with.
Why do we give flowers to people for happy and sad occasions? Weddings and funerals?
(Gretchen) The gift of flowers to someone shows that you care. It also shows that you are not afraid to live in the moment, because as we all know, flowers do not last forever, so an arrangement of flowers allows one to stop if only for a moment to appreciate the beauty that flowers bring no matter what the occasion, happy or sad.
(Clara) Studies show that living with flowers strengthens our feelings of compassion and decreases our anxiety and worry. I think that especially for funerals it’s important for families to receive flowers in their home. They spend a lot of time in their homes after a loved one has passed, and it can have a positive impact on their mood. When we do flowers for a wedding it’s almost as if once the flowers have been delivered and the reception and churches are set, that’s when the festivities can begin. My brides have always realized the implication of what’s about to happen once the flowers have arrived. That’s when they start crying. There’s some sort positive energy that comes from flowers and live plants!
Art of Healing: Flower Power
Wednesday, December 10, 6pm
$20 Members, $30 Non Members
Location: Thomas Bennett House, 69 Barre Street
To purchase tickets, please visit gibbesmuseum.org/events or call 843.722.2706 x21
—Amy Mercer, Marketing and Communications Manager