Search the soul of a gifted flower arranger. You find not some impractical aesthete or dreamer. Often you find a person who is something of a carpenter, a little bit of a chemist, kind of an engineer, and a scavenger.
They are always on the hunt not only for plant materials but also for pieces of rare fabric, unusual containers, or objects that can be made into containers, and sculptures and ornaments for arrangements.
You are apt to come across this kind of arranger in the depths of a musty antique shop, haunting art galleries, or in her workroom, a solderer or paintbrush in hand. One of the contradictory aspects of flower arranging as an art is that the most ethereal, delicate, and spontaneous creations arc often the most solidly constructed, anchored by deft hands to lasting permanency.
To achieve this kind of composition takes an exploring, enquiring mind, always eager to pick up some new knowledge of metalwork, ceramics, painting, carpentry, or other arts and crafts. For this reason, a discussion of the mechanics, techniques, and containers belongs in any book on modern arranging.
The Simplier Container, The Better
Containers should not be too elaborate in design or too loud in color. The simpler the form, the minor problem you will have in making a harmonious arrangement. Perhaps the classic urns and vases seem home in contemporary decor because of their simplicity.
You have to keep in mind that your plant material is vital in your composition and that your container should not steal the show from your flowers and foliage.
Containers in brown, black, gray, green, and white tones and metals such as pewter, iron, silver, copper, brass, and bronze are pleasing in arrangements and can be used with many plant materials.
Be constantly on the lookout for exciting containers, both low and tall, in colors that will fit into your home’s decorating scheme. The shape, size, and color should be selected with the thought in mind of your finished arrangement.
For example, a natural wood table in birch, maple, or walnut may call for a generous straw basket with concealed containers for informal arrangements; a small marble-topped coffee table may be suitable for a low silver bowl with a low, relatively formal horizontal structure.
Customizing Your Container Collection
You can use the same container repeatedly in different arrangements by painting them yourself in colors that will conform to your plant material. He may paint metal, wood, and even pottery containers with ordinary flat indoor house paint.
A pottery container [may be] painted purple to match purple dahlias and streaked with bronzing powder to get a textural striated effect. Mix your bronzing powder with bronzing liquid.
Flat paint and bronze powder can be easily removed by soaking the container in Spic and Span, or Soilax dissolved in hot water and then rubbing gently with steel wool. I have done this many times without hurting the surface of the container at all.
For something unusual in a low container, use an old baking tin, covering the sides with gesso plaster (which comes in a can and looks like whipped cream). To get an interesting effect, mark the wet application by rubbing a fork up and down to obtain a rough surface.
After the plaster has dried, apply a coat of paint in any color you prefer. Scratching the surface with some bronze powder mixed with bronzing liquid gives a metallic finish.
Be governed by your setting in the room and by the plant material you are using to determine your container’s height. Low containers in oval, rectangular, round, or square types are always enjoyable. Ceramic and pottery dishes arc attractive in flatforms. Metal containers are also suitable when you want a low container.
Tall containers can be found in many shapes and sizes, including the pillow vase, the classic urn, the oval bowl, the cylinder, and the vases. Then there are the compote and other pedestal containers.
Arranging Your Container Collections
A stand for your container will often give your arrangement a professional, completed look that you won’t get without it. Sometimes you can increase the feeling of balance by placing the container on the block or stand.
A dull blackboard often tends to hold the arrangement down, giving it a better foundation and balance. Stands may be in many shapes, forms, and thicknesses, ranging from the rather formal Chinese scroll type to rough slate, a fitting background for the natural root container.
Modern arrangements may be composed of traditional urn-shaped vases. Far Eastern bell stands driftwood hollowed out to hold plant material, simple domestic ceramic shapes, flat wooden trays, or painted cake pans.
The important things to consider are not so much the period. In modern rooms, traditional accessories often find a place, but the color, form, and texture of the container and the degree to which it carries out the spirit of the arrangement.
Your container, above all, should be functional. It should be large enough to hold the penholder and enough water to keep your plant material fresh as long as possible. Whether you use a flat dish, tall vase, bowl, or just a can, there should be the proper mechanics to hold your plant material firmly in the position you want.
Looking for and collecting containers will become quite a hobby after a while. You will be surprised to find that many articles that were not initially intended for flower arrangements and had the most prosaic original functions make lovely containers.
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