Gilding The Lilies - WITH HARRIET PARRY
We sat down with the nimble-fingered florist – a flower in her own right – Harriet Parry.
She spoke to us of her process, and a little of life in general.
Talk us through what you do
I am a floral stylist and artist who specialises in creating playful floral designs, always with a touch of the unexpected!
I want my floral creations to ignite people's imaginations, but also to allow them to pause, have a moment of stillness, and, to ultimately share in the wonder of nature.
I work across various artistic disciplines, and I pay close attention to the tiny details in nature; as well as colour, texture and composition when I create.
My work tends to reference both contemporary and historical art, fashion, and design - uniting these with today's world of floral design.
Like Penhaligon’s, you work a lot with flowers. What draws you to the floral world?
The natural and floral worlds have always been where my creativity stems from. I look to nature as my guide in so many ways.
I grew up on a farm surrounded by nature and was always bringing back foraged flowers, foliage, acorns, twigs, and other bits and bobs to create with as a child, and this has continued throughout my life.
The floral world is, for me, the essence of magic, imagination, balance, and unpretentious beauty. I feel very privileged to work with flowers as my medium - just like a painter uses paint. They bring me endless joy and creative possibilities.
I love bringing new life and meanings to the blooms by creating something thoughtful, unexpected, and playful for myself and others to enjoy.
Working with flowers allows me to learn from them, not worry or overthink, and to lean into what happens naturally within my creativity.
Which flowers are your favourite to work with?
I adore working with all flowers. They are all so unique. I like to look for unusual shapes, lines, and patterns in my flowers and foliage. The way a petal may fall or a certain bend in the stem. For me, it's all in the tiny details - which is why I particularly love working on a miniature scale! I look at how each stem and bloom holds themselves and how they interact with the others - almost like they are characters in a scene! Each individual stem plays an important part in representing and bringing together the overall aesthetic or impression of my designs. I want my viewers to spot something new each time they look at my work or to take something personal from it and connect with the floral world on a deeper level.
How did you approach creating the miniature bouquets for The Portraits Pleasure Ball?
I specialise in working on a miniature scale with my floral designs. It allows me to be completely present with the floral ingredients I am using. In a way it gives you a sense of mindfulness. Connecting you with nature on a personal level.
For a miniature design, I begin by looking at what flower varieties, colours, and shapes would be used in that particular style of floral design - but on a full-sized scale. The aim when downsizing an arrangement into miniature scale, is to break down full sized flowers into smaller pieces. These smaller pieces are then used in the same way they would be if they were in a life-sized flower arrangement.
For the Penhaligon’s Ball, I was inspired by the Rococo style. The set design used soft whites and pastel colours and was very ornamental. With this as my inspiration, I wanted my miniature floral arrangements to mirror these design elements and colours.
I used flowers that reflected the varieties used in a large-scale Rococo design, which I could break down into tiny pieces for my mini version. These were all sugary toned blooms in soft pinks, blues, creams, yellows, and apricots. I combined asymmetry, bolder florals and foliage along with scrolling organic curves and feathery wispy stems, creating sumptuous and decadent floral pieces.
I arranged the flowers in tiny rococo style urns and vases, which I hand painting to match the colour scheme. These extra touches really brought the bouquets to life and gave these mini floral designs big scale energy!
How long did this process take?
Depending on the level of detail in each design, one of my miniatures takes me around a day to create.
What tool or item could you not be without when working on a project?
When working on any floral project I could definitely not be without my floristry scissors - I'd feel very lost with out these.
Do you like to listen to music when you work? If so, what is your music of choice?
I always listen to music when I create. Working with nature really is about all the senses, and it adds so much to my process.
I have a playlist I've compiled called "Music for Flowers" - which I listen to a lot. It's a combination of songs by artists and musicians who create soft electronic melodies that are infused with the sounds of nature; such as bird song, or a babbling brook. This playlist is something that I feel the flowers and foliage I'm working with would also want to listen to. I like the thought that they would be enjoying it too!
We've seen you recreate famous works of art as floral arrangements. What was the inspiration behind this?
My Flower Interpretation series began out of my passion for art and flowers and wanting to combine the two. I have postcards of art I love from all the exhibitions I've been to over the years on my kitchen cupboards.
I began looking at some of the paintings, drawings, and photographs and seeing flower varieties within the shapes, lines, and textures. I saw the art as floral compositions. This led to me starting my series.
For each interpretation, I ask myself what flowers and foliage symbolize, represent, or resonate with the image. Each interpretation is completely different. Some lean towards a more "typical" floral arrangement and others sit within the realm of set design. This isn't decided prior to starting; it happens organically, as I try to be spontaneous and intuitive as much as I can when I work, so each piece feels fresh.
The finished interpretations do not always represent identically the original piece of art in my placements of flowers, etc. I try to leave room for a new artwork to exist and for the viewer to take what they wish from the design. My works seem to sit uncannily next to the original but are oh-so-slightly off. I also love how I get to introduce viewers to new artists, contemporary and classic. I see these works as a collaboration between the flowers, the original artist I am interpreting, and myself.
Looking back, which piece of work has proved most satisfying?
When I have the freedom of my own ideas and creativity within a project, it allows me to produce my most special work.
I would say that when I have been asked to create work that has been inspired by one of my various ongoing floral design series, in collaboration with a client or brand, this has always been most satisfying.
You can be more non-linear in your thinking, and it's wonderful to be completely trusted in your artistic vision.
These pieces of work include; my miniature flower designs, such as the Penhaligon’s Pleasure Ball brief, or work from My Floral Humans series, where I recreate humans using flowers, or designs from my Flower Interpretation series, where I reinvent works of art as floral arrangements.
What are your plans for the future?
I love to collaborate with other artists from different disciplines. I feel like this brings so many levels to what the outcome is.
I am in the process of gathering ideas for a floral film, working alongside a sound artist to create a soundscape for a surreal and experimental piece of film. I'd like this film to be a flowery visual escape
I would also love to bring out a book of my works, and hold a multi-sensory exhibition of my floral photography, alongside some floral installations in-situ.
I am always looking for creatives or creative brands to collaborate with, so who knows what future floral endeavours there may be…
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