Friday, March 8, 2013

Floral Design Seminar with Natasha Lisitsa

Natasha Lisitsa of Waterlily Pond Floral Design is one of the first floral designers whose work I ever registered as something uniquely different and beautiful, more art than craft, and distinctly recognizable. I first saw her work at a bridal show years ago, and have since seen it at weddings and events and of course at the DeYoung museum here in San Francisco, where she is one of the truly memorable contributors to the annual Bouquets to Art exhibit.

Wouldn't you love being greeted by this fantastic arrangement in your entryway?

I had the wonderful opportunity to assist Natasha and her team at a 3-day floral design seminar a few weeks ago, and between the days that I helped to prep and pack and set up for the event, and the time I got to spend watching her demonstrations and lectures and helping out the participants in the design studio, I had the most amazing time. Not only did I get a peek into how she finds her inspiration and goes about executing her ideas, but it also turned out that Natasha and her team are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. (And let's face it — nothing is sadder than to find out that somebody whose work you admire is impossible to be around.)

In the mornings, Natasha and her head designer Carla would demo some of their fantastic arrangements, talk about where the inspiration for each piece came from, and how they executed it. Natasha likes to work with unusual materials and isn't shy to incorporate rattan caning, metal mesh or paper filling material into her arrangements to create intriguing mechanics that don't need to — and shouldn't be — disguised (unlike traditional materials, such as floral foam or tape).

A couple of the designs Natasha and Carla presented on the first day, incorporating ratting caning and paper mesh.

In the afternoons, the seminar participants got to work on their own creations in the workshop studio, and were able to try out many of the materials Natasha and Carla had introduced in the morning sessions. Dye baths for rattan caning, power tools for drilling and screwing, and branches the size of small trees were all lined up along with the more usual floral tools and supplies. None of the students seemed intimidated in the least, and everybody went straight to work. Towards the end of the day, Natasha critiqued every arrangement, and offered candid and insightful advice on how a piece could be improved.

A couple of the students' designs from the first day of the seminar. Aren't they great?

The second day focused on large scale installations, something Natasha is definitely known for. She generously shared information about her workflow, stressed the importance of proper lighting for any floral arrangement, and discussed considerations regarding materials, size and scale, restrictions and many other aspects of creating larger-than-life floral sculptures like Elemental, her 2009 Bouquets to Art contribution. (If you're interested, here is a fascinating time lapse video of the installation of Elemental.)

The painted Manzanita branches in this gorgeous chandelier are somewhat of a signature feature in Natasha's work.

On the third day, the group got a special tour of the San Francisco flower market, and then went on to visit Yerba Buena Gardens, armed with their cameras and sketch pads. The idea was to capture some of the many architectural and landscaping details of this urban parklet, which they were then asked to use as inspiration for an arrangement to complete that same afternoon (think Project Runway challenge). The results were as diverse as they were impressive, and really showed how much the participants had embraced Natasha's affinity for exuberant creative expression and bold use of unusual materials.

During the critique for the Yerba Buena Gardens-inspired arrangements at the end of the third day.

The seminar was hosted in a formerly industrial building in San Francisco's Dogpatch district, which is now home to mostly creative businesses — photographers, event planners, catering companies — and has sweeping views of the city and the East Bay. Natasha and her team had made sure that the seminar participants (some of them from places as far as Florida and Hawaii) got to take in as many of San Francisco's treasures as possible and didn't run out of energy, so they served up tasty breakfasts and lunches from hip local businesses like Kitchenette. We got to use the space of Hands On Gourmet for our lunches, and ever since I'm thinking about possible opportunities to host a cooking class party there.

It was really fantastic to be part of the seminar, and I got a lot of inspiration and new ideas from it that I can't wait to try out. And judging by their enthusiasm, the participants from across the country all felt the same. Thank you, Natasha and team!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...