In the Studio with Michelle Capenos: Floral design: Art from a different perspective
Wearing a floral dress, a gold flower necklace and peach flower earrings, I was ready for a flower-themed In the Studio shoot at East Grand Floral.
At the shop, owner Shelly Duchsherer introduced me to Michelle Capenos, who has worked for her for eight to 10 years. Michelle is fairly new to designing floral arrangements. She started about a year ago, but I never would have known.
Michelle showed me the freezer where they keep their limited supply of flowers — they like to keep their stock fresh, and Shelly owns a wholesale floral shop next door if they ever need additional supplies. Michelle said we would create a typical spring floral arrangement, so she grabbed some greens — which act as a background for the flowers — pink carnations, light pink cremones and yellow alstroemeria. She said they often use carnations because they come in a wide variety of colors and are a more durable flower than roses or other favorites. They’re also less expensive.
In the workspace, there were two large tables — one for each floral designer — with strings hanging above, where they usually clip the order for quick reference. Against the wall, floor-to-ceiling shelves held glass vases in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and tints. Michelle grabbed two clear medium vases and placed them on the table with the flowers. She grabbed the tools — clippers, scissors and knives — from a small draw below the table, and we got to work.
We started with the greens. Michelle said you can buy them in bulk at any floral shop or get them from your own yard. We placed the pieces in pairs mirroring each side. Watching Michelle, it looked easy. But, the task was deceivingly difficult. With the little stems getting tangled in the bottom of the vase, nothing would stay put. Michelle said it looked good, but as far as I could see it was a bunched-up mess.
Next, we clipped the stem of one carnation and placed it in the center for the focus. Then, we placed two more carnations on the left and right. We turned the vase 90 degrees and placed the two light pink cremones on the remaining sides. I had to keep removing them to clip them shorter, which shuffled the arrangement around. But, Michelle had some great advice to twist the stems in and out to keep everything from getting disheveled in the vase.
To finish our arrangements, we placed some alstroemeria, which acted as filler flowers, in any empty spot and tied a matching yellow ribbon around the vase. Once the arrangement was complete, we lifted it out of the vase with one hand and used our other hand to pull any little stems or leaves from the bottom. She said they also typically empty the vase and refill it with fresh water for a cleaner look.
I turned my floral arrangement around in circles to examine it. It looked full, but it wasn’t complete. It was a collection of separate pieces slopped together in a vase.
I picked at it for awhile trying to make it all come together as one, but it was hopeless. I declared it done and stepped back for a better look at the finished product.
Immediately, I was reminded of the great impressionist paintings by Claude Monet that I saw at the Art Institute of Chicago. From up close, the pieces appeared a messy slather of colors. The images were indiscernible and almost ugly. But, from across the room, the image was clear and full of unbelievable detail. They were magnificent.
Similarly, my floral arrangement looked like a mess of random pieces tangled together in a vase. But, from across the room, it was a beautiful arrangement.
I guess the lesson in this one is that not all art is meant to be examined from the same point of view, so always remember to take a step back and view it from another perspective. You just might be surprised at what you see.