When floristry meets abstract art

The avant-garde florist crafting her own works of art with exquisite and experimental arrangements

Words by Millen Brown-Ewens

London-based florist, Harriet Parry is somewhat of an anomaly within the field of flora. A far cry from the ubiquitous countryside bouquets we’ve come to expect when wedding bells chime, Parry’s arrangements are entirely unique, appearing as a poetic consolidation of her three loves; art, fashion and floristry.

Whether it be a still from Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited or a portrait by Degas, Parry possesses an exceptional ability to bring just about any image, contemporary or historical, to its floral form. A preference for unconventional briefs ensures that her eager eye remains challenged, inspiring fantastical reimaginations of visual art composed by a menagerie of blooms.

“Art is my lifeblood” says Parry. “It is my continual inspiration and it feeds into everything I do.” Having studied Fine Art at the University of Leeds, it should come as no surprise that Parry’s floral compositions have succeeded in elevating themselves to the stature of fine art. For her, the alliance of a passion for both art and floristry was therefore one that occurred organically. “I get to use flowers as my medium” she muses “It is painterly in a way, exploring textures, colour and shape, whilst also referencing my love of art, design and collaborating with other creatives too.”

Harriet Parry's interpretation of 'The Bath of Venus', 1895. Photo, left: Courtesy of Harriet Parry. Photo, right: By William Blake Richmond

Her skills are brought into effect via her Instagram account @flowerinterpretations, where both works sit side by side, exposed entirely for their semblance. It is on this platform that she also draws much of her inspiration, connecting with contemporary artists to uncover new work. Her sources are however. unlimited. Unsurprisingly, an eclectic menagerie of arrangements requires an equally eclectic expanse of vision.

“I find inspiration everywhere” says Parry. “The artworks could be ones I have already come to love, perhaps from postcards I have collected from art exhibitions. Or, they could be ones I have discovered from new exhibitions or books.”  

Parry’s botanical breadth has led her work to claim space amongst both art and artefact in galleries, the pages of Vogue and even in the hands of the Queen.

Harriet Parry's interpretation of 'No Face', 2019. Photo, left: Courtesy of Harriet Parry. Photo, right: by Maxim Fomenco

But for Parry, whether it is a blushing bride, unknown artist, or a monarch, she approaches each composition with the same calibre. “For me, they are a collaborative piece with the original artist who I am interpreting or the client” she says. “I think of each as part painting/part sculpture/part photograph.”

Believe it or not, the premise for Parry’s @flowerinterpretations was borne out of a rather modest experiment with Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus’. She recalls her early ventures into her creative practice, sparked by an unassuming bloom resembling Venus’ hair.

“I had some flowers left over from a job and the colours, shapes and textures made me think of Botticelli's Venus” Parry says. “I am obsessed with water nymphs and this is a painting that resides in the collective consciousness.”

She continues; “The rust coloured Amaranthus I had reminded me of Venus' golden hair so, I found the image and started to arrange using the painting as a guide. It felt much more like a recreation. My flowers as my paint; rather than an arrangement "inspired" by the painting.”

Harriet's interpretation of 'Homage to Nina Simone', 1965. Photo, left: Courtesy of Harriet Parry. Photo, right: by Bob Thompson

When modelling her arrangements on a specific piece, Parry focuses on its aesthetic compositions and how individual flowers may compliment colour, texture and shape.

“I often think about how the artist, if a painter, has used their brushstrokes and texture” She says. “Are they choppy and impressionistic or blocky, bold sections of colour? In the first instance, I may use a flower with smaller heads, perhaps Gypsophila. In the latter I would use something bold like an Anthurium.  

She continues: “I will also look at the flowers natural shape, a bend in a stem or the shape of the petals. To create depth and tone, each flower or foliage is used together in the same way a painter would layer their paint.”

Whilst it is clear that Parry has an artistic eye, much like nature, and in fact like lots of works of art, her interpretations are most successful when there is little planning involved. Either way, the result is a feast for the eyes, one which truly emulates the conditions of artistry in new ways and breathes life into every image.

Harriet's interpretation of 'Mystique'. Photo, left: Courtesy of Harriet Parry. Photo, right: by Annie Brit Ohodgin

By the end of this year, Parry is hoping to curate a solo photography exhibition of her collection of flower interpretations in which she will also invite audiences to watch her creative process. Like her methods, the show will allow an expedition into her craft through mixed mediums that capture the broad scope and appeal of this avant-garde florist.

For those of you feeling glum and looking for some crafty activities, Parry gives us her top tips so that you can attempt your own creative floral arrangements. She’s confident that as things ease ‘creativity and expression in the arts will just bloom’:

1. Pick images that bring you joy!

2. Don't feel like you have to mirror the works exactly. This can make your creativity slightly stifled; if you are bound to that. Sometimes just a subtle nod to a section of the art is enough. 

3. Use flowers, foliage and materials that you feel reference the shapes, textures, and colours as well as the overall vibe of the artwork you are working with. 

4. Arrange with playful freedom, and a dash of humour 

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