Class Title: From the Woodshed
Staging: A contemporary design; space allowed 80cm wide, height unlimited; including fresh or dried Australian native flora.
For many years I found the difference between “contemporary” and “modern” designs unclear. After consulting the local Floral Art Association design standards manual it became easier to differentiate between the design styles at a basic level but my best learning came from being chastised by judges for introducing contemporary techniques into modern designs.
These days I use a simple rule (for me) – modern is minimal material for maximum impact with no manipulation apart from trimming of foliage; contemporary means I can be more adventurous with the plant material and mechanics.
The actual definitions (for me locally, so you should check your own floral art guidelines for the guidelines relevant to your competitions) are
Modern: Design styles developed in the 1960s and 1970s which show materials used in a well defined manner with depth and space vital to the design. They can be of radial or interest equated construction. Design styles that you might see in a Show Schedule include Abstract, Assemblage, Collage, Creative Line, Creative Mass, Free Expression, Free Form, Free Style, Kinetics (Mobile, Stabile, Stamobile), Sculpture.
Contemporary: As a starting point, this means “of the current period”. Trends are often set by individual designers with freedom from specific requirements other than the Principles and Elements of Design. Being innovative and selecting plant material for its design qualities rather than its horticultural merits can help you understand this design style.
Now to this particular contemporary design….
By looking at our own woodshed I knew exactly what I wanted to include in this design. In one of the corners I found an old pile of small branches from a banksia that must have been trimmed (or cut down) at some point and left in the shed just in case we needed kindling. As with many woodpiles, there were spiders everywhere, mostly our famous and somewhat dangerous “redbacks”.
Using an existing base made from a large slice of gum tree with a vertical copper pipe inserted, I have made a branch/twig triangular structure by stacking the wood and tying it off at each corner with paper covered wire. Stacking is a contemporary floral art technique.
A branch with banksia cone is placed in the copper pipe – this can remain out of water for this design as I am allowed both dried and/or fresh plant material. As an aside I can fit a small vial inside the copper pipe when I need it for fresh plant material.
The triangular structure is placed on to the base over the central copper pipe and banksia cones placed inside in a random pattern. A small section of fine twigs (formed by tatami matting method) is at the top of the structure.
At this point it’s a design that meets the brief but it has no real visual impact. I need something to lift it …..enter my redback spiders for the WOW factor.
The spiders are made by drilling holes for fine black wire “legs” into a variety of Australian native nuts (gum and casuarina) with a small red paint mark on their backs to indicate the spider variety! I also used some semi straightened copper coloured bullion wire to simulate some spider webbing.
This design placed first. The judges commented that the design was very indicative of what might be found in a woodshed and showed an innovative use of the plant material to tell the story of the class title.