Archive: Clearly So – Social Business for CEOs Conference 2008

In 2008 Thinking Flowers? collaborated with Catalyst Fund Management and Research – now called Clearly So. A company very much in line with our ethos, Clearly So helps social entrepreneurs raise capital in order to grow the social investment marketplace and help build a more social economy.

I was commissioned to provide table floral installations for their Social Business for CEOs conference. In contrast to many social sector conferences, Clearly So focused on providing practical advice for the day-to-day business challenges and opportunities facing senior managers in this growing sector, not just on networking.

Clearly So still provides regular monthly sessions, A Tea Time Q&A, for anyone from budding to fully-fledged entrepreneurs to attend with questions, problems or just to listen in on advice and trouble-shooting. Their next session is on March 12.

The installation we created for them encompassed the nature of their mission to be a catalyst for social investment, mirroring our desire to create global change by positive investment in ethical supply chains. All flowers were selected by ethically sound suppliers Fair Flowers & Plants.

The installation was designed using purple and white Vanda Orchids, reflecting the former colour scheme of the company.

When doing research for this project, I was inspired by the colours and textures of the orchids i found at New Covent Garden Flower Market

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The orchids would rest in glass globe-like bowls which represented the planet, its circular movement and the idea of continuous change which we believed complimented the type of work done by Clearly So.

Catalyst sketches

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Archive: Entreprise Centre for the Creative Arts 2005

The Enterprise Centre for the Creative Arts, now known as Student Enterprise and Employability for UAL, was one of our first weekly contracts and was exactly the type of venture that Thinking Flowers? aimed to collaborate with, bringing together our fields of interest – creativity and business. ECCA gave its users the opportunity to innovate and supported them through mentoring, funding, seminars and practical business workshops.

In 2005, having noticed the beautiful glass corner office they had, located inside the London College of Communication building, I pitched with them for a regular table top floral installation. We thought it would be a great opportunity for our designs to be widely viewed and to create a positive impact for the staff and students.

The contract allowed deep critical thinking around the design, aesthetics and influence of the environment on our installations – ie. site-specific designs. In addition we could think about the purpose of flowers in our work spaces and how we could combine our installations with the ethical practices that embodies Thinking Flowers?.

While a decade ago the idea of ethical practices that involved both social and environmental concerns may have seemed out of place in the business world, and were perhaps a little wacky at the time, Marice Cumber, who was the director of ECCA at the time, nevertheless gave us a chance. We were nominated for the ECCA’s Best Social Enterprise of Ethical Business Award in 2010.

The images below are a selection of some of our favourite table top installations.

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The space being quite clean and open allowed for a lot of experimentation. We were going through quite a green period and used tall elegant green goddess calla lilies and steel grass to form layered textures in different hues.

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Green Thistles, Ivy, White Roses, Steal Grass, fountain grass, Hypericum, Veronica

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Gloriosa Lily, Bottle brushes, Grevilla

The office interior was sleek, modern and with colourful highlights, yet remaining somewhat industrial. Reflecting this in the above design, the use of the black vase suggested black ink in the context of an office environment and contrasted with the bright gloriosa lilies which bring light and colour to the room. The use of inky blue gervilla fitted with the wispy language of the emu grass (asparagus fern) and bottle brushes.

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Tropical plants such as heliconia and anthurium were common in our designs at the time and we still love to use the Rainforest Alliance for these, for example in at the V&A Fair Trade Floral Design workshop that we curated.

Archive: Inauguration celebration for the University of Arts London, 2004

2004 was the year things really started for Thinking Flowers?. Through working with flowers the opportunity arose to pitch a floral design concept for the inauguration celebrations of University of the Arts London, formerly known as the London Institute. There were quite a few celebration dinners at this time, one was a traditional affair for the inauguration ceremony at the Banqueting House  at Horse Guards Parade. In attendance were several UAL alumnae such as Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood. This was particularly meaningful for me as a UAL alum myself! The success of the dinner led to a string of private commissions for underground fashion parties and exposure to elements of the surreal, the bizarre and the extraordinary. My mind was opened to the opportunity flowers could bring to create and connect different realities. Designing with flowers for the inauguration ceremony was mind-blowing in some ways because I’d never had to respond to another art form – in this case, I was asked to incorporate the aesthetic of the hall’s Reuben ceiling. On the contrary, designing as a response to industrial and urban environments felt like second nature when coming up with the concept for the inauguration dinner at the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern.

Maman 1999 by Louise Bourgeois 1911-2010

Image courtesy of Tate Modern website, 

The installation in the hall at the time was Louise Bourgeois’ Maman. An overwhelming series of giant spider sculptures with full egg sacs that explored the kindness, cruelty and fragility of motherhood. I didn’t realise the enormity Bourgeois’ work would have as an influence on my life as an artist. Her interpretations of gender in her sculptures still resonate with me today.

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Table piece, Tate Modern, 2004

I chose to use green anthuriums because they were pretty absurd to have as a buttonhole. The use of the pink roses at the bottom of the topiary tree almost seem as though they could be normal table arrangements.

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The overt references to the male and female were confrontational and would encourage people to think and talk about flowers in a different way – and hopefully encourage people to talk about both the art and the flowers at the dinner. Covering the phallic stamen with a pink ribbon was really a subtle joke about our cultural shyness around the body. I wanted the wires to be shown because they spoke to the mechanics of the industrial space at the Turbine Hall as well as referencing the spiral of Louise Bourgeois’ towers from her work entitled “I do, I undo and I redo”, Tate Modern, 2000

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Image courtesy of Tate Modern website, 2000

Similarly, the designs for the table arrangements were about poking fun at the topiary tree and giving it more of a space-age feel, in line with the large industrial feel of the hall. I took inspiration from a self-directed table setting I had created some time before.

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UFO, Self-directed creation, 2004

Next post coming soon!