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.

Thinking Flowers? is having a bit of a throwback!

After a while in our dusty photographic archive, the Thinking Flowers? blog is back and better than ever!

In the coming months, we are going to be delving into the past to find old commissions and projects to share in order to create a complete digital archive of our work. Prints [both framed and unframed] will be available on request.

Thinking Flowers? has always dedicated itself to providing meaningful, minimal and modern floral installations through ethical and sustainable practices. We have seen an increase of interest in these areas over the last 11 years and we hope to map the physical and social impact that our ethos and practices have had not only in the cut-flower industry but the intersections of social enterprise, visual arts, global business and community engagement.

It is with this in mind that we want to create this archive to share our experiences and findings in order to support future designers and artists.

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I want to go to Japan, [2004]

We always try to find beauty, life and wealth in discarded items and wherever possible to recycle and repurpose material. Through the gradual unfolding of the archive, we hope to demonstrate how and why modern, meaningful and minimal design principles have been applied and furthermore, how we have used floral installation to create site-specific opportunities for people to engage with our work and with each other.

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Waste is wealth! [2003]

It can be hard for us to see how and why this artwork, its process and its context is essential and groundbreaking when flowers are so commonplace in our everyday visual landscapes. Even such terms as ‘floral installation’, ‘upcycling’ or ‘green waste disposal’ have only become popularised in the last ten years or so. But we hope by sharing our images and information and our projects that we can map the construction of floral installation and how it has evolved over time.

Stay tuned for more posts!

Thinking Flowers Thursday: The Lotus

It’s Thinking Flowers Thursday! Today, we’re thinking about the many meanings of the lotus flower. Most of you will connect this flower with Buddhism, but did you know that it was an important flower for the Ancient Egyptians too?

The Egyptians linked the lotus flower to the sun, which disappears at night and reappears during the day, and so it came to symbolise ‘rebirth’ in their culture. The famous Egyptian Book of the Dead, is known to include spells which transform a person into a lotus, thus allowing for resurrection.

Have you ever seen a lotus flower emerging from a murky pond? Chinese poets use lotus flowers to inspire people to continue striving through difficulties and to show their best part to the outside world, no matter how bad the circumstances may be. This is understood as being just like the lotus flower, bringing beauty and light from the murky darkness at the bottom of the pond.

We hope we’ve inspired some flower thoughts in you today! Do you have any memories associated with lotus flowers?

Lauren has this story from her travels:

I remember losing my way through the winding back streets of the Balineese city Kutu. Distressed by the pollution and litter, I was saddened to my stomach by the destruction we have caused to the beautiful places we are gifted to live in.

After a few more uncharted turns I was on a dusty and busy main road. I had reached the furniture district situated a little out of town, so the artisans could have work space and show rooms. There was a really bad smell like open sewage. I covered my nose and mouth and ran. I couldn’t help stopping to spit out the water that had sprung into my mouth, as I looked for best place to do that, I saw a flash of colour, bright and vibrant, illuminating pinks and purples, with verdant greens for as far as I could see.

In the swampy open sewer there were field Lotus flowers spread out, stretching right up the derelict building. The water was gone from my mouth and now streaming from my eyes. How could something so exquisite grow in such squalor? I wanted to walk amongst them, to feel their water roots on my feet, but there was no way as I could feel the teeming of the bacteria.

I left Kuta the next day after a harried escape plan to the mountains. I had cried every day there as I was so distraught buy the tragic sea of destruction the tourists left. They were also building a massive sewage pipe into the sea, awaiting the arrival of a new hotel. I had had enough of seeing comdoms, coke cans and Burger King cups floating in the whisking white waves. It is almost like it had become bearable, or I was desensitized to it, in London, but the harsh juxtaposition of raw, creative nature and mindless destroying was cutting deep. I realized the Lotus was like us, and that even in the mess we cause we can be enlightened, we can change, we can blossom, there is hope and we have the resources.

When my mind is muddied with sorrow and my thoughts of hope swamped with doubt, I remember the Lotus flower and how naturally triumphant it was.

Thinking Flowers? Thursday

Are you Thinking Flowers? today?

Red Clover

Red Clover

Lauren saw these Red Clover in a field in Alnmouth Northumberland and was stunned by their magenta colour; so loud amoungst the subtle country colours!

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) is native to Europe, and we’d be surprised if you hadn’t seen this around over the summer. Pratense is actually the Latin for “found in meadows”, so, no surprises there.

Usually accompanied by a drowsy bumble bee or two, red clover springs up everywhere. Amelia remembers being told by a friend at school that she too could drink the honey out of clover if she sucked at the pink petals! It seemed quite sensible at the time…

Red Clover is commonly used as a nitrogen fixer, to increase soil fertility. It is traditionally used in treating skin problems, as well as hot flushes and night sweats during the menopause as it helps the body to balance oestrogen.

These uses date back to the middle ages, when it was seen as a symbol of protection and good luck. The Romans, Ancient Greeks and Celts even revered it!

Do you have any sunny, summer memories of red clover? Have you ever used red clover to alleviate itchy skin, or rashes? Share your #flowerthoughts with us in the comments and on Twitter!

Welcome to Thinking Flowers Thursday

We’d like to welcome you to the first of many Thinking Flowers Thursdays, where we invite you to share your flower thoughts with us. So much of what makes flowers important are how we feel about them, what we use them for, and how we want to make other people feel. So, what are you thinking? Leave us your thoughts in the comments below!

Yesterday, Thinking Flowers met at the Queen Elizabeth Hall roof garden to enjoy what sunshine there was, and to see the flowers, of course.

white flowering nettles at the southbank

Hands touching a white flowering nettle

This is Lamium album, a white dead nettle, which looks like a stinging nettle, but is completely safe to touch. It can also be used medicinally: “…as a gargle for sore throats and inflamed gums, and as a compress for wounds, haemorrhoids, eczema and burns.” Amazing what dangerous looking plants can do when we learn how to use them.

Milk Thistle

Milk Thistle flower

Milk Thistle is another dangerous looking but very helpful plant. The seeds of Silybum marianum contain silymarin which is used in treating liver disorders.

Hands holding a calendula

Hands holding a calendula amongst many calendulas

Calendula is a beautiful, edible flower, often used in salads or as a replacement for saffron. It can also be used to soothe skin inflammations. In the language of flowers, Calendula means sorrow or sympathy, and who wouldn’t be cheered up by receiving some of these colourful blooms on a sorrowful day?

Have we got you Thinking Flowers yet? How do you feel today? What flowers would you most like to have in a great big bunch on your desk, or at home? Are there memories associated with these flowers? Share your thoughts in the comments section below! We’ll also be tweeting out flower thoughts using the hashtag #flowerthoughts.

(You can now follow Thinking Flowers’ adventures on Instagram! Our username is thinkingflowers and we hope you’ll join us in the digital world.)