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

. louise bourgeois- unilever image 02

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!

School for Social Entrepreneurs Stories of Change Awards Ceremony

This event as always brings together the mighty spirit of those brave enough to dare challenging the status quo with those who are similar but working within the financial services. SSE provides a platform for the learning and development of those that graduate from the programme and the tools and support for the enterprises they start.Stories of Change

Among the award winners, special mention should be made of Lucy, who overcame the barriers of homelessness to acquire 11 acres of land on which she will build a homelessness rehabilitation centre based around land-based learning and acupuncture, and Ian from May Project Gardens, which is starting a permaculture garden in Morden with the aim of bringing communities together through ecological and ethical activities.

We were asked for something bright, cheerful and celebratory because this year’s ceremony was earlier than usual. We chose white glass vases and clear glass for the long-stemmed irises and, keeping in harmony with the SSE colours – magenta, gold and blue – we thought sunflowers were fitting to represent their logo. We used the irises to represent vision and fidelity, which we feel is needed for those who take a social or environmental entrepreneurial path.Magenta, Blue and Gold

Floral donation went to the Karibu Centre, Gresham Road, Brixton, which allowed for the space to be dressed for the funeral of a young male victim of violent street crime. Elaine Holness, the director of the Centre and an SSE fellow, continues to create an accessible and safe environment for the Brixton community to hold meetings and events.