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!