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Thursday, February 25, 2021

A Passion for All Things Floral

As part of our lead up to this week's 19th annual Flora in Winter, we recently featured two floral designers participating in WAM's bloom-filled extravaganza. Now meet two more talented, passionate arrangers, Carla Morey and Susan Dewey (celebrating 19 years participating in Flora!), who created original arrangements that interpret selected artworks from our collection. Among other things, we'll explore the inspiration and thought-process behind their floral masterpieces for this year's event, what excites them about participating in Flora, and learn more about a memorable experience for one arranger. Here's a hint: It involves Winslow Homer’s great-grandnephew!

Meet Carla Morey: Milton Garden Club, Museum of Fine Arts Floral Design Chair, GCA Floral Design Judge 

Years in Flora: Five

Carla enjoys a wonderful sense of accomplishment
when she puts the final touches on the floral design,
then steps back, and observes it next
to the artwork she's interpreted.

Favorite arrangement: Dark Release (1982) by Joan Snyder

Well, since it’s my only previous piece, it’s my favorite! It was a challenge to interpret because it is an abstract painting done on wood. The artist used mixed materials, so it gave me the chance to really think outside the box. I used wood, wire, paper, paint, and of course, fresh plant materials. The artist was in a dark period of her life, and that shows through the feeling of chaos throughout the painting. But there is hope, depicted in the title and, I think, the use of gold as a burst of optimism.

Carla poses with her striking Flora in Winter 2020 interpretative arrangement
 of  Joan Snyder's Dark Release (1980).

Flora 2021 artwork: Standing Figure of a Beauty (Bijin) (about 1680-1690)

Carla's inspiration: 

The colors, the interpretation of the piece, and the Japanese nature of the subject. I will use materials you can find in Japan—for instance, orchids. The colors range from recessive colors, such as blue and green, to dominant warm colors featuring tones of red and yellow. And I want to be sure the pure white doesn’t dominate the arrangement. The woman depicted is not from wealth. We know that because the materials are not fine, so I will use typical flowers as well, not just the expensive orchids. Using a round armature, I hope to capture the movement of her garments.

Kakiemon (Japanese) Standing Figure of a Beauty (Bijin)
(about 1680-1690). White porcelain decorated with enamels.
 The E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation and
 the Stoddard Acquisition Fund, 1998.182

What makes you excited about Flora in Winter?

During the cold winter months in New England, it gives me the feeling spring is coming and the floral material available is bright and cheerful. It’s always great fun to see the other arrangers and their work. And I feel a wonderful sense of accomplishment to put the final touches on the design, step back, and look at it next to the artwork.

What material or technique would you really love to try? 

I would like to work more with wire and leaf manipulation. Practice, practice!

Meet Susan Dewey: Worcester Garden Club, Osterville Garden Club

Years in Flora: 19

Susan in WAM's Renaissance Court with a lovely
 Flora Challenge Class arrangement from a previous event.

Favorite arrangement: Coast in Winter (1892) by Winslow Homer from Flora in Winter, 2003.

I have always loved the simplicity and power of this painting.

This floral interpretation from 2003 of Winslow Homer's  Coast in Winter (1892)
 is Susan's most favorite Flora arrangement. 

Flora 2021 artwork: Overmantel from the Baldwin House, Shrewsbury, MA (American, 18th century)

Susan's inspiration:

I always try to choose an artwork that conveys a clear message, or emotion, or one that will work with a particular floral design style because of the work’s color scheme, thematic content, or visual movement. This painting’s strong horizontal movement, plus the simplicity of the content, inspired me to create a layered, horizontal design. I chose both traditional and tropical plant material, massed and layered in a design created atop a tall, classic urn.

Overmantel from the Baldwin House, Shrewsbury, MA (American, 18th century).
 Oil on panel. Gift of Mrs. Eveleth V. Hill and Mrs. John W. Lasell, 1980.32

What is your most rewarding Flora experience?

It is very hard to choose my favorite Flora in Winter experience over 18 consecutive years that I’ve been lucky enough to be a designer, but probably the design I created for Winslow Homer's Coast in Winter in 2003 was the most meaningful. I have always loved the ocean and Homer’s sense of natural drama and strong emotional message, yet simple use of subtle color and painterly texture, just spoke to me. 

I spent weeks doing mock-ups of my design at our dining room table, soliciting opinions from my husband and two teenage children. I walked the beaches of Cape Cod for inspiration with my mother-in-law, Frani Dewey, who introduced me to the Worcester Garden Club, and also loved the Museum.

My father-in-law, Chuck Dewey, whose grandfather was a founder of WAM, really loved my final design. I can see him now, sitting quietly on a bench in front of my Coast in Winter arrangement. I always think about those times when I am at Flora. Those memories are a comfort now that both Frani and Chuck are gone.

The true highlight of 2003 happened on the night of the "Flora Euphoria!" celebration. I met Jessie Winslow, Winslow Homer’s great-grandnephew, who was there with his girlfriend! He introduced himself to me as I was standing in front of the design and sharing my inspiration with some visitors. He waited until everyone was gone, then came close and said, “I am Jessie Winslow, my great-granduncle painted this, and I have to tell you that you captured the painting perfectly! I have been to Prout’s Neck [the Homer family’s place in Maine] many times and your design just captures that place. I’m going to take a picture of it and share it with the family!” 

I was thrilled, of course, because to me that is the essence of Flora’s value. This annual event is a  celebration of incredible art showcased and made more immediate (and sometimes more understandable!) with flowers, which helps to inspire all Museum visitors.

A 2003 photo captures Susan proudly posing with her floral interpretation
of Winslow Homer's Coast in Winter (1892) painting.

Experience the beauty of Flora from the comfort of home by registering for our “Passport to Virtual Flora." It includes all related online programming, plus a virtual tour of the 24 floral arrangements and Japanese table display in McDonough Court, along with a bonus video tour of the professional floral arrangements in the Museum's public spaces. View more details here.   

—Profiles compiled by Sarah Leveille, Digital Content Specialist, with editorial assistance from Cynthia Allegrezza, Marketing Coordinator

February 25, 2021

Please note: All images here are pre-COVID; visitors to the Museum are currently required to wear masks. 

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