flowers + reading
Sep 14, 2020
A Step-by-Step Tutorial with Joseph Massie
Joseph Massie | Stella Photography
I don’t know about you, but my prop budget (or indeed, the necessity for new props) has been more than a little lacking this year! As such, we’ve been busy in our studio putting our creativity to the test and finding new ways to re-purpose existing vases and props — finding ways to give them a new lease on life. Re-texturing is a great way to achieve this — and essentially involves taking an existing vessel and with the addition of new materials, providing it with a fresh new look, in a practical and cost effective manner. It goes without saying that I’m a big fan of re-texturing — in my first collection of online courses we included The Textured Vase, and in my brand new collection (launching 21st September) we’re including the Meadow Tablescape — both of which showcase innovative ways to give a tired or boring vessel a brand new aesthetic which can be used time and time again.
In today’s step-by-step for Botanical Brouhaha, I wanted to share a handy little re-texturing technique that costs so little to do, but packs a big punch and can be re-used time and time again. Let’s dive in!
For this re-texturing project I’ll be using art foam, an arts and crafts material commonly found in crafting stores. I’ve selected art foam for this project as it’s waterproof and holds its shape nicely once manipulated. Do note however that the same technique can be applied to any decorative papers — they just obviously may not be quite as waterproof! Art foam is commonly found in craft stores at a really economic price, and available in a wide variety of colours, so for this project I encourage you to select a hue that compliments the celebration you have in mind! To begin, take your vase, and place it in the centre of a sheet of art foam. With the vase in the centre of the art foam, fold up one quarter of the sheet until it’s flat to the side of your vase, and hold this side in place using your thumb, whilst you repeat the process and fold up a second corner of the sheet also.
With two quarters of the art foam pressed against your vase, you’ll find a small edge has formed — just what we want! Next pinch into this edge with your hand, relatively low down the vase (maybe an inch or so from the bottom of the vase), and using your stapler, puncture the art foam tightly against the glass. I find that one good staple will do the trick, however you can use more than one if you feel it is required.
Turn your vase roughly 90 degrees, and repeat the process by folding up the third side of the sheet. Again, this will create another fold, and again, puncture with a staple to keep the sheet in shape. You’ll now have two corners starting to cup against your vase.
Repeat the process again – folding up the third side of the art foam, and creating a third fold which also requires a staple to hold the side of the sheet in place. Finally, bring together the two loose sheets of the art foam, and hold together next to the vase to create the fourth and final fold. Add a staple to finish this fold, and to secure it firmly in place. You’ll now have a four sided sculptural form, reminiscent of a handkerchief style vase, with your glass vase tucked tightly in the centre.
Repeat this process over and again until you have the required number of vessels for the styling you wish to create. For a standard trestle table (here in the UK, that is 6ft x 2.5ft) I’d suggest you’ll need 10 -12 vases to fill the space, but of course this will vary depending on how full you wish the tablescape to be. When I create this tablescape, I do try to create these origami forms across at least two different levels by using taller and shorter vases tucked inside the folded sheets. I find that this enables me to create a design that has different levels of interest for the observer, allowing me some taller blooms to provide impact, and some lower vessels to fill with blooms closer to the table. Here I’ve repeated the technique on a shorter glass votive holder, so I have a mix of taller cylinder vases, and shorter votive glass vases for this tablescape.
Once you’ve created a number of vases, you can fill them with water (approximately half full). When it comes to mechanics to hold our flowers we have two options which I recommend. The first is ideal if you’re planning on using lighter blooms, or a smaller amount of blooms in your tablescape. Start by taking a small piece of art foam, roughly three inches by two inches. Fold the small sheet in half, and scrunch it up in your hand just a little, before popping it into the centre of your re-textured vases. This additional, mini sheet of foam will enable you to slide your stems in and around its folds, securing them in place within the vase, and for additional hold, you could even pierce this small piece of foam with your knife, prior to placing your stems, allowing you to secure a bloom through the sheet, holding it exactly where you’d like it to be.
Alternatively, if you plan on using heavier blooms, or just more blooms in general per vase, you can always tuck a pin holder into the base of some of the vases, securing with cling (sometimes called Oasis Fix) as required. Once your mechanics are in place, style the re-textured vases down the centre of your table, proportioning them as you see fit, with a mixture of heights as desired.
Over the past year or two, I’ve been experimenting with a method of arranging I’m calling ‘blocking’, and it’s via blocking that we’ll be arranging our Dahlia blooms into our re-textured vases today. Taking inspiration from colour blocking, floral ‘blocking’ involves using one type of flower to create contemporary, sculptural forms, with a focus on form and line, and less on texture and colour. Primary, Secondary and Tertiary blooms are still utilised, however in our mono-floral composition, we designate our larger blooms as Primary blooms, and the ever smaller blooms as Secondary and Tertiary accordingly. Using a sharp knife, remove all foliage from your Dahlia stems, and cut each stem on a 45 degree angle. Then begin to add the primary, largest blooms first, placing these Dahlia blooms low into the vases, ideally towards the centre of your tablescape. More unusually shaped blooms should be placed at key points through the design — perhaps in a 3-5-8 fashion, or in a well proportioned manner that suits the tablescape.
Now that we’ve arranged all our blooms, and all our vases are filled, we can style the tabletop accordingly. In this tablescape we’ve added in a curation of grey taper candles and cut glass votives, complimented with the addition of the odd Dahlia head styled onto the table top. Whilst these Dahlia heads will not last long, here in the UK we find our weather temperate enough that they’ll easily last the duration of an event – plus it’s a great way to make use of Dahlias that might’ve been damaged during processing. Finish the tabletop with tableware, styled to taste. Enjoy.
If you enjoyed this tutorial, you might also enjoy listening to our podcast episode with Joseph Massie. Click here to listen.