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My world is the world of: The moon; Doris Day; Rainbows; heritage; macaroni cheese; trees; chintz; Mary Poppins; lobster; Ogham; Bagpuss; fairies; gingham; fine bone china; music boxes; apple pie; nostalgia; celtic magic; Mozart; homemade and handmade; vintage; scented roses and cottage garden plants. .

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Not Flowers

I love flowers. In fact I adore flowers. I'm an old-fashioned girl and I like old-fashioned blooms; blousey, nostalgic David Austin roses with their heady, sentimental scents; delicate, fragile wildflowers like poppies, ox-eye daisies and cornflowers and the way a whole big bunch of them never seem to clash, no matter now mixed-up their colours may be.

Perhaps I love flowers too much? Cutting them down just before their prime doesn't sit well with my druid's conscience. I rarely, if ever, buy cut flowers. Give me a plant for the house or garden, or a packet of seeds over a bouquet any day. This quote from Lester Cole, the American screenwriter most noted for his screnplay Born Free, rang true for me:

The Japanese say, If the flower is to be beautiful, it must be cultivated.
Lester Cole

And it appealed all the more for its reference to the Japanese.

A couple of years ago, at the beginning stages of our wedding planning, there was some kerfuffle in the media about the business of cut-flowers and how the industry contributed towards a huge carbon footprint and unfair trade practices. Thinking about the matter of wedding flowers, it was clear to me that David Austin roses were well over our budget, and cut wildflowers would never last the day anyway. I began searching for an alternative to fresh flowers.

Standard artificial flowers didn't appear to be much cheaper than a DIY bouquet of cut flowers. And they didn't appeal to my imagination at all. Offbeat Bride Tribe threw up a plethora of ideas. Fabric flowers were the obvious choice and perfectly viable as a DIY project. I saw some funky felt flowers and some stunning fabric cabbage roses:

And Japanese Kanzashi flowers which went well with the Japanese theme that seemed to be emerging:

Then of course paper flowers were another obvious option. I particularly liked roses made from old book pages, seen here from :

Origami flowers were another obvious choice. Some of them are stunning:

More internet research revealed that you can make a bouquet out of almost anything. Feathers, crystals, buttons, brooches, shells....... the list is limited only by your imagination. I was particularly attracted to the style of Vintage Magpie bouquets.

These were way over our budget, but I figured I could make something similar myself and save a few hundred quid.

Continuing my search I came across this picture and was blown away:

Now here I'd found something REALLY different! It jumped out at me from all the other alternatives because it was the only bouquet I had found that wasn't pretending to be flowers. It was out there. Truly alternative and honest. It says 'I am not flowers!'. I loved it!!

As always, I got together a mood board of all the ideas I had collated in my search for the alternative bouquet:

Over the months of research I had collected old bits of jewellery, buttons, crystals, ribbons and remnants of fabric. I was still not entirely sure about what I wanted to include, so I just collected everything. And I bought some aluminium wire. Lots of it.

A cousin of mine, Anne, is a metal designer. She makes sculptures, strange-looking boxes and all sorts of wonderful things out of metal. She even designs the odd trophy and medal. And so naturally I spoke to her about my bouquet ideas. She was keen to help and my daughter and I made a trip down to London to see her and get creative.

Anne's flat, the basement of a big old Georgian terrace, is an amazing place. She has collections of the most unlikely objects; old oil-cans, farming implements (including a grim-reaper scythe), stuffed animals, shoe laths, teeth, dead insects pinned into frames, glass-eyes, hammers....... there's no doubt that Anne has uurmm individual taste. Now I may not be particularly into jars of glass-eyes in the bathroom, but I DO appreciate individuality. And individuality was definitely something I wanted from my bouquets. I was definitely in the right place!

Armed with supplies from the local off-licence (ahem, strictly to help get the creative juices flowing of course), we began playing around with all the wire and stuff. It was fun. I explained that I wanted an enourmous Edwardian style bouquet. Large bouquets have been very much out-of-fashion lately and I love to go for things that go against the grain. It makes me laugh.

Anne twisted the wire into some beautiful shapes. They could loosely be called 'stems' I suppose, with an elongated, pointed spiral shape at the top and a long tapering tendril underneath. She bunched a few of these together and they looked amazing!! I LOVED it. Anne and Elizabeth weren't so sure. 'It's too big,' they agreed, 'It's too over-the-top.'. I wasn't convinced, arguing 'I WANT over-the-top!' They persuaded me to hold the bouquet against myself as I would on my wedding day and have a look in the mirror. I still loved it. But the other two weren't so sure. Anne explained 'Look, it's your wedding day, YOU'RE supposed to be the main event, NOT the bouquet. Everyone is supposed to look at YOU and go "Aaahhh!", not "Huh? WTF?"' Hmmm....... I got her point. As it stood, I might as well have had someone singing 'Here comes the bouquet...' as I walked down the aisle. She was right.

The spirally metal shapes were good though, and so we set about making some smaller versions. We settled on five stems for my bouquet, three each for the bridesmaids and one each for the flower girls. Elizabeth and Anne then wired on crystals and odds and ends and added a few straight stems with brooches at the end while I started making the buttonholes out of some wire spirals, beads and all the buttons (which by their very name lent themselves very well to the purpose).


Close up:


On the day they roused a lot of interest and intrigue. They're not everyone's cup of tea; my husband wasn't a fan at all. He says they look like they came out of a scrap yard! And there was much jesting (and dread) concerning whether or not I would be throwing my bouquet at the end of the night.

Not flowers. Not by a long shot. But I love our wedding bouquets and buttonholes. They're funky and unconventional, with a vintage touch, environmentally friendly, cheap and unique. And one of their greatest strengths is that they won't die. My bouquet and my husband's buttonhole stand side by side on the windowsill at the top of the stairs, and every time I pass them they make me smile.

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