You wouldn't think spending a week in a small workroom tucked down into a basement would be an ideal Parisian experience, but this particular basement housed the wonderful Catherine Muller's Flower School. Each morning I would be greeted with a cup of coffee and buckets of the best flowers available in Paris, waiting for Catherine's next lesson. The lesson always began with a demonstration. I was captivated with Catherine's process which looked like a sort of ballet. Her gestures would imitate the placement to her flowers. If she placed a flower high, her other hand would push down low, balancing the placement. She appears to be so familiar with her work that the movements came naturally and unconsciously. She would say that the flowers know where they want to go, you just have to ask. When she had used every flower in her bucket, she would be left with a show-stopper of an arrangement. Then she would turn us free to bumble through our own rendition of her graceful demonstration.
The class theme was Old Master's Still Life which calls to mind bowls of fruit, voluptuous and dramatic flowers, butterflies, and draping fabric. Each of our creations ended up with these elements. The first day we created a dramatic pyramid made of dark purple scabiosa, Queen of Night Tulips, grapes, and moss. We set it among candles, books, and a draping blue and white patterned fabric.
This arrangement set a mood and told a story. I learned that the placement of the flowers should allow them to speak to each other in order to give the arrangement life and dimension. This method creates an arrangement that looks natural, without a visible pattern or strict placement. One of my favorite arrangements was called "The Painter's Table" which was the epitome of the class theme. It was a dramatic and naturalistic arrangement featuring anemones, daffodils, clematis, and tulips with plenty of fruits and nuts.
A few of our lessons involved assembling bouquets and on these occasions, we stepped out of the basement onto the streets of Paris with our freshly made bouquets. The Flower School is located right across the road from The Louvre Museum with it's sprawling lawns and gardens. It's a beautiful place to walk your bouquet.
Holli Friley is the Aesthetic Director at Michler's.