I’ve always felt more comfortable surrounded by the natural beauty of Creation, especially when paralleled with the hectic cyber world of our modern day. I prefer to immerse myself among the people and places that I love and I find that grounding myself in my habitat provides unlimited creative inspiration.
For this specific event, which brought together farmers, artisans, chefs, and lovers-of-all-things-local, the inspiration began when my boys brought back a crate of wild pears from our woods. They had discovered a tree while Dad was moving the sheep. "Don't eat them mom, we're saving them for winter!" (Sounds like someone has been reading a lot of Blueberries for Sal!) I saw them and immediately wanted to use them for arranging but they didn't quite fit the wedding for that weekend. Ah, the Makers Meal! These wild tan asian pears were so beautiful clumped up together in a bowl, an example of the season’s wild, nourishing abundance.
As a farmer, working hard to grow flowers and raise meat, it is refreshing and energizing to notice all the things the Maker has provided and raised up for us in our very own woods and meadows, without our toil, just for the taking. The pears for instance, were delicious and didn't require the intense care that we give our peach orchard or grapes. The deer that people hunt in the woods...meat, already raised up and fed and healthy and happy, without our lifting a finger. I don't ever want to get so head down preoccupied with farming that I miss the Maker's bounty. In fact, some of the weeds in our veggie garden are packed with more nutrition and natural vigor than the greens we plant to replace them. What a good perspective shaker! One of my farmer heroes, Mark Shepherd says "Why do we spend so much time killing the things that want to live and keeping alive the things that want to die?" Good inspiration to work with the Maker and take advantage of the local abundance right?
I immediately thought it would be fun to do the Makers Meal dinner with only botanical ingredients straight from the Maker. Caitlin quickly agreed. The wheels began turning. We would only use the ingredients that we did not have a hand in growing. Free for the taking, a gift just waiting to be enjoyed.
Not surprisingly, this is how I got into flowers in the first place. I would walk home from school picking Queen Anne's lace, finding that I had a power to create something out of practically "nothing." When you are able to create a meal when there's little in the fridge or a cool new outfit by layering your sisters’ and brothers’ clothes together you have some sort of super power. Maybe its an edgy kind of resilience that comes from growing up in a big family or just a good set of eyes to see how pieces fit together. Either way, its a habit that I rely upon often.
If you were to take a walk through the woods in late October, you’ll notice there's not much in the way of flowers. But when you’ve when you've acquired the right kind of eyes, “tuned in” to the ingredients in the natural world, you can make something you never thought possible. The wild persimmons, dogwood branches, and porcelain berries were aching to be used. During the process, we wondered a handful of times whether we were making the right call. This exercise of using 100% foraged material meant forgoing all the stunning, end-of-season dahlias in our gardens (which is the other reason I love flowers). However the scenario was too good to pass up. It was a welcome challenge in the midst of a full season of heavily floral wedding arranging.
With only a vague vision of what we were up, we arrived at the open barn with our buckets of foliage, vines, and branches, just as the chilly night set in. Caitlin and Lissie and I set about scanning the rafters and the plan for the hanging installation above the table began to come into focus. Remembering the pile of farm-related discards behind the barn, Caitlin suggested we look there for something to use as the frame-work for the install. It only took a few minutes for us to find an old cattle panel, normally used for containing livestock. This section of fencing was no doubt placed there because Farmer/Shepherdess Lee KNEW that it would be used again for something…although I can guarantee she didn’t think it would be revived as a floral chandelier. When we told her the following evening about our foraging in her trash pile, she couldn’t stop laughing. Caitlin with all her magic tricks pulled out some perfect heavy gauge steel wire, clips, hooks and doodads from her bag and we were able to suspend it above the end-to-end whitewashed farm tables.
We also foraged a gate for another cool rustic piece upfront which was already decorated with a mat of dead leaves and a tangle of grass which Lissie wisely told me to leave on for effect. The table scape, with all its different textures came together like a woodland dream. Sturdy, velvet-backed magnolia, fallen branches covered in lichen, petite, speckled persimmon, shimmering porcelain berries, and of course the wild pears that set the whole thing into motion.
Working with the seasons means seeing beauty in whatever is going on out there. The process and life cycle of the plants, just as interesting in their full green glory as they are in their autumn splendor. The decay, deadness and then again the budding. It is this sequence of intricate beauty that the Maker displays and we as Sungold hope to show you through our art.