As those of you who got my newsletter last week know, I had the pleasure of attending a meet-and-greet and workshop with the artist behind “Flora Forager” on Saturday!
She is Bridget Beth Collins, and she creates unique collages of botanical materials – sometimes portraits, sometimes woodland scenes, sometimes animals. As the name suggests, most of the materials she uses she collects from around her neighborhood in Seattle, with a few exceptions like fruit or cut flowers.
I’ve long admired her work and generally just her life – she is inventive and observant, and reverent of small pretty things that grow. This was her first workshop of this kind, and she seemed very nervous, but she chatted with me and my cousin Suzy for several minutes before the workshop began, giving us tips on where to go for wholesale flowers, talking about the neighborhood, and a bit about her creative process, which she elaborated on in her introduction to the group.
Flora Forager, she said, began many years ago with a single orange poppy: the fins of a goldfish, as it turned out. But like so many creative people and artists, she was told that hers was a silly idea.
“No one would want that on their wall,” she recounted the person saying to her when she showed them her goldfish creation. So she set it aside (deep in a closet!) and didn’t pick it back up again for nearly a decade. Lucky for us, she eventually ignored that person’s opinion and instead took a friend’s advice to start an Instagram feed of her botanical creations.
Then her art went viral and Martha Stewart reposted it. You know, the usual.
The art of Flora Forager has evolved, from rainbows and mandalas to animals (her first animal was a trio of snails crafted from the leaves of an escargot begonia), to beloved literary characters like Anne of Green Gables and Harry Potter, and iconic women such as Diana Ross and Frida Kahlo.
With the help of some gorgeous blooms provided by Metropolitan Market, she showed us how she would make an owl. I deviated just a bit, but some people came up with completely different, gorgeous ideas! Foxes and flamingos and faeries, sunsets and starry skies.
It’s such a calming sort of art, for me. Collecting beautiful, tactile materials, taking them apart, sorting through them, deciding which shapes could go where, placing them, moving them, straightening here and there. Each flower can be different. I tore open a few deep purple carnations to use for my owl, and was delighted to discover that one of them had two bright fuchsia spots on each petal.
My owl has Gerber daisy eyes, a sunflower beak, chrysanthemum and thistle tufts, carnation and daisy body, Dusty Miller wings, and sunflower and chrysanthemum feet! This type of art is bittersweet — it engages so many of the senses, and yet it can’t last. It’s the best kind of “process art,” as much fun (or more!) to make as it is to look at.
The textures are so refreshing: the daisy petals as smooth as butter, the Dusty Miller as pliable as old flannel, the thistle, tough and spiky. And everywhere the light perfume of carnation, or chrysanthemum. And in the end, you say goodbye to them, and let them go. The medium is ever dying, ever renewing; it changes with the seasons, and if you look around you, you’ll always find within it a source of creative inspiration…