How Sleeping Beauty Awoke Our Inspiration

13 December 2018

At London Flower School, we believe creativity is the bedrock of good floristry. But that presents students with a unique challenge: how do you find inspiration? This is an area new and many experienced florists struggle with, but the answers are all around them if they look beyond floristry itself. Creative concepts; themes, and treatments abound and cross-permeate between disciplines. The abundance of art; history and green spaces around us provide an array of inspiration that is freely available. The key therefore is valuing the world beyond floristry; viewing floristry itself as an art form, and looking beyond the floral design studio for stimulus.

We recently completed a project on our latest Career Course that illustrated this journey from inspiration to completion of a final project. Our inspiration came from the work of the pre-Raphaelite visionary Edward Burne-Jones whose paintings are currently on show at Tate Britain. Burne-Jones was a key figure in Victorian art and a founding member of the design collective Morris & Co. He was a decorative artist who saw no distinction between the fine and applied arts. As such, he adapted his work to a variety of media, including stained glass, tapestry and book illustration. The current exhibition features 150 works, but we selected one set of paintings entitled The Legend of Briar Rose to inspire our project.

“I mean by a picture a beautiful romantic dream of something that never was, never will be – in a light better than any light that ever shone – in a land no one can define, or remember, only desire.”

—Edward Burne-Jones

For his own inspiration, Burne-Jones often drew from myths and legends to create powerful dream worlds that pull the viewer into a twilight realm. The Briar Rose series is a particularly beautiful example of this treatment, a visual retelling of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale that adroitly balances clarity of observation with original composition.

The Legend of Briar Rose consists of four large-scale paintings completed between 1885 and 1890, as well as additional panels. The paintings (The Briar Wood, The Council Chamber, The Garden Court, and The Rose Bower) each depict a still image from Sleeping Beauty. Taken together, they create a single moment of the tale – yet they represent the myth in its entirety. The perfect stimulus for the London Flower School creative team.

The fateful slumber floats and flows About the tangle of the rose; But lo! The fated hand and heart To rend the slumberous curse apart.

—William Morris - ‘The Briar Wood’

It was never our intention to reproduce or mimic Edward Burne-Jones ideas; work or creativity. With the myth and the paintings as inspiration, we reimaged his original composition, and retold the story through our own contemporary eyes – drunken guards; young hipster courtiers; floral details relevant to today. Once our imagination was unleashed, creativity flourished and the final result was a work of art itself. Nevertheless, the process was a journey that began with looking beyond floristry.

At LFS, we find it important to put floristry into context. We ask ourselves at the beginning of every project, what is the purpose of this particular project, what are we trying to achieve and where can we find inspiration. We encourage all of our students to take this creative journey. To attend exhibitions, to focus on a particular theme (such as Sleeping Beauty as in the case above), to create a concept around that theme, and then interpret that concept through the medium of flowers. This creative journey enables the new and experienced florist alike to discover new ways of self-expression.