Living Flowers

Perishable Poetics: Floral designer Jenny Thomasson on her vibrant new book and the passion she poured into it

Jenny Thomasson

On one page, a vibrant photo of a floral arrangement bursting with color – rich and bright purples of Eustoma russellianum  (Texas bluebells) and limoniumMichigan Blue, greenish white Mini Penny hydrangeas and the deep green and golden leaves of epipremnum Golden Queen. Thin blades of long grass fan out at the arrangement’s base, then make a sharp angle turn and reach across the blooms like long, fragile fingers.

On the facing page, floral designer Jenny Thomasson, AIFD PFCI EMC, shares the inspiration behind the design.

“How can we see commonality from a different perspective? Play with it! Weave it, mold it, layer it. The grass wanted to be straight, grow towards the sun, stand firm in its beauty. I saw something different. I wanted a different journey. It was mine to change, and so I did.”

That’s just one glance into Thomasson’s new book, “Perishable Poetics: Manifesting Emotion through Contemporary Floral Design.” Published last fall by Schiffer Books, the Perishable Poetics captures a fleeting moment in time that combines Thomasson’s floral design with her poetic take on the inspiration and creativity behind them. She mapped out her concepts and thoughts in advance, then worked quickly on the designs and arrangements. Because of the perishable nature of her medium, all of the photography and production in the 204-page book took place in just one week.

Living Flowers talked with Thomasson, a florist whose shop, Stems, is located in St. Louis, about her unique approach to design, the new book and what she hopes readers will find in its pages.

Can you describe your approach to floral design?

I am very structured and mechanical in my approach to design. I see the entire composition in my mind, sketch it out to bring the visual forward and then start with the construction of the piece. While I enjoy the process of a beautiful bouquet of flowers in a vase or vessel, my personal aesthetic that I am always drawn to is based on a strong foundation of sculpture in forms, shapes, space, transparency and depth. These are the things that sing to my soul and push me forward in my path of understanding and evolving the craft of floristry. 

Where did the idea for the book come from? What do you want readers to take away from it? 

I believe that the actual preface from the book describes it fairly well. Here are some excerpts:

Modern floristry is an art form that intrigues its audience; the right observer with the right piece of art at the perfect moment will be arrested. Where time seems to stand still and the mind is firing with thoughts of appreciation, confusion, admiration, provocation. The ultimate aim in this endeavor is to showcase works within the spectrum of floral design that push the standard boundaries of the craft.

Focusing on balance, dominance and proportion is of great interest to me as it is ultimately the bones of any design. The techniques used to succeed in proper balance will decide on their own doing if the piece is to succeed or fail. Dominance demands attention, simply put. Without a clear understanding of the focus, the whole is likely to fall flat. If proportion is correct, weather extended, contracted, equal, it will aid in the intent of the desired effect. 

Many designers have a creative process that they use when an idea is established, what the intention is and how it is molded into a completed composition. In this book, you will be able to view my creative process, a visual and verbal diary of my thoughts and emotions during this time and space of creating this book, and become engaged, interacting with physical material. Being able to touch what is being seen, real life literally in the pages that I hope evokes a response. Seeing and touching the inspiration will project a clear understanding of the material and be a source for inspiration. 

If you are looking through this collection to gain a source for a personal creative discovery, I

applaud you. Interested in the understanding of the craftsmanship that is required in this field, you have my deep respect. Gain knowledge on your personal and professional journey, then the aim of this book has been met.

Can you talk a little bit about the process behind the book?

In working with our perishable medium that is botanicals, our time is very fleeting, requiring the work to be swift. The concepts were sketched and material procured for the task; the production and photography all happened in the time frame of one week. There were long days to make sure that the images were captured in just the right way, the correct light, with their best faces forward. The writing of the emotional poetry came in parts, when inspiration set and I was tapped in for the compositions. Some came while the concept was coming together and what feeling I wanted to express; others happened more during the process of the actual designing, all coming together in a perfect union. The book is broken up into three sections: You, Me and Us and is very raw in the sense that it was indicative of my life at the time and being open to sharing. 

What were the biggest obstacles or challenges?

The time frame that I put on myself for the photography. In the end the results are astounding, the imagery stunning! 

What is your pitch to your prospective reader?

A beautiful collection of contemporary floral design stories that give you an insight to the emotion placed into each piece. This book shows how to lace feelings into your designs and glimpses of how my process works in doing just that. Actual hand sketches from me on selected images along with poetry and titles is like reading a story, my story from the perception of a floral designer working through life. It’s meant to be used as an educational, inspirational and visually appealing piece for your design library.

What’s next for you? Do you have another book in mind?

Currently I am working on book No. 2 and ultimately book  No. 3. These concepts and titles have yet to be released.

What did you enjoy most about creating this book?

I told myself that if I was going to do this, go this route and put forth this idea, then I was going to go all out and I wasn’t going to hold back. I know that I can look at this book and say that I did just that. I was true to myself and not afraid of what others might see. I wanted this piece to be a freeing experience and it truly was.