|THE INSPIRATION: F.H. Varley's 1921 painting|
'Stormy Weather, Georgian Bay'
National Gallery of Canada, Ottowa.
WSJ, Dec. 19, 2013
When its time for holiday decorating, I manifest a curious split personality. On the one hand, my usual restraint goes out the window and, magpie-like, I gravitate toward anything that sparkles. On the other, I feel the need to incorporate the raw and natural, which probably stems from my Canadian upbringing—all the winter days I spent slogging through deep snow and staring down harsh winds.
Reflecting on my homeland, I think of the Group of Seven painters—household names north of the border—who honored and interpreted the Canadian landscape so beautifully in the '20s and early '30s. I turned to a work by a founding member, Frederick Horsman Varley (1881-1969), known for his moving, often moody canvases, as inspiration for December's flower arrangement.
I started with a tall, handmade pedestal vessel from Astier de Villatte, whose glossy white glazes always feel so wintry, like a fresh layer of snow. Then I lined the container with plastic wrap to protect it from scratches, and fit a ball of chicken wire inside. The wire kept cuttings of gestural pine standing tall and supported the wispy, cascading plants I used to fill out the arrangement. To capture the hues of the painting's choppy waters, I chose pale moonlight scotch broom and branches of white snowberry with hits of blue thistle.