May 23, 2015

Flower Master Class with France's Christian Tortu

For anyone who loves flower arranging, this is already redundant. But Christian Tortu is simply amazing! And his master class at the MFA certainly didn't disappoint!
A month ago (wow, time's flying by with Mother's Day and graduations, etc. etc.), I had the great good fortune to attend a master flower arranging class at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts as part of their annual Art in Bloom celebration. It was a birthday present to myself and Christian Tortu was the instructor extraodinaire!
Having grown up in a family of gardeners, Christian loved all natural elements and flowers and he eventually made it to Paris to work on his trade. Moving on, Christian was the Creative Director for this huge NYC flower shop, Takishimaya. He eventually left and now has two stores in Tokyo among other major cities and also teaches at The Flower School in NYC and lectures, to people like me :)
So, when this dapper French man sauntered into the workroom at the MFA, all the ladies got giddy and giggly. There's nothing like a French man to set the mood. "Bonjour" was all he had to say and we were eating out of his hand.
The group who had gathered to take the class was a mix of younger girls, and older grandes dame, with one man, who also, funnily enough, happened to be from France. I'm hoping personally, I fall into the category between the younger gals and grandes dame, there's too much life left for me to think of myself as a "highly respected middle-aged or elderly woman"!
Starting with a stunning clear Medici (or bell-shaped, named for the Roman Medicis) glass vase, we saw all the beautiful roses and greens waiting for us in the center of the room. I was clearly in my happy place. Christian had a way of pronouncing the names of flowers that made the ladies swoon, but once we got over the fact that we were in the presence of floral genius, we set about our task. 
We were told to bring clippers, a knife (if so desired) and an apron. I only brought clippers.
With the flower "recipe" written on the white board, we all knew what kind and how many of each type of flower would be in each arrangement.
First, Christian made the sample arrangement, explaining what he was doing as he went along:
1) Start with all the same color
2) Use a knife (I still don't because I cut my hand too badly one time and had to get stitches and am afraid of them, but I think I'm going to give it another try) to cut stems. He even scrapes the bottom part of the tulip stems so they can drink up more water
3) Start with the big flowers first and build from there
4) Keep tulips in paper or in the flower sleeve they came in to keep the stems from bending too much, and don't put them in too much water
Here, he had placed the roses in groupings of threes and in like colors around the edge of the container. Then the bluperum (the greens) were added to provide color contrast.
Once the roses and greens were in place, he moved on to the tulips, rotating the vase the entire time making sure the balance was just right. He also grouped these by color.
After the tulips came the ranunculus (one of my favorite flowers), which he called the "hair" of the arrangement. I think he used that term because he sat the ranunculas on top and they were kind of curly and fun. And then the final je ne sais quois, BEAUTIFUL sweet peas! 
Such an uplifting combo of flowers! 
Et voilàA cheery mix of colors and textures making this girl drool and ready to get started on my own arrangement.
We were given a bundle of the most beautiful flowers, so perfectly conditioned, and all tied with a rustic piece of twine. Très magnifique!

And then, because my brain works this way, I set about separating the flowers by their types so I could see what I had to work with. It surprised me that none of the ladies at my table did the same.
At this point in my arrangement, you can see groups of three "Pink Floyd" (hot pink) roses clustered together, and three "Free Spirit" (orange) roses together. When adding these flowers, I tried to have the stem heights varied so they all didn't look like they were one the same plane. I mixed the green bluperum around evenly and then with the tulips I did the same, placing them in color groups and mostly on the edges with a few in the middle of the arrangement.
Once I was at this stage, I was allowed to go up to the main table to gather my ranunculus, aka hair, and the sweet peas. Christian had explained that the center of the arrangement should be like a "nest" and you should have the feeling that the flowers are coming from the center. That way there's constant movement throughout the arrangement.
These darling sweet peas were added at the end primarily because they were so fragile, but also because they had such thin stems that they would be easy to insert in such a jam-packed arrangement.
I Just kept rotating the vase looking for holes since the arrangement.
And tada! Here's how it came out, ready for the critique by my master instructor.
You can see that this lady chose to follow her own path and mixed up all the flowers all along.
I think our table did a pretty great job. 
And after getting the highest praise from Christian Tortu himself, (he asked me if I was a professional and proclaimed my arrangement Très Bon! I nearly fainted!), I ran to the MFA's bookstore to grab his hard-to-find book. The day was only getting better!
All the arrangements were packed in boxes to transport home. 
But I still had one more thing to do...
GET MY BOOK SIGNED by the man himself! Ooh la la!
And here I placed my arrangement for ME (since all my kids were away and my husband was on our boat in Florida) to enjoy. And did I ever.

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