I’m so delighted to introduce you to Bridget Beth Collins, the insanely talented botanical artist, painter, writer and creative force behind Flora Forager. If you don’t already follow her on Instagram, @flora.forager, you must check her out. Her artwork–created entirely with flower petals, leaves, and other foraged botanical materials from her garden and neighborhood–is absolutely breathtaking and has become one of my favorite feeds to follow.
It was somewhat serendipitous that I had the chance to meet Bridget in person earlier this spring when she visited the farm with a small group of journalists. We hit it off immediately and at the end of her visit, I sent her home with armloads of blooms to create her works of art. Seeing what she created with the flowers I gave her was such a treat!
Flora Forager, A Seasonal Journal Collected from Nature is a super sweet little book featuring Bridget’s artwork that just came out last week (keep reading to learn how you can win a free copy). I asked Bridget to share more about her artwork, book and creative process as part of my Farmer & the Florist interview series.
Erin: I’d love to know more about the process of creating your floral art. Do you go out looking for particular flowers and foliage to fit a particular piece of art…or do you let your materials dictate what you create?
Bridget: Both! When I go for a walk I can’t help but see the waves of the sea in blue hydrangeas or the tail of a mouse in a fuzzy seed sprig of grass. Spontaneous creativity is probably my favorite mode of art, and it certainly created Flora Forager in the beginning. But now that I have commissions and books I’m working on I definitely find materials for pieces I need to create. It becomes a treasure hunt of sorts whenever I go to the nursery. One time I went into Ravenna Gardens and asked if they had anything that looked like woodpecker wings, and the sales assistant brought me all of their black and white plants! The next week I came in to show her what I had created. That was really fun.
Erin: How long do you typically dedicate to creating each piece? I would imagine you must start and finish your piece in short order because, unlike using pastels or oil paints, for instance, you can’t exactly take a break and come back to it hours, much less days later, am I right? Are there special precautions you take to preserve your art?
Bridget: That’s very true. The more detailed pieces I create can take a few hours. The smaller ones are less than an hour, maybe 30 minutes. The time and effort is really in the imaginative thinking before I get started. Once I have an idea, and the right flowers, it doesn’t take me long to put it together. I generally keep flowers that may wilt in water as I’m working. Sometimes I have to replace flowers with fresher ones as I create. But working with flowers is much quicker than working with paints because you don’t have to mix colors or wait for layers to dry, and you can move the petals around easily if something doesn’t look right. And a lot of the detail in my pieces is simply part of the flowers themselves. My animals, for instance are so incredibly simple, but the flowers themselves have the details on them. For example, many petals are ombre (ie: fade from one color to another) so when I scallop them over each other they look like scales or feathers with very little actual work on my part.
Erin: I am totally fascinated and in awe with your series of recreations of masterpieces utilizing flowers. Instagram just doesn’t do it justice. You really must see the side-by-side photos of the originals paired with your floral interpretations to appreciate the effort and creativity you put into each piece. You wrote on your blog that you are ready to “usher in a new age of art”—tell me more about this series and what you hope to create in the future.
Bridget: Did I say “usher in a new age of art?” That sounds so pompous! Ha! But I do think a lot about how all the great masters have gone before us, and there have been all these incredible ages of art that were new, and exciting, and different than the centuries before. I mean, when you think of what oils must have looked like to a cave painter, or what impressionism must have looked like to realists, or even collage work in childrens books after years of watercolor…For the last several years I’ve had this sadness over how there hasn’t been anything new to grasp. No new ground to break. When I started essentially “painting with flowers” I felt this magical idea come over me that this is an odd, quirky, new medium that couldn’t have happened certainly before photography, and as far as I know wasn’t ever seen by someone like Van Gogh or Michelangelo. I would love to go back in time and see the look on Monet’s face, scrolling through some of the floral art of our time. I’ve done Klimt, Hokusai, Boticelli, Michelangelo, and a waterlily piece sort of inspired by Monet so far. What I’d really love to do is recreate artwork that’s very recognizable. Flower artwork at first looks a little like a mess of petals on a page, but then as you look closer you realize it’s an image of something, so to have really recognizable artworks helps the brain to switch over to that realization. And Master copies are just really fun for me to look at. I love seeing other artists’ renditions of masters’ works. It’s also a way to teach yourself how to paint or how to create, and it’s definitely done that for me with flowers.
Erin: What are the floral ingredients that make you the happiest? Are there any botanical ingredients you are currently on the hunt for? Anything I should keep an eye out for? (As an aside: I read that you wished there were aqua-colored flowers. Have you seen the ‘blue drift’ sweet peas I’m growing? They age into a weird turquoise color… perhaps worth trying?)
Bridget: (Turquoise sweet peas! Eeee! I wonder if you gave me some of those seeds when I visited. I’m planning on planting next spring and I hope they’re in there! I know I got “Our Harry” which I especially wanted because I have a Harry!) About what makes me the happiest…so much! I really love all sorts of flowers… the underappreciated and taken-for-granted ones give me a challenge to try to showcase them in new light (rhodies, fuchsias, babies breath, carnations etc.) The odd, rare, new, and quirky flowers I’ve never seen before or that have an interesting history really fascinate me. (I saw some black smoke bush leaves that had hot pink sort of swirly edges that I can’t get out of my mind. I think they would make a cool snake…but it was in a private garden!) But the flowers that really make my heart swoon are wild flowers and English garden flowers…David Austen roses, peonies, poppies, delphinium etc…big luscious and fluffy flowers really never seem to get boring for me.
I think you have an incredible selection and eye for design, and I wouldn’t want to give you any suggestions! But I will say that I wish every bouquet I bought had yellow dill flowers in it. The kind that grow off the plant you eat. They look like magic! Big firework splashes with little yellow sparks spraying from the stalk. If I could go back in time I’d have them in my wedding bouquet or maybe a flower crown made of them. I only ever see the white variety or queen anne’s lace available. I’ve always found the yellow in friends’ gardens or in a grocery section and it makes me really happy!
Erin: Your artwork seems to have exploded in the mainstream press of late. I saw your work recently was featured in Country Living, House Beautiful, Flower Magazine, among others. Plus your new lovely little Flora Forager journal just came out–tell me more about it.
Bridget: I have been so lucky with the press…I’m so thankful for any placement of my work because I’m generally pretty shy about reaching out to people! My editor at Sasquatch, Hannah Elnan, is one of those who sought me out and I’m so grateful! We went out to coffee and the idea for the journal came to life. Flora Forager, A Seasonal Journal Collected from Nature is so beautiful…I’m so proud of how it turned out! It’s a blank journal for writing separated into the four seasons. There are 12 full page scenes, and about 35 little animals and designs for the corners. Hannah did a great job of encouraging me to create and choose pieces that encompass all of my floral art, and give a sweet, gardeny, pacific northwest vibe for each season. Most of the book is all new artwork so can’t wait for it to come out August 9th so I can share it all!
Erin: Thanks Bridget for sharing more about your work. I’d love to have you out again to gather ingredients for my garden—or go foraging with you! I hope our flower paths cross again soon.
Bridget: I would die and go to heaven to be able to come again! Thank you so much for this little interview and all the gorgeous work you create and post online…I’m in awe of you!
Connect with Flora Forager:
Erin: Sasquatch Books, the publisher of the Flora Forager journal has graciously provided us with two copies to give away to Floret blog readers. For a chance to win, simply enter below. In your comments, please share a topic you journal about OR share an idea for a floral art piece you’d love to see. Entries close on Sunday and I’ll announce the two winners here on Monday, August 22nd.