I believe in Angels

I’m so excited to tell you about an art project that I worked on with the lovely Juliet Bennett at Babylon Flowers. Back in October she asked if I would like to collaborate on a floral installation for The Winter Pride Art Awards  being held at Tobacco Docks, London. I knew nothing about it but immediately said a big “Yes!”. It sounded exactly like the kind of thing I have been wanting to do for a while, to go back to creating big theatrical floral pieces. I asked a little more about the brief and Juliet said, “I think we can do anything we like, the brief is ” Art is….”. “Fabulous!” I thought. Pretty much right there and then we decided we were going to do huge angel wings. Creating angel wings made of British flowers in November was an exciting challenge and one which we were both ready for. The symbolism of angel wings seemed to sit brilliantly with British flowers. We wanted to create a floral installation that celebrated nature and that it’s art is all around us. We called it ” I believe in Angels”.

Juliet Bennett & Jo Wise at Tobacco Docks
Juliet Bennett & Jo Wise at Tobacco Docks

 

We decided we’d make them as big as possible (i.e. to whatever we could fit in the van!) So each wing was over 3.5 metres tall and just shy of 1.5 metres across at it’s widest point. The two wings were made separately and could be bolted together.

We were incredibly lucky that Juliet had a friend Dom, who worked in film & TV and was able to make the metal frames for us, which were then covered in chicken wire. Rick Bennett from Babylon Plants (Juliet’s husband) had the brainwave of using dried statice as the main coverage. We knew we would have to keep the weight down as the wings were going to be hung, plus it was going to be me and Juliet carting them around! So we both decided on pampas grass for the feathers. The creamy colouring and elegant way it arched made it the perfect choice and gave the piece a touch of 1930’s elegance, with the pampas looking a bit like a feather bower or an exotic dancers fan! We found out later pampas grass has a symbolism too, I’ll let you google that one yourself. Suffice to say it gave our floral art piece and unexpected edginess ,  even if it was unbeknown to us at the time!

Juliet Bennett & Jo Wise up a scaffolding tower with some scented narcissi
Juliet Bennett & Jo Wise up a scaffolding tower with some scented narcissi

We added silver birch to give texture and accentuate some of the lines and took buckets of paperwhite narcissus sourced from the Isles of Scilly to add in situ.

The wings were installed pretty quickly and easily with the help of my friend John Holtorp and we were finished in good time. So all that was left for us to do was have a quick whizz around Spitalfields Market and plan our outfits for the award ceremony later that evening.

Our floral wings take flight
Our floral wings take flight

Juliet used to be a milliner and mask maker so had brought a couple of feather masks with her which we wore on our heads ( mine was rather on the tall side and I caught a few strange looks while travelling on the train back to the venue)

Tobacco Docks looked amazing at night with a beautiful old ship lit up outside welcoming us in. A continuous stream of vodka cocktails were on offer and some beautiful pieces of art on display.

Sculpture by Finn Stone
Sculpture by Finn Stone

 

Glass sculpture by Ilua Hauck da Silva
Glass sculpture by Ilua Hauck da Silva

The award ceremony started as we sat down to dinner. There were various awards for different art mediums and we were treated to short films, dance pieces, poetry, music, moving speeches and enjoyed some compelling performance art. The overall winner was a performance piece by Kimatica.

 

Maria Kimatica performing her winning piece
Maria Kimatica performing her winning piece
Ren Brocklehurst
Nevedya performing Miosis

While we were eating our main course they were presenting the Alternative Arts Awards and I thought I heard “Babylon Flowers & Floral Circus”. Surely not I thought, I looked at Juliet across the table and she was quite clearly thinking the same thing. They had to say our names twice (bless us) before we realised we’d won! We were so shocked and unprepared I can’t even tell you if I said anything at all. Juliet managed a “thank you”, so at least we’d said that much!

Juliet Bennet and Jo Wise on the winning podium
Juliet Bennet and Jo Wise on the winning podium

It was such a magical night and the whole collaboration with Babylon Flowers was an absolute joy from start to finish.

Huge thanks to Ren Brocklehurst for all the fabulous photographs and Rick and team at Babylon Plants for putting up with all the fluffs of pampas grass left in our wake while we were creating the wings. And finally a big thank you to  Simon Tarrant Director of Winter Pride Art Awards for actually entering us into the competition!

Juliet & Jo with their award
Juliet & Jo with their award

I want to make something else big now!

 

 

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