Photo by Lynn Baiori
Gemma Sarrà. A touch of nature.
A rose is a rose. But pluck the petals and scatter them across a bed, or lace them through wire, and a rose gives an entirely distinct impression. Though delicate enough to crush beneath our feet, the smallest blossom has the power to evoke deep emotion in us. Whenever my mother saw gladiolus (whose name comes from the Latin gladius or sword) she would remind us with nostalgia of the gladiolus corsage that she wore to her high school prom. Delicate, ephemeral, fragrant—there’s drama in fleeting beauty. Even stems and branches can be twisted into decisively symbolic forms: think laurel wreath and crown of thorns. Commonplace at our most ambitious ceremonies, flowers express love, grief, joy and remembrance. Their careful arrangement is an art celebrated around the world, from the gentle balance of Japanese Ikebana to the intricate floral carpets constructed to celebrate Corpus Christi in Spain and Italy, and the carnival-like flotilla that makes up the Parade of Roses in Pasadena, California each New Year.
Floral artist Gemma Sarrà notes how the colour and arrangement of flowers varies greatly from culture to culture. While white is used for weddings in the West, in Japan it is reserved for funerals. The Japanese style tends towards maximum expression with the fewest possible elements. In the north of Europe, pieces are more technically complex. The Dutch are fond of lilac to celebrate love but here it would be considered bad luck, as it is seen as a colour more appropriate to express bereavement. “Catalans tend to be sober and serious in their flower arrangements,” Gemma explains, while the English prefer more lavish displays. “It is important to understand the psychology of the client when working on a design,” she says. “But I also like to work with un toc de sorpresa.”
Gemma’s studio is filled with large barrels overflowing with green leafy branches, pots of colourful cut plants, trunks of bamboo, tables covered in wire and stone. She sources material from the large flower market at Mercaflor, which provides flowers from all over the world, with a large number coming from Holland. But she also has a personal supplier, a local man who brings her treasures he finds in the Catalan countryside. “I like working with stones and with anything that comes from the mountains or forest. I don’t like working with anything artificial,” she tells me.
Gemma doesn’t run a flower shop; she creates complex arrangements for promotional events, businesses and large affairs. One of her many clients is the Hotel OMM and her scenic flower creations are found at fashion shows and weddings. She takes her inspiration from wherever she finds it; her wire work, she says, is influenced by the art of Antoni Tàpies. She talks as she works, her hands moving quickly, cutting, sorting, slipping each piece into place. Every display she designs is an expression of how she thinks and feels. Once completed, it is up to the onlooker to interpret their meaning.
Click here to find out more about Gemma and her designs.