We were thrilled to meet Maria Aida Austin of Hedgerow Garlands recently at a Vintage Fayre and see her designs first hand. Maria Aida spoke to us about her wonderful floral creations and sent us some gorgeous images to swoon over!
Maria Aida, you create romantic hedgerow garlands! Tell us all about them!
“My design-style is definitely relaxed and informal, reflecting the way flowers grow in nature. In my studio at home in West Cork, I create bespoke bouquets, wall-garlands, pew-posies, floral chandeliers (for suspension above tables or as backdrops for photos), and floral crowns. Being made to order, they are all different shapes and sizes; the wall-garlands are usually one or two feet long and as far as their shape goes- I heard my husband once describe them to someone as being in the shape of a smile! The pew-posies can be as small as the size of a saucer but the floral chandelier that I’ve just finished is about five feet tall. All my pieces are hung or tied off with satin ribbon.”
“I use a very whimsical combination of materials: strange little vintage glass and porcelain flowers and birds that I fall in love with in vintage and second-hand shops. My mum and sisters are great at scouring funny little shops for me too! I’m going to France soon, where I’ll be looking for unusual collectables in bric-a-brac markets such as old glass grapes; I use mini-rubber grapes at the moment, which- by the time I’ve finished with them!- can be really life-like, but I would love to use glass grapes instead.”
“I gather the organic materials that I incorporate into my designs from my garden and surrounding hedgerows. I live in a beautiful part of Ireland where there is no shortage of wilderness, so I gather honeysuckle-vine, hydrangea, alder branches and berries, seed-heads from wild clematis, ivy, sedum, rugosa rose, wild rose and poppy. I also use silk, velvet, cotton and mulberry-paper flowers which I buy mainly from small shops, painting each one individually by hand.”
“Each piece I create is built to last as a nostalgic wedding keepsake. I can also incorporate fresh flowers of the bride’s choosing into my designs, which can be removed after the wedding day, without causing any damage to the overall design aesthetic.”
Maria Aida, you also mentioned that you use hand painted silk and mulberry paper flowers! Sounds so pretty!
“I buy silk flowers singly and mainly in white, so like I mentioned, I can hand-paint each one myself using water-colours; this gives each bloom that depth and anomaly that you find in nature. I sometimes strip the flowers down, reconstructing them myself, adding poppy seeds and the feathery wild clematis seed-heads to the centre of the flower to give them a more organic feel. Very fiddly work but I love it! So far, the mulberry-paper flowers that I’ve used have been lucky finds from vintage shops. Mulberry-paper has great absorbency for painting.”
What are some major trends you are seeing this spring?
“Increasingly, I’m seeing people move away from ‘formula’ towards individualism. This is great; tradition and ritual provide the structure for an event like a wedding but individualism is what gives an event colour and character. The smallest touches of individualism can make the biggest difference; years ago, I made a slightly bonkers cake-decoration for my sister’s wedding, which she still has on her kitchen dresser. It was small but it took me about four days to make, and I remember several guests asking her where she got it. I think people are beginning to appreciate those kinds of quirky touches because- and I know this will sound corny- they are less about show and more about love.”
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
“If I had to give a one word answer it would definitely be ‘nature,’ but my mum swears I’ve inherited my grandmother Aida’s aesthetic. She was from a small town near Venice- and quite fearsome!- but I remember her house very clearly; it was filled with glass grapes, velvets, brocades, weird metal spiders and birds, crazily beautiful artificial flowers, fresh flowers, chandeliers, stone cherubs, Venetian glass, mirrors- all very Baroque! Even though my designs are rustic, I think a bit of my grandmother comes through in each one!”
If you could choose a colour palette to work with what would it be? What are your favourite shades and tones?
“I’ll admit that I often have to tear myself away, kicking and screaming, from pale pinks. On the whole, I use a very soft colour palette; palest pink and even paler coral, jade, forget-me-not blue, palest lemon-yellow, violet, and never orange! Tone and shade are really important; you can’t bring silk flowers to life without them.”
For 2015 for all those newly engaged brides planning their weddings what kind of options can you offer them? (Bouquets, centre pieces, ceremony pieces, floral crowns?)
“I can offer them bouquets, table centre pieces, wall-garlands for ceremony and reception venues, and head-crowns. The option I’m particularly excited about offering newly-engaged brides is the chandelier. I love finding weird old wire structures in secondhand shops that are gathering dust on shelves, doing nothing for anyone, and then turning them into something beautiful. There’s just something extraordinary about a chandelier made of flowers; a sort of indulgently floral, romantic ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ abundance! I like the fact that you can’t hurry a chandelier. I let myself relax over its construction for a couple of weeks and enjoy the fact that each step in its creation feels like the best kind of play.”
Thanks so much Maria Aida for enlightening us about your completely stunning designs! Visit Maria Aida’s Facebook page for more information and get your own fabulous floral creation from the woman herself!