The past few months have been long and tiresome… and every one of us has craved beautiful inspiration even if in the form of photographs. Thankfully, Ruby Barber, the Berlin-based floral designer, has been able to captivate us with her all-immersive flower designs that are truly more installations than arrangements.
Prior to the world shutting down, the textural billowing clusters have “gone viral” on social media, having made appearances at the Sautés Hermes au Grand Palais and Salone del Mobile. Barber’s arrangements also appear in many high-end fashion advertising campaigns such as for Gucci, Versace, and Rimowa. And finally, these dreamlike creations were also a part of Zoe Kravitz’s wedding reception decorations.
With a father who is a still-life photographer, parents who own a contmepary art space in Sydney, and other family members who are architects, Barber grew up with many people who have an eye for texture, form, and color. She believes that she adopted some of her artistic prowess by growing up in her creative surroundings.
The name Mary Lennox pays homage to the orphan heroine of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s “The Secret Garden.” The sad little girl was sent from India to live with relatives in England. It seems that the only thing that makes Lennox happy is rejuvenating an overgrown garden alongside her extended family’s house. Barber loved the story, she says, “I used to dress up as Mary Lennox at book week at primary school and I used to listen to the book on tape before I went to sleep. I didn’t really think about it for a long time until I moved into my dad’s old studio and art gallery. It was on the corner of Mary and Lennox street in Newtown, Sydney. It was around that time that I was starting the business and I was looking for the perfect name, and it was right there!” This sounds like kismet!
Barber never intended to become a floral designer. She studied interior architecture and began going to the flower market with a friend just for fun. Those trips ended up with Barber making small flower bunches for friends and family; the effect that flowers had on people was something that resonated with her… she loved seeing the joy they brought her loved ones.
During Barber’s first year in Berlin, she spent a lot of time navigating the market and sourcing from local growers. In order to advance her social media presence, she sent individual boutiques to local bloggers. The following year, Barber opened an atelier and began to explore nearby Holland as a source for different and more unique flowers.
Barber’s way of work is very intuitive. She says she responds to the selection available at the flower market and with that, curates the most interesting results possible. She was quoted as saying, “The most interesting arrangements are created by considering each stem as you place it, highlighting unusual curves and imperfections. I like to have each stem prepared and stripped back of unnecessary leaves before beginning to put the arrangement together. This helps things come together smoothly.”
Barber admits that flowers in real life and flowers in photographs are two very different things. For photographs, you can make edits before finishing and that enables you to see the entire piece very differently… through the lens. Once viewed online, there is time for Barber to scale back the arrangement and allow for “breathing room.”
Obviously, when longevity isn’t a consideration, you can be a lot more creative with form and flower selection. Thus, the designs that we see on social media are a function of Barber’s favorite way of working. Especially in a time when we are more cooped up than out and about, Barber’s floral installations are true works of art and allow us all to let our imagination flow freely!