Art Submission: Winter botanical

Get creative and outside of your comfort zone by making a floral piece. A short how to in our blog.

2/14/20245 min read

One of our goals for this year is pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone and trying new things. So when a friend sent me a post about an upcoming art show at the Riverfront Arts Center in Stevens Point and that floral/botanical pieces could be submitted for it I was like: why not?

I have made floral pieces before and even years ago took an official floral course with my sister. We learned all about types of bouquets, composition, different styles for bouquets and floral pieces. When I worked at the local nursery Mill Creek Gardens ( here in Marshfield, I made center pieces and porch pots for the holidays and when spring came around made planters for customers. Always super fun to do and always great to see the customers' reactions.. One of the most exciting and challenging things to do was plant the canoe hanging from the ceiling at Mill Creek Gardens. It had to show well from all sides, even the bottom because you walk under it. I wanted to show off different textures of plants but also have a consistent look. Having it hang from the ceiling in a greenhouse meant I couldn’t use all the plants (especially not shade plants). I think it turned out amazing. Go check it out when you are visiting them!

That was a bit of side tracking, so back to the art show! The theme is Winter garden and you could submit up to 3 different pieces. My mind started spinning with ideas right away which is always a good sign. I have never sent in anything for an exposition or fair so had no clue how that worked. Luckily the information and documentation provided on their website was really clear. I decided to do it and had almost 2 weeks to make something. Not bad and I had it all planned out. But you know how plans go, something always has to come up. In this case I wanted to use material I could find in our backyard. And then came the first winter storm warning. Snow was on the way, if I wanted to forage my backyard for materials I only had 2 days to gather it. So time to put on my boots, grab the pruners and wheelbarrow and get outside!

We have different areas in our backyard. From a wetland area with cattails, grass, wooded area with pine trees, ornamental trees like juniper, maples and apple trees and the plant borders with all kinds of perennials. It's winter of course, so everything is dormant. If you look around though you will see all the textures, colors and shapes that can be interesting for floral pieces.

I started at the wetland area, my wheelbarrow filled up really fast, and I soon realized I could make the pieces with native plants. Goldenrod, cattails, grasses, dogwood, bark from pine trees, burrs and more all ended in my wheelbarrow. After gathering everything I didn’t get started right away. Even though it’s winter you never know what bugs are living in the plants! I left the full wheelbarrow in the garage for 2 days before making the floral pieces.

But yet again my plans had to change because of a winter storm. Instead of taking my time and taking the pieces to the center on Friday I had to take them a day earlier and had to make them all in a day. The 2nd winter storm cut my time short to make something, but at least I couldn’t procrastinate. Because of course anxiety kicked in. What if they don’t like them, how do I make it fit the theme, is it colorful enough, will everything fall apart, can I make what I have in my head in real life. Just so many things can hold me from making and submitting! I just forced myself to push through and at least get the materials in and just start making something. I wanted to make 3 completely different pieces, I had them all formed in my head, so I grabbed all kinds of pots, bowls and vases and picked one that fitted my first idea, added floral foam and got started.

I chose 3 different styles because I had no idea what the juror was looking for. And of course because 3 similar pieces are not fun to make. Everyone is different and has a different style they like. The first piece is more classic with a round base and cattails as accent. The 2nd is more wildflower style with varying heights but limited in types of material used. The last one is more modern but with a clear focal point. I made a timelapse to show you how I made the first one.

A little how to:

Start with filling up the foam with basic greenery (your filler). Work from the sides to the center and make sure you get a rounded shape. If it’s hard to stick the pieces in you can make a whole with a small stick (like a skewer). Try to fill it all up so you don’t see any foam anymore.

Next you want to add in your specialty pieces. These will be placed all around or (like the cattails here) grouped together in a certain spot. My special pieces were burrs, little white bells, seed heads, and baby’s breath. Keep turning your vase and checking at all angles if you don’t see the foam anymore and you have spread out your specialty pieces. There’s always some tweaking to do and flowers are very forgiving!

You can see a timelapse on our facebook and instagram page for a where you can see me make one of the art submissions.

The 2 other pieces I made in a similar way, start with your base filler and then add in your accents. After I finished them I had to come up with a name since that was a requirement for submission. Luckily my friend Laura is amazing at coming up with names so after I sent her some photos she came up with the following: Marsh Winter Tails, Fireworks, and Winter Fairy land. 

Out of the 3 pieces I submitted, one of my works got picked by the juror: Fireworks. It was great to see one of them get picked! The reason the others didn’t get picked: the cattails of the first piece exploded because of the warmth (whoops) and the other one the juror found the surrounding area too messy/distracting from the central focal point. I love that I got feedback so I know for next time what to look better at. All in all it brought me a lot of joy and energy to do this and will definitely keep my eyes open for more opportunities like this. My piece will be on display (and for sale) at the art show until February 18th 2024. To check out the hours and other exhibitions check out their website: Riverfront Arts center