20 Jun Isari Flower Studio: Making Dutch Masters Magic With Designer Tam Ashworth
Don’t let the brooding shadows and tulip tumult fool you. Dutch masters-style floral arrangements are enjoying a moment in the sun.
During the 17th century, morning glories, roses, anemones, lilies and (of course) tulips were painted with heartbreaking precision and drama by Netherlands artists like Rachel Ruysch, Jan Davidsz. de Heem, Maria van Oosterwijck and Willem van Aelst. Today the still-life style is back in demand. You’ll find these energetic, maximalist cascades throughout wedding receptions, Pinterest boards, even the Spring/Summer 2014 women’s and men’s collections of Dries Van Noten.
So when we were invited to Isari Flower Studio to take a class in creating Dutch masters arrangements last week, we made a beeline for the Solana Beach, CA, space.
And what a breathtaking space it is — tall and airy, but with enough chandeliers and curios to feel cozy. When we ask founder/owner Tam Ashworth to free associate on the studio’s aesthetic, she calls it “diverse and relevant, fresh and effortless, modern and well curated.”
The studio hosts monthly one-hour floral design classes, whose topics range from lilacs and peonies last Mother’s Day to “Italian Garden” (rustic blooms and vines) coming up on July 16 to succulent centerpieces in August 13. Tam, who’s originally from Thailand, draws a lot of floral inspiration from her childhood spent in Great Britain.
“I grew up in countryside in England,” she says. “I attended boarding school since my elementary and high school years. Everything is very pastoral [there] — rambling hedges in abundance, old-fashioned roses, very ruffled and scented.”
Her career in floral design began when she arrived in the US in 1988, creating massive lobby and public space installations for the Four Seasons Beverly Hills. That led to a tenure as the in-house florist for the Four Seasons Aviara, after which she founded Isari. The studio’s name is actually one of the two names Tam was given at birth. “Isari means ‘the king’s’ — his medals and declarations, coat of arms,’ ” she explains.
This is probably a good time to mention that Tam’s hospitality is legendary. Students are offered tea, champagne and desserts before class; during class, Tam provides instruction that’s warm, assured and direct. The Dutch masters centerpieces we created included many favorite blooms in season right now: alliums, irises, peonies, sunflowers and roses. And that’s naming less than one-third of the plants we used.
Bless those Dutch artists and their more-is-more approach.
Below, check out the step-by-step from the class, and then the spectacular results at the end. And yes, Tam — and then Ryan! — had to step in to help me. So many times…