One of the most admired (and most photographed) features in the Coach House is the floral installation that climbs freely up the hand-painted wall. This is the work of internationally acclaimed and widely published artist, Fiona Pickles, who returned to create more stunning art in our ceremony area.
We were lucky enough to grab ten minutes with Fiona for a fascinating insight into her world:
Tell me about your work and what art & design influences you?
Rather than being inspired by a person or a style, I’m led by movement, by shape, by texture. I love negative space and I don’t believe ‘more is more’.
What’s your design process?
As an artist, at this stage of my career, I don’t really do commissions. I also don’t usually work with faux flowers, my ethos is about natural elements and sustainable floristry that doesn’t use plastic. There’s a paradox here with the Manor House piece and I did think long and hard about whether to take it on, but decided to go ahead; partly because the style here feels very me, but also since there is sustainability in its longevity of use and the idea that many guests will enjoy it. Generally, my process is untethered. It comes from a feeling, a detail, a kink in a branch… So the end result can’t be envisaged until it is finished. It forms itself and I just got with the movement.
Nature brings an abundance of beauty. What elements do you love the most?
My guiding light is the overlooked and the ugly. I’m drawn to skeleton leaves in my garden that others might normally throw on a compost heap. It’s about looking beyond the flowers, for there is beauty in the unkempt and not just because it’s a dead leaf perhaps, but because individually it has an interesting shape, a colour, a movement. Think moss, bark, gnarly leaves – all have rich textural qualities and imperfect aesthetics.
Tell me a little about this installation you’re working on today at the Manor House?
Having created the florals on artist Diane Hill’s hand-painted wall when the Manor House first opened, we’re I’m now designing a commission in the central entrance of the Coach House, to echo the tones of that original piece. With Japanese style fretwork existing here, we’re reflecting that influence through the use of magnolias, orchids and maple foliage that would grow in Japan. This sits in juxtaposition to the English look and feel of the neighbouring piece, yet the two designs work together tonally and through their movement.
You’ve worked with some fabulous other clients & residencies. Which stand out in your mind?
I think it would have to be The Cloud for Castle Howard’s Flower Festival in 2018, which was a celebration of British grown flowers, without the use of any floral foam. This was a turning point for me; the festival was featured in Harpers Bazaar and it was a proud moment to show people that things can be done differently.
Is there a dream project you’d love to do?
My dream project would be in an established and renowned art gallery.