Flow Blue

Occasionally there is an opportunity to help a client create a landscape for an event.  In this case, a fundraising event for Temple Bethel involved individual participants and groups setting their own distinctive versions of a Passover Seder table. My client knew three things.  She was interested in using a pavillion she ordinarily kept in her garden to create a room with a walls and a roof that would provide a framework for her table. She also wanted to set the table with her own collection of antique flow blue china.  And she wanted an overall look that would be unexpectedly contemporary.   I immediatey thought of billiard table felt as an appropriate material for the pavillion roof.  It comes in very wide widths, and drapes beautifully.  It would be striking in color, but warm and cozy in feeling-perfectly appropriate for an early March event.  Cutting a series of abstract stalagtite shapes into the edges of the vertical elements of the roof would be a considerable visual departure from a traditional garden awning.  We set the pavillion up in the shop-this made the cutting of the roof fabric much easier.          

Flow blue china originated with Staffordshire potters in England in the 1820’s.  It is a white porcelain patterned transferware whose deep blue color actually comes from cobalt oxide.  Many of the patterns were Asian in origin.  The china is quite ornate, and delicate-but visually graphic.  We repeated that white and deep cobalt blue palette simply,  with the idea of creating a limited, and more contemporary look.    

We added white unsheared sheepskin throws to each piece of a suite of mid century modern foam chairs and a chaise covered in a navy blue wool.  These chairs belonged to my client, and clearly reflected her point of view.  The juxtaposition of the traditional elements of the Seder celebration in a decidedly contemporary context provides visual interest.  The table itself was covered in four cloths in two shades of blue, three of which had the same edge treatment as the roof.  

The interior rails of the tent were dressed with multiple pieces of cut felt.  A collection of my client’s glass drops echoed the crystal on the table, and provided a striking contrast to the light absorbing felt.  Once the pavillion was set up with its cover, my client set her table.   

This is a very formal and very important occasion; the china, fine glassware, silver and linens reflects this.  The traditional elements required in a Passover Seder dinner are represented in a graphic way.  A contemporary glass vase of faux calla lilies anchored in glass ice provides some height.  The ruffled edges of the callas recall the cut edges of the roof.  Hung from the roof of the pavillion, a contemporary steel sphere representing the idea of a chandelier whose blue-black finish stands out against the white roof.    

The big gestures come from the hand and eye of my client.  The little and very personal touches- enamelled frog napkin rings, and a ring of elegantly narrow votive candles.   The round and regular shapes of the plates, glassware and flow blue spheres is in strong contrast to the roof fabric.   

People collect all sorts of things, depending on their interests.  What a treat to see a collection so beautifully displayed.  Better yet, a chance to work with a client whose thoughtful attention to detail, and committment to following through was considerable.  The pleasure was all mine. 

The event was to be lit softly; I am sure this added lots to the atmosphere.  Every table I saw was set with the same attention of design and detail-but they were all very different.  Anyone who went last night was in for a treat.  But I had great admiration for this particular space.  Not for what I helped with.  I did help, yes-ok and fine.  But she had an idea, and a committment to bringing her idea to life.  This I greatly admire.