To internationally renowned floral designer Kiana Underwood, arranging flowers is art. That makes the owner of Tulipina, based in upstate New York, uniquely qualified to be the featured floral designer at the second annual Fine Art + Flora event at the Greenville County Museum of Art.
Held the first weekend of May, the three-day festivities will set the museum’s galleries abloom with more than 20 arrangements created by local floral designers and garden enthusiasts. But these aren’t just any flower arrangements. Each will interpret, in terms of color, shape, and texture, a particular painting of the artisan’s choosing. “Designers must use live, cut, or dried flowers and plants, and natural elements, but the sky’s the limit in terms of creativity,” explains GCMA’s head of communications, Paula Angermeier. The event kicks off the 35th season of their fundraising campaign, Art for Greenville, which supports new acquisitions for the museum.
In the only ticketed session of the weekend, Underwood will demonstrate two different arrangements on Friday morning in her unconventional Tulipina style. “I advocate a free mind when it comes to floral design,” says Kiana. “When you let go of that restrictive notion of floral-design rules, you create more beautiful results. A work of art doesn’t have a recipe. There’s no such thing as, ‘You have to use three flowers here and five there’; you just have to go with what looks good to you.”
Underwood’s interest in flowers stems from her childhood. She grew up in Iran, spending time in her grandfather’s gardens and cherishing the fresh flowers her mother always placed in their home. After getting married and having her first child, Underwood, who has a master’s degree in international economics from The John Hopkins University in Maryland, decided to stay home. Tulipina sprouted in 2011 from her need for a creative outlet.
Inspired by the wildness of nature and Old World flower arrangements (especially as depicted in seventeenth-century Dutch Masters paintings), Underwood loves to mimic the “beauty, abundance, and color” in those works. “It looks like somebody just went into the garden and took one of whatever they could find and brought it into the vessel,” she observes. “That’s the kind of design I like to do.”
When she’s not creating stunning floral designs for high-end destination weddings and other chic events, Underwood travels the globe holding classes and workshops. “I like to think of flowers as my paintbrush,” she says, “because I create something colorful and interesting with them.”
Fine Art + Flora, May 3–5; Greenville County Museum of Art; 420 College St, Greenville, (864) 271-7570, gcma.org; admission is free; tickets ($75) required for Kiana Underwood’s demonstration on Friday morning.
The garden-to-gallery festivities continue on Saturday with an Ikebana demonstration and a Bouquet-To-Go workshop. On Sunday afternoon, local interior designer Deborah Gibson will demonstrate how to craft arrangements mixing garden and grocery store flowers.