Thursday, April 2, 2009

Pure Magic, Pure MÄDDERLAKE

Spring has sprung – and my first glimpse of that presented itself last week as I peered into the window at my favorite neighborhood flower shop in San Francisco. I was taken in by a window filled with grape hyacinth, ranunculus, daffodils the color of egg yolks, and, standing like soldiers against a myriad of color, magnificent branches of flowering Quince, a personal favorite.

Image from the book Flowers Rediscovered: New Ideas about Using and Enjoying Flowers

Seeing that window made me think of the once great Pure Mädderlake, (now since closed) a world-class, high-style New York City florist whose carefully wild aesthetic spread like wildfire among the city’s upper crust. It has been said that Pure Mädderlake single handedly changed the flora arena - where lavish was out and natural was in; where twigs, flowering branches, berries, roots and vegetables took center stage. They were also known for pairing flowers and plants with unusual containers like moss and lichen-covered pots, old wood crates and cans.
Image from the title page of Flowers Rediscovered: New Ideas about Using and Enjoying Flowers showing the Madderlake paint color tube.
The original shop opened in New York City’s Greenwich Village in the 1980s, it’s namesake a paint color. It was the brainchild of owners Tom Prichar, and Jay Belecki and together they pioneered what became known as the “American Natural” style in floral design, creating a Movement according to The New York Times. They taught us to change the way we see and buy flowers and, through example and through their books (Flowers Rediscoverd: New Ideas About Using & Enjoying Flowers, Pure Madderlake Trade Secrets & Natural Christmas), they encouraged us to refine our palettes and expand our minds in the floral arena. I can’t help but compare Pure Mädderlake’s “American Natural” Movement to Alice Waters’ Slow Food Movement. Though decades apart, both continue to teach us that pure, natural, unadorned nature is what’s best, and most beautiful, for us in mind, body and spirit.
Image from the book Flowers Rediscovered: New Ideas about Using and Enjoying Flowers

Image from the book Flowers Rediscovered: New Ideas about Using and Enjoying Flowers
These days, Prichard and Belecki reside in Tokyo and are teaching classes in flower arranging. Apparently they have quite a following… and I am sure they are still creating magic, Mädderlake style.

Barbara Ashfield

1 comment:

tom pritchard said...

Thank you so much for such a rousing summary of our career! We just ran across this the other day and are grateful for your remembrance of our "run." We do encounter people all of the time who remember those glorious days. I am actually working as a landscape designer and architect and currently doing a couple of great projects in Aspen, Colorado.

Oddly enough, a long time client asked me to do flowers for an event she was having today--the first time I have done that in years. I'll send you pictures if I can figure out how.

Thanks again for your kind words,

Tom Pritchard