“There’s a lack of nature in our lives right now,” says Sarah Ryhanen, the owner of Saipua, a flower shop in Red Hook, Brooklyn. “And floral arranging is such a tactile experience.” Ryhanen also runs the Farm at Worlds End outside Albany, New York, where she has led popular flower arrangement workshops over the years. Her Instagram account (with a 100,000-plus following) regularly features gorgeous, rustic-looking arrangements that garner countless oohs and aahs from her rabid fans.
In the touch-screen era, there’s a genuine yearning to make something: a loaf of bread, a piece of pottery. And nowadays, instead of letting off steam in spin class or decompressing with a glass of wine, women are finding peace with a pair of pruning shears. “We do a floral workshop at least once a month,” says Stella Shirinda, co-owner of Flowerboy Project in Los Angeles, which has shops in Venice and downtown. “We’ll have a group of bridesmaids come in one evening to do floral crowns for a wedding party, or other people who might sign up to study the art of ikebana.” The latter can be an intensive monthlong course.
“Most of the people who come to my class are women with corporate jobs in Midtown who aren’t feeling totally fulfilled,” says New York–based florist Lewis Miller, who teaches a series of floral arrangement workshops at the Whitby Hotel in Manhattan. At a recent class, a dozen or so women were given aprons, shears, and a half-gallon bucket filled with various blooms and grasses. Miller, a laid-back Californian who does flower arrangements for some of the city’s most high-profile events, talked the class through an arrangement. The takeaway? Work from the outside in. As the students filled their vases with roses and ranunculuses, Miller walked around offering tips: “Carnations can be a real workhorse in your arrangement. Don’t just think of them as the red and white things you see at the bodega.” One former fashion editor sipped a glass of champagne and surveyed her work. “This feels like my moment of Zen,” she said, fluffing her flowers.
Miller thinks people are looking at flower arrangements more democratically today and “moving away from the tight, tyrannical mounds of roses or peony bombs” that were very much a part of the Martha Stewart look of the ’90s. Today it’s all about arrangements that feel more natural, with humbler flowers like zinnias, baby’s breath, hellebores, and sweet peas—elements that may seem less intimidating to the average person. There’s also something quite intuitive about the process of flower arranging. “It’s easy to understand,” says Miller. “It’s all about color, composition, and form. It’s also about pure beauty.” Even if it’s fleeting.