entertainingFood & Drinkoutdoorweeders digest

weeder’s digest: on vases and vessels

by Grace Bonney

My first job in NYC had me working for an art dealer who pronounced vase like v-aah-se.” Flowers would arrive at the gallery, I’d jump up and say “I’ll run and get a vase!” (rhymes with chase) and she would say “You mean you’ll run and get the V-ahh-se.” Pause. “Yes. I’ll…just…go get that.”

At Saipua I tend to gravitate towards rather plain vases. Cuz I like to let thems flowahs speak for themselves! And there is something to be said for simple vessels – ease perhaps – or multi-functionality. What once was a horseradish jar…now a petite vase perfect for a single anemone. Soda bottle – ideal for a crespedia or two. My penchant for old mason jars? Obviously no secret.

But there are those times when one may need a more substantial vessel. Something that stands as proudly on it’s own as it does filled with flowers. Perhaps you consider this on your registry. Or perhaps a recent trip to Moss resulted in a brush with death when you came within a micrometer of knocking over a very expensive Italian vase. A raised eyebrow on the face of the man at the counter and suddenly you’re considering what it would be like to own 5-figure vase, let alone a 5-figure annual health care package. I’ll tell you what it would be like – INCREDIBLE. Because vases that are beautiful on their own make flowers even more beautiful. Trust me, I know this to be true.

At some point this year I met artist Susan Clark. Sue works across many medium, but her blown glass is of particular note. Glass artistry is somewhat beyond my comprehension. Somehow sand gets melted, blown paper thin, and results in an achingly smooth object. When Sue brought me her work to play with and photograph it was a rare opportunity for me to break out of my habitual mixed-flower-ball-jar routine, and consider flowers as a complement to the vessels they temporarily occupy.

The arch-backed forms of Sue’s pieces offer up small holes (or in some cases multiple holes) in which stems gently rest. Especially interesting from a floral designer’s point of view is how the vessels transform the status of individual blooms; what once was a simple white tulip becomes a segment in a conversation between nature and design. As these tulips sit in their container they continue to grow. As the stems lengthen there develops a notable similarity between the arching of the vessel and curvature in the stem.

With these pieces I had to exercise restraint. A single stem is all it takes to activate the purpose in these forms. The pleasure of working with Sue’s vases has led me to rethink containers in general. It’s lovelier sometimes to admire the intricacy and beauty of a single flower set apart. A vessel that can support that simplicity is handy to have. More of Sue’s work can be seen on her website here: http://susanclark.org/

Next week we’ll look at the other end of the container spectrum and discuss how you can elevate your household recyclables into vases.


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  • Haha! I love the V-aaah-se comment, it really made me giggle, that’s how us Brits pronounce it :-) Those Vahhhses sure are pretty too!

  • This is the first time I’ve seen a vase that’s as beautiful as the flowers that go in it. Especially that dark purple one. Sigh.

  • these Vahhhses made my day. and dem flowahs shur ez preddy.

    Seriously great work and does anyone know what the name of the flowers are in the first picture….been wondering for awhile.

  • I will preface this by saying that these vahhhses are stunningly beautiful… but… did no one else catch their irrefutably phallic nature?

  • I’m excited about this topic! Love her stuff and can’t wait until next week’s comment on reusing things for vases.

  • I want to know about the flowers in the first pic too. Weeders Digest is such a great part of design sponge. Loved this post.

  • greta

    to me they feel like little ghosts, rather than something more phallic. i keep seeing casper in each one of them…


  • Those vases are lovely, they very much remind me of Paula Hayes’ terrariums (:

    And i LOVE the fritillaria !

  • I’m british and I had to roll the Vase comment around my tongue several times before I understood it. I like your vaaahse examples though :)

  • i get little ghosts, too – or those big dark figures in “spirited away.” fritillaria are my favorite too, so i adore that first photo, and your comments on the conversation between forms are right on!

  • the aqua vase with white tulips…so elegant.

    my impression of the contours: a water drop re-shaped by the hand that grabbed at its slippery sides, as it fell.

  • The flowers with the painterly chequer board pattern, are generally called Snake’s Head Fritillary in the UK. The vase sets them off beautifully

  • Does anyone know how one might go about purchasing one of these vah-ses?
    I didn’t see anything on Susan Clark’s website.

  • so funny the vaahse…I didn’ realize it was the British pronunciation..thought it was people being snooty!

    They are beautiful…vase, vaahse, tomato, tomahto…

  • The anti-rose. I love it! People have always been puzzled by my tentativeness towards roses & this is the best explanation. The unconventional flower choices completely compliment the sculptural vases. Lovely!

  • thank you greta, i was going to say the exact same thing! the phrase “de-flowered” comes to mind involuntarily.

  • umm I don’t think its just the British that pronounce it vahse, since Australians and New Zealanders also pronounce it like that. I think the vayse pronunciation is peculiar to America.

  • I love these! They remind me of something both organic and scientific, like a klein bottle, although I don’t think the shape of a klein bottle would work for holding flowers!

  • That’s an amazing idea! I always hate it when flowers keep tipping over or look weird because the vase is too wide.

  • most people i come across pronounce it vos (is that what you mean?) and i feel too awkward to say it that way, i feel like it’s too pretentious for my style, but i don’t want to say it wrong to them, so i usually end up saying something like oh i will grab one of these beautiful pieces off the shelf for the flowers, lol.

  • High WASPs say Vahs too. All I can think is that this quotation, “A single stem is all it takes to activate the purpose in these forms. ” is a statement that applies to way more things than vahses.

  • I am from Down Under, and like the Brits, we pronounce Vase to rhyme with cars. Is that what you were getting at?

    I love all the regional differences that the English language contains.

    You say tom-ah-ta I say tomato…….

  • Those are sooo gorgeous! I pronounce it vase (rhymes with chase) as well…

    v-ahhh-se sounds a bit to posh for me, I suppose :P

    xx. mavi

  • Brilliant.

    Our daughter is getting married in August at our little farm, and we will have Mason jars with sunflowers. That vision has continued to steer us as we’ve been tempted to expand into more churchy themes. “Rustic elegance” keeps us focused.

    But these vases, as you say so well, invite restraint in another way. How perfectly lovely.

  • i myself actually say it both ways – i never know what will come out of my mouth – but perhaps to clarify what was funny about my boss was that she corrected me. every. single. time.

    monkman – to inquire about obtaining a vase, you’ll have to contact sue, her contact info is on her site

  • I don’t know what I like better, the beautiful vases or the photo arrangements of of the vases. You have an extremely interesting blog which I can get lost for hours in. Thanks for all the great posts.

  • What’s normal pronunciation for a Brit or Aussie just sounds unbearably pretentious coming from an American. Which is why I can;t stand it when Martha Stewart pronounces the ‘h’ in ‘herb’ because (I think) that’s the British way.

    I need one of dem vahses!

  • ha! these are sooo phallic. definitely pretty but i still don’t think i’d want them on my kitchen table.

  • I love them – but I have to agree with Greta. I can see the ghost aspect, but my original instinct was that they looked phallic – which doesn’t have to be a bad thing.


  • Greta read my mind. These are beautiful works of art, but the phallic nature is very apparent… at least to me. Definitely an interesting conversation starter, nonetheless.

  • Grace, thats it. i was trying to figure out exactly what it is that moves me about these little vases. While i do see the phallic edge in them i feel more like these are little spirits. I especially am moved by the first one in that respect, although they all have a distint appeal.

    • im with you gary- i don’t see phallic at all really. the shape and movement of each vase feels like a tiny ghost to me. i love them.

  • Hmmm…I want to know how you clean all the manky smelly foul water out of the vaaarses (Born in the UK, raised in Australia)??? I have enough trouble keeping my non-phallic looking vaaarses clean! Otherwise they are beautiful!

  • -lovely vases.
    BUT I’m also really wondering about the cleaning part.
    Maybe they could be cut at the bottom, and put into a slightly wider bottom?
    -like for opening when cleaning, and changing water.
    Could be done quite esthetically..

  • Thanks for the info catbird and Sarah – I want to grow these fritillaria now. And I want one of these ghost phalluses to put my flahwahs in. All I can say is every time I see a hole in the ground, I don’t think it looks like a….

  • They are cute…I agree that they look like little ghosts. Anything similar to a pillar could be considered phallic, I think the people with that on their minds are kinda getting carried away.