Floral arranging isn’t just about mere aesthetics—as Sedina Fiati’s Urban Charm School teaches us, it can be a reflection of etiquette and politics.
In a post-etiquette age, the concept of finishing school is, for most, about as foreign as darning socks. Performer Sedina Fiati, however, is intent on reviving the traditional charm school education—but with an urban twist.
Her three-part Urban Charm School workshop series, held at the Annex branch of the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI, 720 Bathurst) over three weekends, is both a fundraiser for her upcoming show and an attempt to celebrate typically “feminine skills” without relegating them to the realm of frivolity.
After skipping out on last week’s “How to look fly in photos,” this past Friday I attended part two of the series: “Flower Arrangement 101.”
Admittedly, the prospect of spending a Friday evening assembling bouquets and boutonnieres initially seemed to me, a definitively non-crafty person, neither urban nor charming.
But, I quickly discovered the pleasant, meditative aspect of making pretty things, appreciated the accepting, intergenerational group of participants, and picked up a flower-arranging skill or five along the way:
1. It’s the leaves that start to stink—not the petals: Fiati explained that, before placing a bouquet in a water-filled vase, it’s essential to snip off any leaves that will fall below the water line. It’s typically these leaves that, once becoming waterlogged and moldy at the bottom of the vase, give off that rotting-flower smell. The process can apparently buy you time before a bouquet goes from welcome gift to malodorous burden. Changing the water often is also helpful.
2. Give it an aspirin: To extend a bouquet’s life, you could buy a packet of commercial flower freshener, but you will likely earn more street cred on the floral circuit if you crush up an aspirin and dissolve it in your flowers’ water. “Why it works, I’m not sure,” Fiati confessed. Regardless, your flowers—unless they’re of the hippy-dippy, strictly organic variety—will thank you.
3. Send flowers before the party: Fiati stressed that a nice bouquet, while a lovely host(ess) gift, is best sent in advance of a party or event, rather than brought to the door. This way, the person entertaining has a chance to arrange the flowers as they see fit before their home is flooded with guests. The same, apparently, goes for wine, though kudos to anyone who succeeds in being that organized.
4. Flower arrangement can get political: For Fiati, who identifies as queer and femme, the purpose of spreading urban charm (her third session is called “Walking in Heels & Healthy Posture”) is to reclaim a skill-set deemed silly by patriarchal society. Like fashion and makeup, she stresses that flower arrangement and walking in heels are of value, and that so-called “feminine traits” should be elevated in a society consumed by all things masculine.
5. Walking the streets on a Friday night with an armful of flowers gets you all kinds of attention: It’s amazing how many half-drunk strangers will shout, “Are those for me?” at you when you stroll down Bloor Street with an armload of fresh roses. Furthermore, going to my friend’s house party high on craft-making endorphins, bouquet in hand, triggered several people asking me if I was stoned. Also, someone stole my corsage.