By Sue Ann Truitt
Everyone loves that little unexpected something. It can be found in many forms – in a painting, a flower arrangement, a table setting, an outfit or a present. Surprises create enthusiasm. It is the joy of the unexpected. The component in a design that displays a spark of creativity and performs individually. The ordinary is kept from looking mundane or like everyone else because of the element of surprise.
A painting that expresses the quiet, calm of the ocean against a clear blue sky gives the observer a feeling of relaxation and solitude only to have one’s eye fall to the lower edge of the picture where a sharkfest is taking place. The surprise interrupts the mood. The concentration no longer will focus on the peaceful but dwells on the disturbance.
On the L. V. Harkness roof top garden, designed by Jon Carloftis, the colors of lavender, yellow and blue are splashed over and over throughout the many profusely planted containers. Unexpectedly, peeking through the petals… a bright red Ornamental Pepper plant! The new and unusual sharp red color among the three color sameness causes one to never overlook that surprise again. A bouquet or a mixed plant container tells, in its own way, about where we are; the mood of the moment, or a feeling of joy or sorrow. No need to draw on language to explain, as the arrangement will speak for itself. Nature is where learning about one another takes place. Modest and unpretentious, it doesn’t have to assert itself. In its own simplicity, it appears to stand alone. Develop a vision of nature to share with others, to make them happy, and to reflect one’s own gentle respect of nature. The same flowers do not make the same bouquets. As we look at the component parts of a bouquet – the vase, rocks, soil, water, we imagine how the bouquet is going to look but soon the bouquet is making us. It is then that we learn – to be guided by nature. To go before what we have never seen is to become familiar with plant life. Letting go of preconceived notions in an individual arrangement makes it your own. Thus, setting the stage to slip into the design your own special surprise. This could come in the form of an unexpected colored blossom, a ribbon or bow, a ceramic figurine, a stem of fruits or vegetables, candy lollipop or whatever.
The colorful summer table in the picture was designed by John Morris. Layering shades of blues, greens and reds present a collected look and keep the color palette intact. Then, there pops the bright yellow tomato which is a total departure from the other colors and thus, an element of surprise. A table setting is the perfect canvas for something unusual. As, in the picture, a large tropical leaf serves as a placemat. The napkin compliments the cloth but does not match. The totally disconnected colors of the linens and the dinnerware are tied together with the tomatoes. The matching or mismatching of the table pieces is the ground on which to build a creative design. It is planned, well thought out, and unscrambled. Practicing with tablescapes is a wonderful way to become more confident with mixing colors, dinnerware, patterns, and linens.
In planning an outfit for a special occasion, the mixing of components is similar to the table. Colors, textures and accessories all deserve equal thought. Monochromatic or contrasting colors of your own must contribute to a well-planned total presentation. A very well-dressed lady once said that the biggest mistake most people make is wearing too much of something – too many animal print pieces, too many matched sets of jewelry, too many like colors, etc. The success lies in combining but not matching. At this point, look in the mirror, then add one something of interest or an unexpected surprise – a pin, a flower, a colorful scarf, etc. to accent the total look.
Relax and give surprises, don’t expect surprises. A surprise is something you give away – a random act of kindness. So, get out of your shell and give to others. Your shell will melt away!