Romantic and mysterious, the floral cape designed by Tara Folker of Splints & Daisies features all-American grown botanicals from Stargazer Barn in Arcata, California. (c) With Love and Embers

Floral Palette: Bulb flowers, including Irises, tulips and callas; Foliages, including ornamental cabbage, sword fern and wild huckleberry.
Floral ingredients supplied by Stargazer BarnArcata, California
Designer: Tara Folker, Splints & Daisies, Lancaster, Pennsylvania; @splintsanddaisies

Floral designer and artist Tara Folker

Tara Folker has been designing flowers for nearly two decades, having opened her own dried florals and woven basketry business when she was 19. Coming from a family of artists on her mother and grandmother’s side and of plant lovers on her father’s side, Tara concludes, “Things mixed for me, and I ended up in artistic florals.”

While she doesn’t describe herself as a fashion designer, Tara has produced a number of wearable floral garments for styled shoots. “I call it my playtime because it’s when I can actually do what I want to do. As anyone in the wedding industry knows, you don’t always get that. With styled shoots, I’m going to do what I love.”

When Bill Prescott, Stargazer Barn, offered to provide the flowers and foliage for Tara’s American Flowers Week con­cept, the timing was perfect. Tara and her team photographed in early January when not much local product was avail­able on the East Coast.

She treasured the chance to select from Stargazer’s greenhouses and fields in Northern Cali­fornia: Fancy and standard tulips, ‘White Versailles’ Freesias, ‘Telsar’ Irises, ‘Cantor’ callas and all sorts of greenery, such as white and purple ornamental cabbage, sword ferns and lacy sweet huckleberry. The color palette: purples, peaches, white and green – quiet and moody for the season.

I had never seen the huck before, but it looked fun. Plus, I loved that the sword ferns were harvest­ed from the Redwoods just a few days before the shoot.

Tara is comfortable with designing in real time, on location, rather than committing to a sketch or recipe in advance. She took as her muse Ashley Garner, the beautiful, edgy model, and the raw warehouse space at Hingework, a Lancaster event studio with large windows, white brick walls and a con­temporary/industrial vibe.

The designer imagined a semitrans­parent floral cape that would showcase all of the fresh flowering bulbs, draping fluidly from the model’s form. “I didn’t want to do a dress or a skirt again, but I wanted to create something wearable that was new to me, too, so that I could feel satisfied with the design.”

Ashley’s style – juxtaposed against the soft, romantic, feminine florals – emoted an almost fantasylike narrative. A black leotard and leggings allowed Ashley’s body form to be another organic element while the makeup accentuated her eyes and lips. Of course, the model’s bare head also became part of Tara’s overall vision.

Tara envisioned a short shrug or capelet with sleeves, but while building the underpin­nings with chicken wire, she realized sleeves would restrict Ashley’s movement and feel stiff. For a tall, lanky model, that just didn’t make sense.

“In the end, the chicken wire is almost like a scarf that lays across her shoulders. With not much of a base, the flowers them­selves became the garment,” Tara says. “The flowers were tied onto the wire that I did use, and it really hugged her shoulders.”

Model: Ashley Garner
Makeup: Stefani BurketBonafide Ginger, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Photography: Jillian and Ryan McGrath, With Love & Embers, Hummelstown, Pennsylvania
Location: Hingework, Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Originally published in FLORISTS’ REVIEW | JUNE 2017 |