is the owner of Fleurs de Temps, a floral design studio in Cedar Rapids’ Czech Village that specializes in unique floral creations for all occasions.
Asymmetrical arrangements and his lush and sometimes whimsical flower and foliage combinations, reflect his freestyle approach to floral design.
Thomas Joseph’s studio is located at 76 16th Avenue SW on the lower level of Harlequin Home Consignment and Antique Shop.
An Interview with Thomas Joseph...
HOW AND WHEN WAS YOUR INTEREST IN FLOWERS BORN?
TJ: I remember as a young kid my mom having me water and prune the roses in her flower garden—I enjoyed doing it because I loved the fragrance of the roses and other flowers, and caring for them made me appreciate their natural imperfections.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE FLOWER, ONE THAT YOU ESPECIALLY LIKE THAT ENLARGED YOUR APPRECIATION FOR FLOWERS IN GENERAL?
TJ: Carnations. They had what I thought were solid, yet delicate blooms, and at my young, impressionable age I could have inhaled their clove-like fragrance forever. Interestingly enough, they have earned themselves a bad “rap” over the years, but I enjoy telling those who denounce them, that Shakespeare appreciated them, as he associated these hardy blooms with the “streaked gillyvors” which star in his play, A Winter’s Tale.
WAS YOUR DREAM TO BECOME A FLOWER DESIGNER AND HAVE YOUR OWN BUSINESS?
TJ: No. My dream was to earn a Master’s Degree in English and be a college English professor. That is what I’ve spent my career doing and loving. Enjoying flowers has always been my avocation.
WHAT HAS HELPED INFLUENCE YOUR PASSION FOR FLOWERS?
TJ: Botticelli and the Dutch and Impressionist masters, particularly their flower paintings. And of course literature—Wordsworth, Shelly, Keats et.al—with so much of its emphasis on the beauty and importance of nature in our lives.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR FLORAL DESIGN STYLE, AND HOW HAS IT DEVELOPED OVER TIME?
TJ: I don’t think too hard about what I’m doing when designing a hand-tied bouquet, an arrangement, corsage or even a buttonhole. I just go with the flow, making sure the design reflects a harmony and interest so that the viewer has the sense both flowers and foliage are performing in unison. I’ve come a distance from the more structured and static designs I made, say five-years ago.
IF YOU COULD TRAVEL TO ANY PLACE WHERE THERE ARE FLOWERS, WHERE WOULD YOU GO?
TJ: The French countryside (Provence) to enjoy the sights, colors, and fragrance of the Sunflowers and Lavender.
WHAT OTHER INTERESTS HELP TO NURTURE YOUR LOVE FOR FLOWERS?
TJ: Working in the garden with my wife. Getting our hands into the soil, burying seeds in the spring, and enjoying their evolution during the summer gives us great satisfaction and enjoyment. And of course, I always hope for a rich harvest of blooms so I can use them in my designs.
THE ONE THING YOU LIKE LEAST ABOUT FLORAL DESIGN?
TJ: Floral foam. It’s non-biodegradable; therefore, not environmentally friendly. I avoid using it as much as possible, and it’s one of the reasons I do limited funeral designs. I use floral netting or the Kenzan (Pin Frog) for my non-glass vessel creations, and they work wonderfully for me.
A DECADENT OBSESSION?
The Sacripantina cake at Stella Pastry in San Francisco’s North Beach.
Thomas Joseph & William Shakespeare
Thomas Joseph's interest in nature's flora was influenced by the literary masters, particularly Shakespeare. The images below make up Flowers from Shakespeare's Garden, illustrated by Walter Crane and published by Cassell & Co: Ltd, 1906. Many of the flowers and herbs referenced in Shakespeare's plays often appear in a Thomas Joseph design.
But earthlier happy is the rose distill'd,
Than that which withering on the virgin thorn
Grows, lives and dies in single blessedness.
— William Shakespeare