A vibrant district with flats, studios and shops has grown up at the southern end of the Park am Gleisdreieck in Kreuzberg, on the site of former locomotive depot halls with geometrical architecture. Australian-born Barber has set up her studio in a complex of buildings in an earthy red, affectionately known as the “red house” by locals. It’s from here, under the name of Mary Lennox, she sends out her creative floral arrangements for interior and fashion designers as well as festive events to her customers in the USA, Europe and the rest of the world.
Inside the studio, it’s bright, with a ceiling over 4 metres high. Floors and walls are in an earthy red; there’s a suspended gallery, reached by a metal staircase in the same colour. In the centre, a coffee table with a marble top, together with a cream-coloured sofa. Green plants and colourful flowers are everywhere. A lavish floral arrangement for a photo shoot is spread out against a photo canvas. The room is filled with the intense floral scent of orchids, lilac and other plants. Ruby Barber, is a deep and meaningful person as well as being passionate and chatty and her dark, blue suits contrasts well with the colourful bouquets and the quirky earthy-red room.
Ruby, what inspires your work? Where do you get your ideas?
When I was a young girl, still living in Australia, my girlfriend and I would go to Flemington Market in Sydney and look for exotic flowers, twigs and grasses which we would then turn into bouquets for friends and family. That’s exactly what I’m still doing: I go strolling and get inspiration from nature and from seeing what’s in stock at the wholesale market. Simply because that’s exactly what I love doing. Lightness and playfulness are important for my creativity. Beautiful designs or objects, like the KALDEWEI washbasin bowls from the Miena line, inspire me – also because the matt surfaces in various shades ranging from browns to greys to elegant black are inspired by nature.
How does your day typically start?
If I’m not with a customer for a photo shoot or something like that, I get up at 4 am to buy my flowers at the wholesale market. I stroll through the sea of colour and allow myself to be guided not only by my eyes, but also my heart and my nose. I find the experience is even more intense if I cut the flowers myself. There are a few producers in Germany and Netherlands with whom that’s possible.
How important are other people for your creativity and inspiration?
First and foremost, working on a daily basis with Olivia Beattie and our colleagues is hugely enriching for my work. It’s this passion with which people engage in different projects that fascinates me. I particularly notice this positive spirit when I’m working with photographers, artists and designers. This was also the case when we photographed my floral arrangements in conjunction with the colours and shapes of the KALDEWEI Miena washbasin bowls. By talking about the design concepts for each individual photo, I get new perspectives for what I do. It helps me to overcome some of my own “designer’s” block, to surpass myself and get better all the time.
Tell us the secret: how do you make the perfect floral arrangement?
As a rule, I choose three different shapes for the basis of each arrangement. Flowers with a “face” like orchids, amaryllis or anthurium, paired with long, slender exotics like tropical milkweed, desert candle or ornamental pineapple, and flowering twigs such as magnolia or foxtail. As soon as the base has been created, the precision work starts. After all, every bouquet is different. I find perfection by experimenting with colours and shapes to see how they go together and harmonise.
What is it about a floral arrangement in a bathroom that appeals to you?
For me, perfection means that I touch people’s emotions with my work. This works particularly well in the bathroom if the surroundings created by people using design language, shapes and colours already replicate nature. So a typical bathroom with a coloured washbasin, coloured shower surface or bath is already special in itself. If the right choice and arrangement of flowers comes together with the natural colours of the KALDEWEI collection, it mirrors nature’s perfection. People are connected with nature in a place that they frequently use in their daily lives. In a place where they seek calm – like the way a walk in the woods can have a harmonising effect.
Source: Franz KALDEWEI GmbH & Co. KG. Copy requested.
Ruby Barber loves flowers with a “face”, particularly anthurium which is also known as the flamingo flower. They often form the basis of her floral arrangements. KALDEWEI’s delicate Miena washbasin bowl in on-trend Oyster Grey matt, from the Coordinated Colours Collection, works in harmony with the red flowers. Product shown: KALDEWEI Miena washbasin bowl in Oyster Grey matt.
Source: © KALDEWEI/Evelyn Dragan | 9_1_KALDEWEI_RubyBarber