Carolina Spencer Explores The Ritual Of Sobremesa For DOIY

For Barcelona-based retailer DOIY, Chilean floral designer Carolina Spencer has interpreted a selection of objects to create a still life “sobremesa”, featuring candles, crystal, tarot cards, pastries, wine, and cigarettes.

A great believer in the talisman, Spencer loves to provide objects with energy, transmitting a certain value or story, often even a bit of herself. The Barcelona-based Chilean born floral designer behind Matagalán, works with flower arrangements in a very unique way. By mixing objects and plants she creates compositions closer to art than anything else. For this collaboration she has created a kind of “sobremesa”, which is a Spanish term for that time spent after a meal, with family or friends, simply chatting and enjoying each other’s company. Her objective was to create an almost mystic scenario, playing with dimensions and proportions, but also imbuing each object with a kind of spirit.

With creative license to develop an entirely personal interpretation of the latest DOIY collection, the result is not only beautiful but gives the brand an enchanting, contemporary spin, taking the products into a higher realm – almost to the point of abstraction.

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Why Matagalán? Can you tell me a bit about the name and why?

The name Matagalán was born in 2013. It comes from a Latin American saying “Billetera Matagalán”, which means that the guy with the most money, will always take the prettiest girl and kill the gallant, or ‘Galán.’ They use it all the time in Argentina. We liked the verbal power of the phrase and thought about the idea of the Galán wanting to win someone with chocolates, flowers and all those movie clichés. And we start thinking about the idea of killing this cliche of guys giving flowers, or only using flowers for important moments, like birthdays, or deaths. We wanted to transform their meaning, taking them back to a more daily level.

What do you think the culture is here in Spain around flowers?

When people go to the market in England, France, Australia—you name it, they don’t really buy a bouquet. Maybe they buy a bunch of flowers and then they prepare it at home. We don’t have that culture here, but I think it’s changing. I started working with plants four years ago—that was the first step. I was just trying to get them into people’s houses. Now I’m doing the same, but with flowers.  And it seems everyone is putting plants everywhere!

Where did this fascination with flowers come from?

Well, I studied design. I’ve always been very creative. I love to create things. But I never thought I could work with flowers. It happened ten years ago, actually. I needed money because I was freelance, but I was very young, I didn’t have a proper job. So I started working in a hotel. I was a waitress there. And they had flowers, a flower team. And every time I passed through the lobby I thought, “Oh my god, what is this?”

The first time I saw the installations that Donna Stain did I had never seen anything like it. She works with flowers in an amazing way, in a decorative way with vases and everything. So one day, I went straight up to her and said, “Hey, did you study this?” She didn’t show too much interest in my question, but I really wanted to know more about it because I had never seen it before. And then one day I bumped into her in the street and she invited me to work with her. And that’s how I learnt to work with flowers. It was like a dream coming true.

Why not have a flower shop?

Because I don’t really want to have a flower shop. I can do gifts and
everything, but I don’t want to be a florist, really. I like what I do now. It’s like mixing floristry with design. I was fascinated by both and just wanted to get straight in there. I had never created with living materials before. I felt full of creativity. I was bored, working with computers. And now it’s like, wow, I can create with this. It’s amazing!

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"There are many factors that you need to know, like which plants go where and how they're going to grow."

Is it difficult working with living objects?

You need to think forward, to think about the space and consider the light. There are many factors that you need to know, like which plants go where and how they’re going to grow. I think that’s something very conscious. And then with flowers, it’s something fast, short. You can’t plan too far ahead with flowers, so you need to understand that your creation is going to be ephemeral. It’s like great beauty but only for a few days.

With objects you have an idea, then it becomes a reality. And that’s very interesting. I think everything I do is very related to another, because I prefer to think about shapes and forms. First for plants, then I do the same with the vases. Well, pots for plants and vases for flowers. Pots are long term. And vases are more ephemeral, as they can be used in many different ways in a short time.

How do you cope with the flowers and your creations dying?

Well, that’s the beauty. It’s something ephemeral. And life is like that. I mean, nothing lasts forever. And flowers, when you cut a flower, it’s not like an arm. It’s like a hair. If you cut the hair, it grows again. So you’re not killing it, really, you know? You cut a flower. You enjoy it for three days or a week. And then they die, like everything else, but the plant survives. So you’re bringing beauty from outside into the home, into our lives. We need this. Maybe we don’t realize it, but when you bring green or natural elements inside, everything changes. You can feel it, can’t you?

Millennials are filling their houses with plants and flowers. How do plants and flowers affect our mood and life?

They help with the oxygen, but also the colors. I think in the UK, for example, people bring flowers inside because it’s so grey. They need something to keep them alive. And maybe that’s why here we don’t. That’s why it took a while. Here, even in the trees, there are pink flowers and the sun is shining, so we don’t really need so many inputs. But in London, every time I go there, and I’m walking through the city, I see the apartments and all of them have flowers. Maybe it’s because it’s always raining?

I also think flowers are becoming so popular today because of the impact of social media. Whether you are using Instagram, Pinterest or any other social network, you will see posts with floral decorations or vases for sure. To be honest, that makes me happy because I have been working with flowers for ten years and, for the first time, I feel like they are being valued as a creative tool that goes beyond the classical bouquet you could find at any local florist.

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"I just feel more comfortable with ideas and installations, as I love the freedom of creating."

Do you do ceramics yourself?

I design them, yes. I work with an atelier in Girona. I send them the drawings and we talk about the colors and everything. But basically it’s my idea, then they do what they know because there’s a lot to learn there. And I think I prefer creating when I have the vases and then play with the flowers.

Being a ceramist is a profession that takes years to learn. I admire it and I really respect ceramists, but I don’t think I could spend my life doing vases. I just feel more comfortable with ideas and installations, as I love the freedom of creating.

You build concepts using flowers for brands or certain events. How does that work?

I build stories or concepts for people, events or brands. I’m starting on another hotel. They don’t want the traditional flower style, so they let me do what I want. I think I’m more graphic. I like graphic design, so I like to use flowers in this way, with plastic textures, colours and strange shapes, I love that. I don’t know, I just don’t like to create bouquets anymore. I did it so many times that now I’m trying to see them in another way.

Where do you get the inspiration from?

I see something, then I feel something, then I try to make it happen. When I was younger, I used to see everything. I read everything. I was always on top of the latest news or trends. But now I have my house here. I have a son, and I’m usually at home, trying to work. So my inspiration comes from what’s around me, but I’m not really looking for it.

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"I really believe in the power of energy, the idea that if we really want something, we can make it happen."

All pieces are created in a certain fashion to harness positive energy and in their own way they become talismans. Can you elaborate on this?

A talisman is like an object. Ages ago there were a group of people, magicians, but not quite. And they created a shape in metal, for example, and then they charged it with good vibes and gave it to someone. So I started reading about this, and, well, I love objects. I really like them, since forever. And I think we all do that. Maybe you have this thing, you always wear it and you keep it with you. We provide these objects with energy.

I really believe in the power of energy, the idea that if we really want something, we can make it happen. I think that makes sense for me. And when I’m creating, I do it with love. Every time I’m doing something, if I want to create a vase, I’m giving someone a part of me. That’s how I feel. Because I’m not a big company. I’m not selling, selling, selling. Everything I do, I do it because I want to. Otherwise, I don’t do it. So everything I sell I made because I wanted to and because I felt good doing that. And I think I am transmitting that energy to the people that buy it. And that’s a talisman. I think we all do that. We fill an object with value– with emotional value.

Can you tell us about the project for DOIY?

I chose the candles, the big ones. And then a crystal bottle. It’s like a still life, but different because we created a table. A kind of “sobremesa”. It’s a bit tacky or kitsch, but not too much. We bought some pastries and we even used wine and cigarettes. There are tarot cards as well! I wanted to do something not unusual, not too clean, playing with dimensions and different proportions. So a small glass with a tall flower, next to the oversized candles. What I like about the candles is that they are so big, really big, with a tiny flame. I wanted to experiment with imperfection, embracing the beauty of the dirt. This is something I like to experiment with while I work.

Breaking away from traditional narrative and visual communication strategies, Barcelona-based retailer DOIY embraces its creative roots in a series of unusual collaborations as part of #doiygallery, a digital space where emerging artists can interpret their products in a meaningful way. 

Set design and flower arrangement by Carolina Spencer · Photography and video by Florencia Lucila · Interview by Folch in collaboration with Doiy

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