The artist with a hundred thousand petals

Claire Boucl is a petalist. An artist who uses flowers like others use paint. She creates ephemeral installations and participated in the creation of the rings Fleurs Éternelles for the french jeweler Boucheron. Interview of a plant lover. Isabelle Cerboneschi

Claire Hugault, alias Claire Boucl is a petalist. This profession only exists because she invented it. It is one of the most beautiful, most poetic job in the world. With perhaps Mister sandman or a fairy dressmaker…

It just came like that. “My dream was to go and study at the Ecole des Baux Arts, but coming from a very modest family, my parents wanted me to study something more realistic. She studied textile design, then she branched off into art and nature, as it was difficult to deny her passions. “I started making ephemeral installations with flower petals in 2001. And when everyone asked me what my art consisted of, I said that I was a petalist and that I petalized. ” To petal. What a pretty word… As pretty as the works coming out of his fingers.

In 2001 she was invited to an artist’s residency in Australia, in Flotting Lands, Queenslands. She was asked to create an in situ work of art, inspired by the environment, but the place had been completely burnt down by a fire. “The setting was apocalyptic but nature was beginning to regenerate. I began to petal trees that had exploded under the effect of the flames, with red petals to symbolise their wounds. And the fact of putting thousands of petals one by one,  was like a healing balm. My work is in symbiosis with nature and the environment,” she explains.

She started doing ephemeral graffitis in Paris. She covered walls, cars, doors,… “I wanted to make art available to passers-by in the streets. And it moved people, whatever their cultures were. My art became a vector of communication. At the beginning of the 2000s, in France, everyone was talking about street art, and I spent hours in the streets doing my petal’s graffitis. People who saw me doing it from afar thought it was painting but when they came closer, they saw that I had bouquets of flowers next to me and that I was doing something extremely meticulous and fragile. It was an invitation to stop and people would start talking to me. I encouraged them to linger in front of the poetry, the beauty that surrounds us. »

Claire Boucl’s work is destined to disintegrate. The artist had to learn to create her own materials to work and glue the petals. “When gluing flowers on trees or buildings, it is essential to use natural glues that respect the environment, so I created mine, inspired by old recipes, with organic flours, water, things that degrade or can be eaten by insects, without damaging the support where I put my petals. »

Claire Boucl has two specialisations, petalisation and installations of branches that she twists and knots and with which she creates a natural sculpture. For the moment being, florists provide her with the raw material she needs to exercise her art, but her dream is to own a garden and to grow her flowers organically, without pesticides. A dream that is about to come true: “I have just bought a house in the south of Fontainebleau and I hope that from next spring I will be able to use my own flowers. I am lucky enough to already have peonies, irises, tulips and oriental poppies. I would like to plant endangered species. According to The State of the World’s Plants 2016 Report, published by Kew Garden, about 20% of existing species are endangered.

She has been scattering the streets, forests and faces with poetic works of art for the past 15 years, and yet for 13 years it has been impossible to make a living from her art: “I met everyone, politicians, artists and luxury houses. They were all fascinated by my work, but it never led to anything. One day, I decided to give it all up. That was in the summer of 2016. My husband and I decided to take a holiday and on the first day I received a call: a woman I had met a few months before, had just entered Boucheron. She had talked about me during a briefing, and the artistic director wanted to meet me. A week later I met Claire Choisne and we started working on the Fleurs Éternelles project.

Those rings, Fleurs Éternelles are undoubtedly the most poetic jewels I have ever seen. The rings are decorated with a stone in the centre and real petals immortalised under a translucent lacquer. “Boucheron has set up a research and development laboratory especially for this project. The preparation took two years, during which time we didn’t know whether the idea was feasible. First we had to select the flowers to work with. They had to keep their natural colour, without adding any colouring agents or chemicals. I had to stabilise about 10,000 petals from about 100 different flowers. They were tested by a CNRS researcher to see if they resisted light. As my petals were flat like gold leaf and flexible, they had to succeed in gluing them, protecting them with a kind of lacquer that solidified them without damaging them.” The collection was launched in December 2018.

The link between Claire Boucl, flowers and plants is beyond words. She feels their beauty, their fragility, their strength too. It is a mysterious dialogue. My father had planted a bamboo that I had recovered when he separated from my mother,” she explains. “He died 11 years ago and this bamboo is the only living thing I have left of him. It is my most sacred possession.”