Manuela Sosa is a florist. Originally from South America, she’s settled in the pastoral hills of Vallvidrera, just outside Barcelona. Her home reflects the hues and textures of the surrounding landscape. Together with her husband, they’re renovating and expanding at a leisurely pace. They like see it as a work in progress, believing that the house adapts to them and not the other way around.
Each morning Manuela takes a few steps to her flower studio, Gang and the Wool, just outside on the garden terrace. Well-known because of its idyllic little greenhouse – Vogue Spain once dubbed it one of the most beautiful flower-shops in the world – the blithe space is synonymous with her floristry. The space is cozy, an inviting vintage couch with throw blankets welcomes repose, books and pottery line the bookshelves and the greenhouse itself has doors that open wide onto the brickwork terrace. Usually crowded with photographers and stylists who want to use the magical atmosphere as scenario, it is here that Manuela can most often be found, harmoniously working with treasured blooms alongside her nine-year-old silver Weimaraner Groc.
What is Gang and the Wool?
Gang and the Wool is a flower studio born out of my desire to create an experience. It began in 2010 when I prepared the flowers for a friend’s wedding, this led to the decision to undertake my own business. Since then, it’s been a step by step process. As a designer, I try to absorb everything around me, anything that affects me, I digest it and transform it into something completely different. In the studio we work with natural elements: flowers, seeds, branches, plants. The idea of working with different concepts is fascinating. In this form I have the chance to fuse different typologies and disciplines.
How would you describe your design style? What or who are your style influences?
My style is natural. It is not based on shaping a personal signature, but rather, derived from the love we have for our work. There are many different artists that continue to influence me, such as David Nash, Alan Sonfist and Ursula von Rydingsvard.
Do you see the differences between flowers that are mass grown, and those grown in the wild?
The difference between mass grown flowers is the ridiculous quest for perfection; a perfection beyond what mother nature can produce. Nothing around us is free of imperfections.
How do you see the unhurried construction of your home?
I’m fascinated by the idea of building my own foundations slowly, it probably has something to do with the architecture degree I studied when I was in Uruguay. I understand my home as a big project that adapts exactly to my versatile needs.
And the greenhouse?
I’ve always felt a passion for these crystal greenhouses. They are like parallel worlds inside a garden. They are volatile and flexible, and full of transparencies, flowers and plants.
It seems to be easier than ever to buy flowers – in the grocery store, the subway, at the gas station – do you believe that the professional florist is disappearing?
That’s a difficult question to answer and I’m probably going to seem contradictory. On the one hand, I do think they are disappearing, yes. However, on the other, I have the feeling that the value of the creative handmade work has increased lately.
Working with your hands is something natural, they shape ideas and they let you be directly in touch with the materials. I enjoy experimenting and see what works out in different spaces. I like to think of which flower I’m going to use, which colors match or contrast and which composition looks best in the end. As every flower is unique, in the creation of a perfect composition it’s essential to check which aperture grade they have in order to place them ideally in a vase. The final result shows a job well done, when something is created with care and attention, it shows. That idea, of achieving a well-crafted handmade work, is not lost at all. But being an artisan means lots of work and time, and unfortunately we’re living in a culture of immediacy.
Does this have any effect on ‘authenticity’?
Maybe, although I’m not sure that authenticity is a direct consequence of artisanal work. Instead, I believe that authenticity is the consequence of work made out of love, dedication and commitment.
The idea of “returning to roots” almost seems to be a trend – what do you think?
I like to hope that it’s a ‘modus vivendi’ and not a temporal social trend.