En­ter­tain­ing FLOW­ERS

Flo­ral whiz Cathy Gra­ham dis­cusses her new book and pas­sion


As a young, sin­gle fash­ion il­lus­tra­tor liv­ing a bo­hemian life in SoHo, Cathy Baran­cik Gra­ham never ex­pected to one day be­come a host­ess known on New York City’s high-so­ci­ety din­ner-party cir­cuit for her stylish and whim­si­cal ta­ble set­tings.

Nor did she an­tic­i­pate she would ever see a book pub­lished about her “ta­blescapes,” in which her flower ar­range­ments of­ten co-min­gle with quirky minia­tures from her ex­ten­sive col­lec­tion. Those might in­clude doll­house fur­ni­ture, toy cans of veg­eta­bles, vin­tage model cars, an­i­mal fig­urines and fash­ion dolls.

But life, as Gra­ham told an au­di­ence Thurs­day at the Preser­va­tion Foun­da­tion of Palm Beach, can take rad­i­cal turns. About 2½ years ago when she was 61, her hus­band of 30 years, Stephen Gra­ham — the youngest son of the late Wash­ing­ton Post pub­lisher Katharine Gra­ham — told her he wanted a di­vorce, she said.

“My life as I knew it came to a halt,” she said.

Raised in Chicago, she re­called how she had worked hard dur­ing the first years of her mar­riage learn­ing the ropes of so­phis­ti­cated en­ter­tain­ing and flower ar­rang­ing. She holds a de­gree in fash­ion il­lus­tra­tion from the Rhode is­land School of De­sign and stud­ied at Par­sons, and her clients in­cluded Bergdorf Good­man and Es­tee Lauder. Her award-win­ning il­lus­tra­tions found their way into pub­li­ca­tions such as Rolling Stone and The New York Times.

But her mar­riage in­tro­duced her to a com­pletely new way of life.

“I said good­bye to SoHo and sold my loft and moved into the (Up­per East Side) town­home where I still live to­day,” she re­called. “This was rather daunt­ing for an ex­tremely shy fash­ion il­lus­tra­tor.”

She found her­self in a whirl of char­ity lun­cheons and din­ner par­ties — some hosted by Katharine Gra­ham, whose le­gendary en­ter­tain­ing skills were show­cased in last year’s Os­car-nom­i­nated film The Post, in which the pub­lisher was played by Meryl Streep.

Along the way, Cathy Gra­ham de­vel­oped a close friend­ship and work­ing re­la­tion­ship with a men­tor, the late event de­signer and flo­ral guru Robert Is­abell. Draw­ing on her own well-de­vel­oped artis­tic sense, she learned first­hand what goes into suc­cess­ful par­ties and deep­ened her knowl­edge of flow­ers and flo­ral de­sign.

And then came the di­vorce. She was dev­as­tated and de­pressed, she said, and a good friend sug­gested that she find so­lace in her life­long love of draw­ing and paint­ing. Her friend sug­gested Gra­ham post a draw­ing a day on her In­sta­gram ac­count, which she did.

Even­tu­ally, she came to a re­al­iza­tion: “I de­cided I was too old to be bit­ter, an­gry or re­sent­ful,” she says. “And my life has opened up.”

‘Se­cond Bloom’

Her In­sta­gram posts — plus her rep­u­ta­tion as a savvy host­ess — even­tu­ally led to the deal for the book, which was writ­ten by Alexis Clark. Re­flect­ing a bit of irony, it’s ti­tled Se­cond Bloom, with the sub­ti­tle Cathy Gra­ham’s Art of the Ta­ble (Ven­dome Press, $35). The book is filled with col­or­ful pho­tog­ra­phy, by Quentin Ba­con and An­drew In­galls, of Gra­ham’s wa­ter­col­ors, flo­ral ar­range­ments, in­vi­ta­tions and homes.

Se­cond Bloom also is the name of her busi­ness, which so far in­cludes a can­dle for Nest Fra­grances, tex­tile de­signs, and a line of pa­ja­mas and aprons. Some of those prod­ucts were fea­tured Thurs­day at a trunk show and re­cep­tion at Mary Ma-

Cathy Gra­ham’s daily In­sta­gram post­ings of her draw­ings, plus her rep­u­ta­tion as a savvy host­ess, led to the pub­li­ca­tion of “Se­cond Bloom.”

For an out­door lun­cheon, Gra­ham placed an­tique plates on a pale-aqua table­cloth and ar­ranged lemons and peaches, ac­cented by lemon leaves, in glass bowls.

“Se­cond Bloom: Cathy Gra­ham’s Art of the Ta­ble,” by Alexis Clark and pub­lished by Ven­dome Press, fo­cuses on Gra­ham’s fresh take on en­ter­tain­ing and flo­ral dec­o­ra­tions.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.