Suzanne Rafferty

[ Age 66 ] Floral designer used eclectic materials - including sand dollars to dog biscuits - in her creations

November 07, 2006|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,sun reporter

Suzanne L. Rafferty, a floral designer known for a whimsical style and who helped create a themed hot-air balloon for the 1981 opening of the National Aquarium in Baltimore, died of cancer Wednesday at her home in Little Compton, R.I. The former Guilford resident was 66.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, the former Suzanne Lear attended the Rhode Island School of Design and earned a bachelor's degree at Temple University's Tyler School of Art.

After moving to Baltimore in the 1960s, she worked briefly as an advertising agency artist and soon began creating floral displays for friends' parties. She later established it as a business.

"She tried paper making, pottery, and even basket weaving for a brief minute, but flower designing was her true passion, her love," said her daughter, Alison R. Ouchna of Columbia.

Over the years, Mrs. Rafferty's work was pictured in The Sun, and for an article in 1966 she recalled her creation for a couple who wanted to celebrate Christmas with their dogs - covering their tree with plaid ribbons and Milk Bone dog biscuits.

"It was a little weird, but I have to admit it looked kind of cute," she told a reporter.

She recalled decorating one of her favorite trees with sand dollars on gold thread. She sprayed dried seaweed silver and hung it on the branches along with pieces of driftwood.

"You should use whatever makes you happy - not what Christmas dictates. I don't play to the seasons and I've never been a red and green person," she said.

In the summer of 1981, she designed a hot-air balloon that resembled a jellyfish for the opening of the National Aquarium. In 2001, she helped create floral displays for the reopening of the Cone Collection at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

In her many years of floral work, Mrs. Rafferty made numerous bridal and Bachelors Cotillon bouquets.

Mrs. Rafferty conceived floral works at the annual "Art Blooms" event at the Walters Art Museum, at which florists are asked to use a painting in the collection as their inspiration. In 1990, she was assigned a Renaissance painting of the goddess Venus.

"I wanted to show the line of her body with sensuous flowers, then pick up all the other colors in the background," she said. "It was sort of like two arrangements in one."

A Sun article noted the nude's flesh tones and ample curves inspired a central S-shaped drape of lilies and white bridal roses, set off by the more vivid hues of the surrounding blooms.

In the early 1990s, she owned and operated a shop in the Village of Cross Keys with a partner, Andie Scarlett. It was called Poise & Ivy.

"Their tiny shop is wildly creative, full of grapevines, gilded artichokes, petal balls, presents wrapped in moss and tied with ribbon and unusual, whimsical topiaries - as well as the poinsettias, holly, wreaths and Christmas cactuses you expect this time of year," a 1992 Sun article said.

She moved to Rhode Island in 2004 and created rock gardens for her home using rocks she gathered along nearby beaches.

No service is planned.

In addition to her daughter, survivors include her husband of 37 years, Michael B. Rafferty, formerly an owner of Read Street's Designers Hardware; her mother, Helen D. Lear of State College, Pa.; and a granddaughter.

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