A Rose by Any Other Name (except Idalia)

There’s nothing quite like the threat of losing everything to shake up one’s life. My first major hurricane experience came in 2017, when Irma was headed straight for us as a category 4 storm. It was an especially trying time because I had not yet purchased hurricane panels for the windows of my home. Thankfully, the storm shifted away from us at the last minute. But since then, anytime the cone of uncertainty includes St. Petersburg, those feelings of impermanence rise again. Fortunately, we survived another hurricane recently when Idalia passed by on August 29th; yet, many homes still faced flooding and power outages. My heart also goes out to the people near Keaton Beach, who suffered the brunt of the direct hit.


A doppler map of Hurricane Idalia is shown. Swirls of red, orange, and purple make up the body of the storm.
The storm’s position in the early hours of August 30, 2023.  (http://www.facebook.com/denisphillipsweatherman/)


As I was preparing for Idalia, a friend asked me if events like this give me inspiration to make art. My answer was, “Forget inspiration, I’m just trying to stay calm!” During hurricanes, making art is more about maintaining equilibrium. Luckily, I had a project due and needed to work on it in the midst of nonstop weather reports and preparing my home. That project was a custom order for light-up flower sculptures for a wedding.


A blue, light-up flower sculpture is shown against a black background.
An 8″ light-up flower sculpture by Elizabeth Barenis


I invented these sculptures in 2022 when I helped create an immersive installation for the Clearwater Free Clinic’s annual fundraiser. The theme was “Twilight Lagoon.”


Three photos are shown of light-up flower sculptures, a light-up flamingo sculpture and the view of the tent in which these were all placed.
“Twilight Lagoon” immersive art installation; January 2022


After that event, I listed my services on Etsy for brides-to-be and event planners who were looking for unique, handmade items. And last month an order came for 9 flowers of various sizes and colors…including a large 20″ flower as well as boutonnieres!


A blue, light-up boutonniere flower is pinned to the lapel of a sports jacket.
Light-up boutonniere flower by Elizabeth Barenis


So there I was, listening to meteorologist Denis Phillips’ updates streaming on my phone, bending and twisting wire, dyeing fabric, sculpting these magical shapes. Keeping my hands busy was definitely the best way to circumvent the underlying stress, and I’m thankful for the timing of how it all worked out. Looking back, these flowers were literally a light that led me through a worrisome time. And perhaps that’s the inspiration, after all.


“There is a light and it never goes out.” -The Smiths



A group of nine light-up flowers is shown. They range in size from five inches to 20 inches, and the colors vary - white, blue, and gold.
The custom order of illuminated flowers for a wedding. Sizes range from 5″ boutonnieres to the large 20″ gold flower which the bride will carry. By Elizabeth Barenis







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