A Wreath-Making Ritual With Helena Bersin
It's wreath season, and nobody does it better than Denver’s Bloom by Anuschka
It’s wreath season, and nobody does it better than Denver’s Bloom by Anuschka. That’s because their all-Bavarian, no-kitsch wreaths have a secret weapon. Her name is Helena Bersin, and she’s owner Anuschka Pashel’s 71-year-old mother. She’s also a tough task master. “Sometimes the branches I order aren’t up to her standards, so we scope out all the good trees in neighborhoods where it’s OK to cut them,” Anuschka says. “We go with big Ikea shopping bags and clippers and gloves and find greens fresh enough for her to use.”
This wreath-making ritual starts in November, when Helena treks to Colorado from Saarbrücken, Germany. She’s here to visit her daughter, of course, but she rarely emerges from Bloom’s lower level, where her setup includes greens, berries, colored pine cones, and multiple stacks of boxed ornaments from Germany. “People joke that I fly her here and then stick her in the basement, but she loves it,” Anuschka says. Helena backs her up: “I like Denver and the beautiful nature around it, but I’m just as happy in the workshop. I have done projects for Anuschka’s customers, from reupholstering ottomans to sewing quilts. But the best creation is all the wonderful relationships I’ve made over the years.”
Helena’s skilled workmanship is her passion and joy, although it once was a necessity. She grew up in Czechoslovakia, under Soviet rule. “If they wanted anything nice,” Anuschka explains, “they had to do it themselves—like knitting, sweaters, sewing.” Helena attended art school in Prague, with a focus on textiles. In 1968, she and her husband fled first to Austria and then Germany, where she passed her creative skills along to her children. “There was always painting, crafting, building going on,” Anuschka recalls.
Helena prefers natural looks, with the occasional burst of whimsy—more of a European aesthetic—while Anuschka gravitates toward the wild and the loud. “[My mother] admires my taste,” Anuschka says. “It’s not always hers, but she likes the ballsiness of it. Once I just stuck this big silver deer in the middle of one of her wreaths, and she’s like, ‘Oh, my God, that looks cool.’ And then she did a few like that.”
If, this year, the pandemic foils Helena’s annual Colorado trip (at press time, the jury was still out), Anuschka is prepared to carry on in her mother’s stead. “She’s already shipped several boxes of ornaments,” Anuschka says. “She has a following here—we’re ready to keep up the tradition.”