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  • Arts & Culture
  • Issue 37

Flower Arranging:
Miyoko Yasumoto

In her Parisian atelier, Miyoko Yasumoto makes an unfrivolous case for floristry. Words by Annick Weber. Photography by Luc Braquet.

Not everyone would want to live in their work space, but in Miyoko Yasumoto’s case, it’s an appealing setup. “I live amid flowers,” the Japanese French floral designer says, sitting in her loft-style home in the Parisian suburb of Aubervilliers. All around her are colorful floral arrangements, some finished and ready to go to her clients, others still waiting for that final touch—a bit of foliage, say, or a showpiece bloom. On the wall hangs a half-completed weaving she’s making with pressed wildflowers and linen, while behind her, a floor-to-ceiling window opens onto a leafy courtyard.

Yasumoto worked as a designer before retraining in floristry at Paris’ École des Fleuristes in 2016. She established her floral atelier, Une Maison dans les Arbres, in 2018, after a stint running Paris’ first dried flower boutique in a corner of L’Officine Universelle Buly’s Marais shop. Though she still has a penchant for dried bouquets, she now incorporates seasonal cut flowers and other greenery from small local producers, bridging the gap between the ephemeral and the lasting, the fresh and the frozen-in-time. She finds inspiration as much in the landscapes of the southwest of France—where she spent her childhood summers—as she does in the minimalism of ikebana, the Japanese art of sculptural flower arrangement. The resulting bouquets look organic, as if swept up from a wildflower meadow.

Forgive me if this is like asking a parent to choose between their children, but do you have a favorite flower?
No, I don’t, but I find the smell of a garden rose extraordinary. It’s of personal significance to me. A friend offered me one just after the Paris attacks of 2015, in which I lost a colleague. I had been working as an art director for 20 years and suddenly found myself in this traumatic situation, questioning my life. I realized that my job at the design agency had disconnected me from my inner self, and so I decided it was time for a change; it was time to pursue what makes me happy.

How did you decide what that was exactly?
Everyone has to work it out for themselves. The smell of that garden rose triggered something inside me. I had the feeling it brought the real me back to the surface—things were finally aligned. Nature gave me so much comfort in those difficult times.

Why did you choose floristry in particular?
There were many nature-related professions that interested me, but I didn’t want to study for too long. After all those years in front of a computer, I knew I wanted to move on to working with something tangible fairly quickly. I received my diploma [in 2016] and started as a freelance floral designer a year later.

Has the profession turned out to be what you expected it to be?
It has certainly made me realize that I wasn’t alone in seeking solace in nature. During the [coronavirus] lockdown, I did fresh flower deliveries because so many people were dreaming of having a bit of nature at home. I arranged these bouquets around aromas, using mint, verbena, lemongrass and more traditional elements such as peonies. Smells are so powerful; they can overshadow any anxiety and negative thoughts

You basically recreated your garden rose moment for others.
Exactly. It makes the reptilian part of our brain feel safe.

Was there anything that surprised you about floristry?
I wasn’t expecting the flower industry to be so closely connected to hyperconsumerism and its environmental impacts. In my eyes, it’s nonsense to make roses come all the way from Kenya in February—and yet it’s totally normal, as I learned during my placements in various Parisian flower shops. That’s when I knew that traditional floristry was not my thing. 

Were you worried you’d chosen the wrong path?
No, but I realized I had to develop a voice of my own. You shouldn’t need masses of exotic blooms to create something beautiful.

But what about winter when there are hardly any seasonal flowers around?
I turned to dried flowers for this very reason. They resonated with me ethically and aesthetically speaking. They’re in rhythm with the seasons, giving you a palette of plants to work with year-round. I also like the nostalgia they evoke, especially when mixed with fresh flora or sheaths of grass. Who doesn’t have childhood memories of pressing flowers and keeping them as a souvenir of the summer holidays?

What do those memories look like for you?
It makes me think of my summers spent at my grandparents’ in Poitou, in the southwest of France, where I still go to pick many of the flowers I work with. There were flowers everywhere: in my grandfather’s garden and in the fields around the house. We would go for long walks and come back with bouquets of fresh-picked wildflowers, herbs and grasses.

Do you think children are natural-born florists?
When you’re a child you find everything beautiful—a few blossoms here, some leaves there, everything is possible. This spontaneity leads to magnificent results.

As an adult these things are suddenly much more difficult. Why is that?
Because we no longer approach it like a child. When I start a floral arrangement with a particular vision in mind, I usually struggle to get there. The most interesting work happens when letting go of control; that’s when emotions can come through. Ikebana has taught me a lot about expressing my feelings through my arrangements, like you would do when writing a haiku poem. I’m no ikebana master, but I’m interested in the general principles.

Don’t the strict rules of ikebana get in the way of working intuitively?
Don’t get me wrong, you certainly need to be very concentrated. Ikebana was performed by samurai to mentally prepare prior to going into battle; it’s a form of meditation. But, similar to the bouquets we used to make as children, everything has a place in this art: the budding, blooming and fading flower, as well as the greenery around it. It’s very poetic and a huge inspiration.

Is there such a thing as a failed composition?
I don’t think so. I teach floral arranging ateliers to students and have never seen anyone disappointed. Nor have I seen two students create the same arrangement.

What if the colors don’t match? Or the flowers and textures?
I believe there’s no ready-made formula for what works and what doesn’t. Charles Baudelaire said that “the beautiful is always bizarre” and it’s true: There’s a lot of beauty in the bizarre as it reveals the singularity of the maker. It gives an insight into their heart.

“You shouldn’t need masses of exotic blooms to create something beautiful.”

“You shouldn’t need masses of exotic blooms to create something beautiful.”


This story is from Kinfolk Issue Thirty-Seven

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