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.