So like wow, it’s not everyday you get to speak to one of your flower heroes at length, but I was given that very opportunity last week!
After I stopped squealing like a school girl with excitement, I got on the blower (or Skype for those of you who don’t speak like a 1950’s warehouse foreman like me) and had an in-depth chat with the master of Botanical Couture herself – Franciose Weeks.
Francoise will be traveling to Australia (along with Holly Chapple), bringing the Chapple Designers Workshops to NSW at the beginning of next month. She will be enlightening all those attending in her brand of floral artistry – Woodland and Botanical Couture.
I was blown away when I first saw one of Francoise’ masterpieces and few years ago. I was trawling online looking for some kind of floral this or that and came across a shoe. But not just any shoe, a shoe made of succulents and leaves and flower buds. It looked like something out of a fairytale.
So intricate and painstakingly made this shoe was, and functional too. They were being worn by a model in the photo. From then on I became a fan of this Belgian-born flower maven who now resides in the leafy lanes of Oregon in the United States (the perfect setting to inspire woodland floral art).
After I finished gushing about what an honour it was to speak to Franciose (because it so very much was and because I am a giant flower dork) my first question was this:
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‘From a young age I was always around flowers. Flowers are part of the culture in Europe. You are always around them. My mother always had flowers in our house and I helped her arrange them from a very young age. They captured my creativity and imagination.
I was so used to seeing all of these amazing flower shops in Belgium with their rich abundance of colour and texture. Then I moved to the US in 1977 – and it was a bit of a shock. It was completely different to Europe back then. A very small selection of flowers, mostly chrysanthemum and roses and leather fern. There was just no comparison to what I had experienced growing up.
So I put my notions of flower arranging aside and worked in the corporate world for many years, but in the meantime still played with flowers and gardened as a hobby.
Then in 1996, the time had come to start my floral business at home. My husband converted our basement into a studio for me. From the beginning I started to focus on weddings and events. It grew and my husband then had to build a studio for me on our property.
Then about 10 years ago I started to teach evening classes, and they became popular so they extended into teaching three day work shops. Then I got requests to travel and teach and now I am so excited to come to Australia next month and teach!’
Inspiring, am I right? So I wanted to know more about where the ideas to create Woodland and Floral Couture arrangements came from….
‘In 2007, I was working on a project with a photographer and an art director. That’s when the idea for the Woodland arrangements came about. I had a childhood memory that popped in my head. When I was a child we would go on vacation to Switzerland, hiking vacations, and at lunch time my siblings and I would gather pieces of bark and and moss and small forest flowers and we would make a small arrangement on a piece of bark for my mom.
So I mentioned that memory to the art director working on the shoot and he said I need to do something with this. My reaction was – why? It’s just a childhood memory! But I took his advice and it opened up this whole new world of floral artistry for me.
Then a few years later I started to experiment with some floral purses and headpieces and shoes. I was inspired by the art of Michel Tcherevkoff (www.shoefleur.com). He juxtaposes items like shoes and handbags through petals and sepals. It’s breathtaking.’
How does one learn the mechanics behind making incredible floral shoes and handbags I hear you ask? Well, I asked the same question.
‘I taught myself the mechanics. I experimented and played with different ways of doing these things for quite some time before perfecting the mechanics. Now I teach other florists the mechanics so they don’t need to figure it out themselves!’
Francoise’ hyper-creativity peaked my interest to ask another question – Francoise, how do you avoid burn out?
‘I try not to do the same thing over again too many times. Every wedding is different. Every event is different. Even each of my classes are different. During the period of building up my business I would always take time to ‘play’ on the side with something florally creative but different to the task at hand. So I think for me, trying to prevent burn out means that I need to always be thinking of new ideas and trying to make them come to life.’
So what creative feats of wonder can we expect during your workshops in Australia?
‘I would like to have quite a bit of focus on the Woodlands and on Botanical Couture. I will show how to create a woodland bouquet, centrepieces, and touch on using wooden pieces as containers because that’s basically what the woodlands are all about. As for the Botanical Couture, I will focus on creating head pieces and handbags and the mechanics that are involved in that.’
And finally I asked that question anyone visiting Oz for the first time always gets asked – ‘What are you looking forward to seeing most here in Australia?’
‘I’m really looking forward to seeing all of the wonderful things you guys have to work with in Australia. All of the different textures and foliage. It will really be a treat!’
Well Francoise, I think we’re the ones that are in for a treat!
For more information on The Chapple Designers Workshops in NSW click here.
If you want to hear more from Francoise and other designers stay tuned for a post in the coming weeks. It may or may not touch on social media and floristry…alright, yes it will touch on social media and floristry but I promise it won’t bore you to tears with techno jargon and talk of SEO (what ever that is)! Scouts honour! R xx
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