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An interview with Françoise Weeks of The Herbal Recipe Keeper

by Timber Press on January 17, 2019

in Craft, Design

“Good mechanics are always the base of a well done design, whether they are small or large.” —Françoise Weeks

You are renowned for your whimsical floral arrangements, and your work has been published in Nacre, FusionFlowers, ModernWeddingFlowers, Huffington Post, Flutter, and Millieu. What first inspired you to go into floral design?

I grew up in Belgium where flowers simply are a part of everyday life—a real flower culture exists over there. We always had flowers at home, and from a very young age I loved to help my mom make arrangements. I also interned 1 day a week with our ‘family florist’ for 3 months. Beyond that I am self-taught. My love of nature, curiosity, and tenacity have always been the driving force. I read and studied lots of books, mostly from European authors and experimented a lot.

I got a teaching degree in Belgium, but when I moved here in 1977, I very much wanted to get involved in the flower industry. However, 41 years ago, the availability of flowers in the US was a far cry from what I had been used to, so I put the dream on a shelf and worked in a medical lab for 20 years. I became an avid gardener and loved exploring design. In 1996, I made a leap of faith and started my business, focusing on doing flowers for weddings and events.

Walk us through the inspiration for the arrangements in The Herbal Recipe Keeper.

Choosing interesting pieces of wood or bark is always my starting point. I have gathered quite a lot of gnarled and interesting pieces over the years, and the size and shape of the wood always helps determine the next step. As nearly all plants have medicinal properties, the selection of plants to choose from was fantastic in May and July. Both times, I visited a local flower farmer, Indigo Gardens, which grows a plethora of unusual plants, and I supplemented that selection with treasures from other local growers. Typically I never know what I will make—the plants and textures literally guide me.

What is your favorite plant to include in your arrangements right now?

I have lots of favorites, depending on the season. I love the great selection of succulents that a grower from Yaquina at the central Oregon coast brings to the market every week. And the more unusual flowers or foliage look, the more I like them. This time of the year, hellebores, fritillaria, and muscari are at the top of my list. I would love to design more with a variety of unusual primulas.

Floral arrangement is making its way into mainstream conversations about design and decor. What would you suggest for those new to floral arrangement?

I would suggest they start with small projects and explore different ideas. When I started my business 23 years ago, there was no internet, and I used to get lost looking through flower books and magazines. Try new ideas—some work, some don’t—and let your curiosity guide you. And most importantly, have fun with it all!

How have your design strategies changed most during your career?

For me designing has always been a very intuitive process. Over the years, as some wedding clients would order larger designs, I had to come up with a variety of techniques. Good mechanics are always the base of a well done design, whether they are small or large. The last 12 years, my designs have morphed mostly into exploring woodlands and botanical couture. It has been a fun and interesting learning curve, and the sky is the limit.

What is the most important discovery your students make in your courses?

I like to tell students that when I started to do woodlands 12 years ago, I got new eyes: beyond seeing beautiful flowers, I started to pay attention to the great foliage of plants and ground covers, beautiful seedpods, all the mosses and lichens and ferns in the trees. I love to share those natural discoveries in gardens or on walks. I always delight when students start realizing that mother nature offers so many treasures to look at and use in design, besides what they order from the wholesalers. Including unusual elements is what sets apart the most simple design.

What’s next for you?

I would like to start teaching more at garden clubs all over the country and work on a second book with Theresa Bear, who took the most beautiful pictures for the The Herbal Recipe Keeper.

Françoise Weeks, born in Belgium, has infused her work with a quintessential European reverence for flowers and nature. Her studio is located in Portland, Oregon, and her innovation and love of teaching have brought her to the Cohim Flower School in China, the Academy of Floral Art in Exeter, England, studios in Australia and Mexico, and workshops around the globe. Her dynamic work has been published in NacreFusionFlowersModernWeddingFlowersHuffington Post, Flutter, and Millieu.


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