Aperçu: un coup d’oeil jeté sur des individus qui inspirent, leurs pensées courantes et leurs projets émergent. Inspiring individuals; a place to celebrate personal projects, reflections and ideas.
Photo by Koreen Reece
Aperçu: Daisy Fung
I’m a floral artist and gardener in Vancouver, BC. In a more contemporary sense I think of myself as a botanical stylist – finding, creating and arranging with all things organic and of nature to create compelling visuals and narratives that speak to the elements themselves, and/or in conversation with another artistic medium, object, personal or social occasion.
I grow many of my materials and build a specific collection of cut flowers, greenery and textures each season – they generate, nurture and complement my designs in a variety of ways. Working with small flower farms in Scotland and England while I was studying over there revived a long-standing love for flowers and gardens, and widened my purview of floral splendour. As impressive as the international cut flower chain is, the very best and most interesting flowers nearly always come out of gardens, nurseries, smaller fields, not to mention all the wonderful and wild weeds and bits and pieces that grow untended. The pleasure and art of flower arranging for me is so often found in the unassuming.
In a past life I was an anthropologist (I hold a PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Edinburgh). I did research on cultural framings of infectious disease and migration. I wrote my dissertation on the reconstitution of HIV as chronic illness amongst undocumented migrants in London, and how time itself can turn into a source of malaise in situations of fragility. As a graduate student I was incredibly proficient at dismantling everything I wrote. Flowers are good in that they will dismantle and disintegrate themselves, and the obsession with documenting, making them beautiful and keeping them alive, was a productive counterpoint.
Even though I’m on a different path now I never stop thinking with anthropology, reflecting on the rituals and rites that lend meaning to our lives, our relationship to nature, and ever evolving sensibilities of taste and value in the creative and commercial arts. My creative practice encompasses everything that involves the joy, inspiration, healing and passion that flowers bring, both eventful and everyday: from the celebration of unions, the welcoming and passing of life, flowers for the home and businesses, armloads and arrangements to send to loved ones, all the gatherings (these days small and spaced out) that feed existing bonds and fuel new paths, to special editorial, installation and set design projects to make flower fantasies a reality. Flowers are the absolute epitome of pure fleeting beauty and I try my best to make it all as unforgettable as possible.
Where am I right now
I am home - though not in the most familiar notion of the word. I am indeed back in the city where I was born and raised after being out of the country for ten years. I remain tentative about Vancouver. Even after all this time I still find it a very diffused city in the sense that one must be patient in finding a cluster of connection and loyalty – familiarity of bonds, form, and taste hold a special place in perception and attitude here. But like anything, maybe it’s also simply that process of beginning again somewhere new. Everyday I marvel at the way things grow here, it’s a world in itself. I really have to make a point of not getting too lost in it. My flowers are my greatest companions and I feel phenomenally lucky to be able to participate in their orbit. I am home in that I’ve found a partial way to re-house myself - re-tooling all that I am, my talents and abilities, to try to make a life through flowers, plant life, and creating. And that can involve negotiating with your origins, forgetting an old self – and scratching something new in the terrain (sometimes literally).
Three things I always travel with
A vintage navy blue knapsack that holds everything, my black wristwatch, and a small day planner that doubles as a mini journal.
Not surprisingly, when I’m completely surrounded by flowers (in water, earth, or in my arms), a gentle breeze, bird song, and perhaps one or two trusted souls nearby.
Photo by Shannon Ruth DionneWhat is your favourite thing to share
Every tip and trick I know to revive your suddenly wilted flowers and how to make them last as long as possible.
What is a book that recently moved you
I’m not sure if this counts but lately I’ve been returning to the pages of a beautiful little book on botanical art between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries in Tuscany that I picked up during my travels last summer. It talks about the rich Renaissance growth of natural sciences, horticulture, artistic and intellectual practices as plants were discovered and represented in new ways and gardens developed for more than utilitarian purposes – such a thrilling period in history. The work, images and illustration that developed in that time were so stunningly beautiful, one of the plates shown is a single specimen illustration of cypress vine morning glory, brought to Florence from Mexico. I have struggled to grow it for some time - it is a wonder to me that despite the four hundred of years separating us, the artist and I marvelled at the same flower.
What is something you would like to campaign more for
More wildlife gardens, pollination sources as art as well as vital habitats, and revival in flower diversity in cities and urban planting.
What sort of things do you find inspiring – Where do you find them
If I had to say one thing that always gets me excited it would have to be colour. I don’t just mean in the sense that anything colourful inspires me. Perhaps it’s something to do with fixing a person into a certain moment of time and space, but gradations, nuances, shifts in colour, and the compatibility (or disagreements!) in colours have a way of stopping me in my tracks and making me want to create. I have this green amaranthus that I’m struggling to cut because I’ve noticed its celery green colour is taking on a dusting of pale pink as it ripens further on the stem. It’s more than just watching a great sunset, it’s being stirred and opened up. Finding aesthetically pleasing and rousing combinations is a small motor in flower arranging, it’s a rather simple quest but the scope for reinvention never tapers, never switches off.
A current sight smell sound taste feeling
Fennel and pears. I’ve allowed a small forest of bronze leaf fennel to grow out in the garden, it was so adored by the insectry. It flowered profusely and now the most magical seed heads have formed – jewel like umbels swelling and turning shades of celadon, dove and peach gray, eventually to become a crisp bronze that will give away to another field of liquorice flavoured joy. And pears. My neighbour’s pear tree stands right next to my workshop. It fruits about once every ten years and it chose 2020 to raise its juicy flag. Unfortunately it has been completely abandoned so the past few weeks we’ve literally had pear bombs dropping from its laden limbs. All that sweetness and flesh quickly going over and bruising – that moment from perfectly ripe to overripe (for any fruit, vegetable or flower) always makes me ache a little.
Do you prefer solitude or crowded places to concentrate
It might depend on what I need to concentrate on… and what I’m trying to make happen. I’m by nature a solitary person and I think that can lead to a lot of spoiled and lost time. Sometimes crowded places come with nice burrows. As romantic as it is to think of one’s self as a solitary artist I have to admit, talking to people about concepts and visions is brilliant for staying inspired and fleshing out ideas you only had as a fragment to start with.
Do you have a ritual that can transform your mood in an instant
Making a flower bouquet in my hand - often a small one - has a way of calming me down. It might have something to do as well with the brief process that often precedes it. Collecting the stems that draw my eye, holding up the fragrant ones to my nose and have a good drink of its perfume, laying out the gems I’ve selected in front of me, and then arranging everyone so they can have a nice chat together. It sounds like a lot of time but really I often don’t have long to do this (there is so much to keep on top of every day) and it’s a quick dance. But I do think most of the time flowers look better after they’ve been arranged and just that little bit of intention and care makes such a difference – for them and for me.
What are your favourite places in the world
I’ve lived in a few different places but I still feel like I haven’t seen as much as I should’ve at this point in my life. It’s hard to choose, though I have to say I still believe New York City is the greatest. I will also forever hold a place in my heart for the Scottish and English countryside… and really any bit of earth that has honeysuckle growing with abandon.
What's next for you in the following months
I’m hoping to squeeze in a few more creative and styling shoots before the year is up. The harvest season is like nothing else, the garden sparkles like a box of jewels. Some of my stars this year include starry nicotiana (their jasmine scent in the evening will transport you to another land), incredible dinner plate dahlias in shimmery lilac and terra cotta, cactus zinnias with frilly petals (my most colourful crop this season: sapphire pinks, ruby, fuchsia, vermillion, right down to soft dewy peaches and pinks), black and coral sweet peas, amaranthus tassels, chocolate perfumed cosmos and more. I’ve been meaning to venture creating some natural dyes with my flowers for over a year and finally am getting around to trying out a few things, I look forward to experimenting further this fall. I don’t post many dried flowers on my social media but I actually do have a glorious compilation that I’ve carefully dried – and have in mind a new collection of everlasting pieces. I’m also working on putting together a look book of my work, and doing some rebranding. There’s preparing for the holiday season, which I think will be mostly online as markets and pop ups seem unlikely with the continuing of the pandemic. So this will entail a lot of judicious photography and figuring out how to communicate and portray. Fall is like a second spring for gardeners: planting, preparing, anticipating. I’m seeding flowers for next year’s projects: delphinium, foxgloves, dianthus, and Canterbury bells are some new things I’m trying. I have rejigged another bit of garden space lent out by a friend and think I’ve finally found a spot for more rose bushes which I’m hugely excited about. Every year I say I’m not going to do any more tulips they are so costly and laborious but every year I submit and end up putting in a truckload, I just can’t help it, they are such an extraordinary flower. I buy the fattest bulbs I can afford and they come up huge and marvellous. The parrots are my favourite – birds of paradise. Spring wouldn’t be the same without them. I know they are not typically considered a romantic flower but to me they exude celebration, joy and glamour. I still dream of meeting a couple, or any cool person actually, that wants a tulip carnival for the day.
Facebook: Daisy Fung Flowers