The beauty of nature surrounds floral artist Saskia Havekes in every aspect of her life. She tells Viva about her inspiration.
In Sydney, Saskia Havekes is the go-to girl when it comes to creating floral arrangements that make a statement. Her list of clients include the likes of Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Hermes, Dries Van Noten and Acne, while her work has featured in publications such as Vogue Living, House & Garden, Belle, Vogue and Marie Claire. From gala dinners to fashion shows, weddings to arrangements in private homes, Havekes believes flowers have the power to transform the ordinary into "the extraordinary".
In her beautiful new book, Grandiflora Celebrations (Penguin $70), readers are taken on a visual journey with Havekes as she creates floral arrangements for everything from a mythical ocean scene for a Romance Was Born fashion show to the floral murals designed for a birthday party held in the Art Deco Hall at Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art, and a dreamy, romantic outdoor wedding in the Maldives.
Earliest flower memory?
Being in my family garden at Kenthurst, in New South Wales surrounded by bush flowers, where I had my own patch of the garden. My father's art studio - the buttercups underneath his handcarved ceramic fountain, the water lilies and irises floating on the top. My whole family is obsessed with everything botanical and floral.
What did you do before becoming a florist?
I worked in the creative department of an advertising agency when I left school and then in New York for Artforum magazine for Knight Landesman, who is still a very close and dear friend.
Tell us about how you got into flower arranging?
I enrolled on a TAFE course, Grandiflora, and set up my business on Macleay St, Sydney, where I have been for the past 16 years.
Your new book is beautiful. Please talk us through the concept behind it and what you hope readers will get from it?
The book is based on 18 months in the life of Grandiflora's events. We hope readers see it as a source of inspiration and a behind-the-scenes peek into the shop and all its mechanics. I'm hoping people will feel inspired to be creative.
What is your favourite arrangement in the book?
They are all so diverse - each one has it own set of memories, emotions and circumstances.
What are the best things about being a florist?
For me, heading out to the markets three times a week is a real treat. I love getting in amongst it and speaking to the growers. The changes in season - especially now heading into spring, the shop changes so dramatically when the new wave of blooms come in. Someone asked me recently if I could do anything else in life, what would be my dream - and I couldn't think of any other profession I would rather do. I'm right where I need and want to be. I think they were rather surprised by my answer. Collaborations with other artists are always a highlight.
The hours can be long and the work physically exhausting. Stress levels rise at times but this is always dissipated by working with a good team and having a good laugh.
What is your favourite flower?
I have no bias towards any flower, I find it so difficult to select but there will always be a place in my heart for the magnolia grandiflora, especially the fragrance.
Top tips for flower arranging?
A sharp pair of secateurs and a good twine or cord to tie off bunches. Always start with a good base of foliage or leaves to work from and change the water every other day. Groups of flowers in clusters always look good, with a hidden unusual pod or sculptural berry - we love to have an unexpected element in there. We love to juxtapose pretty floral elements with a strong pod or husk to capture the eye.
What do you currently have in your vases at home?
I like to take different blooms home to see how they perform. If I buy an unusual tulip or rose, it's great to see how they open and if we are using a particular bloom for a large installation, it's good to check their longevity. I tend to have long-lasting blooms at home that need little maintenance. Sometimes I cut leaves out of the garden if I don't have any flowers at home. Some smaller clusters of seasonal flowers around - at the moment it might be poppies or anemones.
How do you think flower arranging has changed over the years?
It's ever-evolving. There is often a trend running through - whether a particular colour or blocks of colour. I find customers are veering towards more garden-inspired arrangements - loose, unruly and achievable.
What is the future of flowers in our lives?
I think they'll become more precious, returning to the old days where tulip bulbs were traded as currency and kept in bulbs. People will be receiving one single precious bloom - the emphasis will be on the uniqueness and provenance rather than the opulent decadence of quantity.
What can people expect at Huka Lodge when you visit?
We hope to inspire, inform and delight in visual and conversational form.
* This Saturday, join Havekes for high tea at the award-winning luxury Huka Lodge in Taupo where she will present an illustrated overview of her work and a floral demonstration. Tickets $125 per person (or free for guests staying at the lodge). To book, ph (07) 378 5791 or find them on the website.