FRANCES HARJEET: FLORAL DESIGNER + STYLIST
FRANCES in her own words:
What do you do?
I am a floral designer and an event stylist. I also do some commercial and editorial prop styling.
How did you come into the work that you do now?
I've always loved flowers and was raised around mounds of them because my mother was a landscape designer and floral fiend herself. We lived with a large garden and a house that was always full of flower arrangements (and big parties with even more flowers). I remember picking massive bouquets of daffodils from our garden every spring with my siblings from an early age. In my childhood and teenage years I engaged in various creative and artistic endeavors and have always loved arranging things in stylized patterns and making my surroundings beautiful (all of which has led me to the event design and prop styling work of today). I never thought of floral design as a career until the time of my own wedding in 2012. I was an uber-involved bride, collecting antique decor, porcelain plates, teacups, silverware, vases, linens etc, for the year leading up to our wedding. My godfather, mother, a family friend and myself arranged all the flowers for the wedding. It was totally over-the-top in terms of the amount of flowers, but I was thrilled by the experience and it inspired me to think about floral design as a career. I immediately took a 5 week design course and then began apprenticing for a wide variety of boutique and event florists. After a few seasons working for other shops and designers, I began my own company.
What are the biggest challenges of your work?
Working with flowers can be a challenge because of all of the variables involved - the seasonal changes and availability, the fragile nature of the product, the moodiness of certain flowers, and then the inevitable creative doldrums. Doing events such as weddings (my primary work) has a whole added layer of craziness because of how high emotions run, the exhaustive amount of consultations, written floral proposals, edits to those proposals and the unending chains of emails between me, clients and planners in the months (year!) preceding the event, and then, the sometimes difficult logistics of transportation and installation of large pieces to the venue site. Weddings are quite the production and then after all that hard work, poof! It's over! It's quite a rollercoaster of emotions to be honest.
What do you love most about it?
It's colorful, tactile and very engaging work. Sometimes the design process can be very meditative, at other times I feel like I'm at battle with the flowers, but either way, it's hard to "check out" - I have to tune in to the flowers and stay present throughout. I love that the work I do serves the purpose of bringing joy into people's lives. I think there is something really profound in offering beauty to the world, if only for the sake of beauty itself. I love that flowers are used to mark celebratory and sacred moments.
What are the biggest misconceptions about what you do?
People don't realize how physically intense my work can be. Making and transporting large arrangements, building plant walls and arbors, hanging floral chandeliers, etc., etc., - all of that is very taxing on the body, especially since I'm often working high in the mountains exposed to the elements. The production of a wedding day with all the running around, carrying crates of candles and heavy designs and doing it all in such a short amount of time is really quite exhausting. Everyone always says to me "That must be so fun!" about my work, and while it can be fun, it's also really hard work and sometimes infuriating (like the agony of watching beautiful expensive flowers die in front of my eyes because of the heat of a tent or the blazing sun when there's nothing that can be done about it!).
Have you found that being a woman impacts your experience in your field?
Part of being a good wedding florist and event designer, in my opinion, is the ability to listen well and compassionately to my clients. Weddings bring out the best and worst in people, they really do, and it's my job to help my client have the most beautiful, personal and happy experience they can. I can only do this by being present for them, understanding and absolutely honest. I feel like as a woman I am very much geared for this kind of empathetic connection with my clients (sorry if that's a stereotype, but it's true!). Most of my clients are women (grooms rarely ever are involved in the planning process) and most of my colleagues are women and I absolutely love that!