We are starting a new series here at the Full Bouquet, with Abby’s help we will be doing a feature on each of the Chapel Designers. Our first feature will begin with my amazing and dear friend Francoise Weeks. I hope you enjoy Abby’s interview with Francoise.

Francoise Weeks was born and raised in Belgium, but came to America as a young woman. Since then she has opened a self-named flower shop in Portland, OR. She has been praised in both nations as an insightful and inspiring florist. She is a peer and a teacher to the entire floral world, and she has since become a friend of my mother’s.

Francoise is a somewhat new addition to my mother’s floral lifestyle. She explains, “Holly called me last fall and we connected right away. In February she came to a workshop in my studio and we chatted for hours after class every day. In March I attended her conference in New York. Since then we have stayed closely in touch and we taught a workshop together in her studio last spring.” To me, however, it seems as though my mother has known Francoise forever. They are, for lack of better expression, floral soul mates. They share an impressive history with flowers and an abundant love and passion for the art.

Personally, Francoise inspired me in more ways than she can know. In fact, I’m certain she’s the reason I’m writing this today. This summer I found myself more interested in flowers than I ever had been before. And, at the same time, Francoise came to stay with us. She opened up my eyes to the expression and the artistry involved, something I forgot about when I was so frustrated with all the business-y parts of HHCF. So at a pretty critical time in my life, Francoise gave me the courage and the desire to explore in flowers. Thank you, Francoise, for your open, loving, desire to teach and share your beautiful craft. And thank you for the following interview!

What was it like growing up in Belgium?

F: I grew up in Antwerp, a city that is about the same size as Portland, OR. My mom was an avid gardener and loved flowers – we always had flowers in the house. Mom used to carefully grow seedlings in wooden boxes in the light of the window of my father’s study. In the winter she would force bulbs and she also had quite the array of houseplants. We didn’t have a car till I was 11. Three times a week my mom would bike to the farmers market and return with her bike bags filled to the brim with fresh produce – once a week she also would buy flowers there. I often helped her arrange those treasures and I could do whatever I liked with them. When visiting friends, everyone would always bring flowers – never wine or dessert or bread – always flowers. Flowers simply are part of everyday texture of life in Belgium.

Why did you move to America?

F: I spent many summers with my sister in Portland, OR who had moved here to go to college. 36 years ago I took the leap over the big pond because I loved it so much here.

How did you get into flowers? How does your personal history affect your flower arranging?

F: When I was in my mid-twenties, I interned in a successful family-run florist shop for several months in Antwerp. The owners were extremely generous and shared so many mechanics and techniques. I learned a lot about weaving textures amidst a spectacular selection of seasonal flowers. When I moved here, it was a shock to realize how very different the flower industry was in this area, compared to the wealth of flowers that I was used to. I put my dream of working with flowers on a shelf and worked in a medical laboratory for 20 years. However I did get very obsessed with gardening and always kept playing with flowers. In 1996 I took a leap of faith and started my business in the basement. Five years and hundreds of weddings later, we had a garden studio built. I have a lot of curiosity around mechanics and design; 6 years ago I got very interested in ‘woodland’ arrangements and ran with the concept and a few years later I started to explore botanical couture. It has been a very fun ride and I cannot wait to see what will be next!

Why is Portland a good place for your business?

F: We enjoy a fabulous selection of locally grown flowers and the Pacific Northwest offers an endless selection of woodland treasures.”

My mom has a “Hollyish,” how would you describe “Francois…ish?”

F: Detail and texture I would say. Texture can mean a variety of flowers, but for me it goes beyond that. While working on a project together, my friend Qiana described perfectly what it means to me:

“Texture is the velvety fur of a leaf, the prickly aspect of a branch or thistle, the sword-like cut of grasses. It’s the paper-thin interior of a dahlia that has shed its petals and clusters of violets amidst mosses, lichens and small bracts of euphorbia. It is weaving together a wide variety of flowers, greens berries and vegetables in all of their phases from bud through seedpod. Texture moves, breathes and inspires. It is never static. Your eye continually finds new compositions and beautiful contrasts as you move around the arrangement.”

What made you teach?

F: I’ve always enjoyed teaching – as a kid I used to play school with my little brother (guess who was the teacher?). I got a teaching degree in college. Teaching flower arranging to avid adults is much more fun than teaching math and science to middle school kids though….  Ten years ago I started some seasonal classes in the studio. Upon the encouragement of many, that evolved into teaching 3-day workshops (focus on wedding or woodlands or botanical couture) and this year I started to teach out-of-state and have been enjoying it tremendously.

I know you have inspired my mother in countless ways; do you ever feel that other florists inspire you?

F: We all are inspired by the work of others. I love the very textural and structural work of many European designers, such as Gregor Lersch, Daniel Ost, Joseph Massie, Tomas DeBruyne, Moniek Vanden Berghe and many others. Facebook has been such a wonderful tool to access the work of so many around the world. The sources of inspiration are limitless, thanks to social media.

Has the Chapel Designers given you any opportunities?

F: Being a Chapel Designer has offered so many opportunities to connect with a lot of great designers and to learn how others deal with business issues. And it certainly has expanded the teaching opportunities also. Being a Chapel Designer is a win-win in every aspect.

Francoise offers classes in Woodland Design and Wedding Design. Her next class will be this October in San Francisco. Francoise frequently travels and may in fact be coming to teach near you, so keep up with her blog for details. Holly and Francoise are also planning a workshop in Australia next year.

Written By Abigail Chapple

  • Francoise Weeks Says: (09.12.2013 | 08:12)

    Thank you so much Abby and Holly!

  • Peg Sherwood Says: (09.12.2013 | 08:39)

    Thank you Abby and Holly for such a sweet blog about Francoise. Francoise is truly an amazing star as a floral designer and just the kindest person you will ever meet! Can never get enough of those gorgeous woodland creations!!!!!!!! xoxo

  • botanical brouhaha Says: (09.12.2013 | 10:33)

    So excited about this series, Abby!! Great way to kick it off…with the great Francoise Weeks! So much love and talent in this post. Just love it!

  • Laurie Garza Says: (09.13.2013 | 08:40)

    Once you meet Francoise, you are forever endeared with her. My meeting her in 2011 (with thanks to Amy McGee) added new dimension (and texture) to my floral perspective and added so much to my life. Lovely article dear friends!

  • Mindy Woodard Says: (09.13.2013 | 09:55)

    Oh! What a fantastic choice for a first feature. Francoise is such a beautiful person and inspires everyone who meets her. Her work is true art and her kindness, generosity and gentle nature are such a gift for anyone she encounters.

  • Susan McLeary Says: (09.13.2013 | 12:37)

    Wonderful interview! I am lucky enough to be able to attend one of Francoise’s upcoming workshops, and I simply can’t wait! I am prepared to have my mind blown!

  • TorstenFrick Says: (09.15.2013 | 01:56)

    It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d certainly donate to this superb blog! I guess for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to brand new updates and will share this site with my Facebook group. Chat soon!

  • ELODIE PERRIER Says: (09.22.2013 | 04:30)

    I can’t wait for a workshop in Australia!!! I will be present!!!
    I love Francoise’s work, so detailed and amazing!
    Thanks for this post Holly & Abby, now I m waiting for you in Oz 😉

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