Early on a Tuesday and Thursday morning, while most of us are still deep in slumber, Lauren Bieber can be found elbow deep in foliage, greeting local Victorian cultivators and wholesalers at Footscray’s Melbourne Markets. Growing from a personal love of simple, but considered design, Bieber initiation to floristry was a natural process to say the least.
“I’ve always enjoyed decorating rooms, filling them with nice things, putting something in the ground and then watching it grow,” she enthuses. “Seeing if it works or not.
“My passion for floristry probably came from wanting to have fresh flowers in our cafe next door all the time. Once a space has had them, and you take them away, you really notice the void. Something doesn’t feel right when they’re gone.”
Opening Fowlers Flowers in Clifton Hill with partner Tom Crowe two days before Valentines Day in 2010, the couple have continued to work in their five-year-old café Mixed Business next door whilst quickly learning floristry essentials on the job. Taking notice of the large amounts of waste and unrecyclable materials present in the industry, Bieber and Crowe have worked hard to establish a business with sound environmental practices, shredding and composting all organic waste and up-cycling glassware and plastics.
“Floristry is definitely becoming a more environmentally conscious practice. Eco-friendliness is turning into a natural thing for everybody,” suggests Bieber. “If consumers are becoming more aware of how they do things and they see that floristry is a wasteful industry, then they will boycott it. They won’t want anything to do with it,” she says.
For a craft that has always intimately revolved around the concepts of life and death, by means of nature and occasion, Bieber is confident that floristry is vastly diversifying despite its traditional presence in today’s largely digital society. “There will always be a need for the craft. People always get married and they always die…and there are Bar Mitzvah’s!” she says. “Newspapers and banks might go to the computer but this is something that you cant replicate, you can’t Twitter or Instagram the true feeling of flowers. It will never be the same.”
Bieber’s refreshingly positive attitude towards life and death is a reflection not only of her creative philosophy but also of a common shift that is transpiring in the industry. From a strange and synthetic world of smoke and mirrors to a more relaxed and honest representation of where flora really comes from, exotic imports, foam bases and stringent superficial arrangements are becoming defunct as consumers look for a less contrived aesthetic – something they can connect with and understand.
It’s evident that Bieber’s appreciation for fast learning has transcended into a lust for sharing basic floral knowledge with others. As she wanders through the overgrowth of her sanctified botanical garden, home to over 40 different types of herbs, succulents, flowers, trees and other foliage, she reveals tips for how to construct the perfect bouquet at home.
“Stems must be re-cut and cleaned with foliage and leaves stripped off,” she suggests. “Most importantly use clean water and a clean vase, and be sure to position your bouquet in the right spot – no direct sunlight.”
As for aesthetics, Bieber encourages experimentation, but suggests selecting textures and feelings to get started with. Whether it’s choosing soft romantic flowers that are flouncy and dainty or combining woody stems and hardy pods with bristly long-lasting natives, Bieber says it is essential to familiarise yourself with textures and emotions.
Despite regular 3am starts to the day, Bieber’s dedication to her craft is almost sleep-proof. The busy little Fowlers store and its sprawling green exterior exhibit Bieber’s obsessions for authenticity, simplified beauty and a willingness to crown consumers with a humble fact or two as they stroll out the door. Gleefully picking up handfuls of worms from a compost-bin, which lives next to a shed filled with an impulsive inventory of recycled glass jars for “wee posies” that she has collected over the years, it’s impossible to imagine, even for a minute, Lauren Bieber doing anything else but this.
488 Queens Parade, Clifton Hill
(03) 9489 9114
Wed to Fri 8.30am–6pm