Florist Friday: An Interview with Portland Florist Francoise Weeks
Portland-based florist Francoise Weeks doesn’t just use flowers to make bouquets; she also uses them to create stunning shoes, hats, bags, and purses. Originally from Belgium, Weeks has been living in Portland since 1977, and when she’s not creating elaborate fashion accessories from flowers, Weeks designs traditional weddings and teaches workshops about woodland design and her signature botanical couture.
Though she works from her studio in her backyard in Portland (which we agree is a very Portland thing to do,) her work has had international reach and has been featured in magazines in Russia, Sweden, Australia, France as well as the United States. This past April, Weeks was invited to teach a six-day workshop in Beijing, China hosted by the illustrious Cohim Fashion Training Organization, with a focus on botanical jewelry and accessories. A florist for two decades, Weeks beams with passion and excitement for her work and is currently writing a book about woodland and botanical couture. Garden Collage recently spoke with the concept florist about creating clothing from flowers, her favorite West Coast gardens, and her mounting passion for social media– the modern florist’s most innovative tool.
GC: How did you get into flowers? Did you grow up gardening?
FW: I grew up in Belgium, where flowers are part of everyday life. My Mom was a great gardener, and we always had flowers at home. As a result, from the time I was a little girl, I used to love to help her arrange flowers for the house.
GC: Did you have a gateway flower? For example, a flower you completely fell in love with that led to a larger love of flowers or a flower that you tend to zoom in on whenever it’s in season?
FW: One of my favorite flowers as a kid were sweet peas, but in Belgium the selection of flowers was just incredible, such that it really would have been hard to choose the most special ones. Now it really depends on the season. In the winter, I like hellebore, fritillaria, and muscari, and in the fall, berries of pokeweed, and porcelain vine. In the spring, I love ranunculus and poppies, and in summer, one of my very favorites is clematis.
GC: How do you keep your creative drive going?
FW: I think curiosity has a lot to do with it. I follow a lot of European designers on social media, and when I see things, like pictures of designs that strike my fancy, I always start wondering how they are put together, what the mechanics are, and then I try to figure it out myself. Sometimes it takes quite a few trials and errors, but usually, I come up with a solution. Once I do, I might continue doing that or move on to something else.
GC: What does a typical, say, Tuesday look like for you?
FW: I don’t have typical days anymore. When I used to do weddings all the time I had a regular schedule every week. Now that I’m teaching all the time, I don’t think any two days are similar. I could either be teaching all day, I could be working on social media, blog posts and marketing, or meeting with people. No two days are alike.
GC: What are some of your favorite local spots?
FW: Here in Portland I love Lan Su Chinese Garden. It’s a pretty special place at any time of year. When they created it, they hired landscapers from China to make it as real of a Chinese garden as it possibly could be.
GC: Do you have a favorite garden?
FW: Definitely the Chinese gardens. There’s also the Ganna Walska’s Lotusland garden in California that’s really fantastic. It’s 17-acres of gardens, just a magical place– I think it’s the most incredible garden I’ve ever visited.
GC: How do you dress for summer weather? How does your summer style differ from your winter style?
FW: That’s simple. In the winter, I’m a black jeans and turtle neck sweater person, and in the summer I’m a black jeans and tee shirt person. And I always wear clogs, except that when I do presentations I’ll dress up a little bit.
GC: How would you describe your style? How has it evolved over time?
FW: I’ve always loved texture. My definition of texture is anything but flowers, so berries and seedpods and flower buds and interesting foliages, acorns, or whatever you can find on the forest floor. I use a lot more texture now than I used to.
My style has definitely evolved over time. I started my business 20 years ago, and at that time I mostly did weddings until two years ago. About nine years ago, I began doing woodland arrangements, and seven years ago, I started creating botanical couture– the purses, the shoes, the jewelry and head pieces, and figuring out the mechanics behind [those concepts].
GC: What are your other floral design influences?
FW: I think I’m quite heavily influenced by European design– and of course, my biggest inspiration is mother nature.
GC: If you could travel to any one destination, floral-wise, where would you go?
FW: I would love to go to Japan and explore that part of the world.
GC: How does social media affect your business? How do you interact with it?
FW: I’d be out of business without social media. I’d say Instagram is my biggest marketing tool, but I also definitely use Facebook on a daily basis. I haven’t bought an ad in a magazine in probably 10 years. I don’t advertise anywhere, I just promote the workshops and post my work on social media to help spread the word of what I do. When I teach, I always ask the students if they use social media, and I’m always quite astounded how few people actually use it to promote their work.
GC: What’s your coffee order?
FW: I like single shot lattes with two sugars.