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Match made in heaven

Hanneke Frankema is shaking up the floral world with her eye catching, avant-garde designs. She was the youngest florist ever to be awarded the title of Master Florist. She has won the Barcelona World Flower Cup and the Dutch National Florist Championship, and will be competing in the European Championship next year.

Hanneke teaches master classes all over the world, and regularly travels to Bejing, Moscow and New York for demonstrations. We catch her on a rare day at home, near Sneek in the far north of the Netherlands.

You have been incredibly successful so far. Can you tell a bit about how you became a floral designer?

When I was young I didn’t even know this was a potential career path. I started out studying agriculture, and after a while I decided to take specialised classes in floral design. That’s where I found out I had talent. My arrangements stood out, I began winning competitions. It’s not something I planned, but it turned out wonderful.

For a while I ran a floral shop, but I ended up doing more and more projects, being at events and teaching. So that’s what I focus on now.

How would you describe your style?

My style is described as avant-garde, matching all sorts of techniques and materials together. I love using wood and metal frames, going for bold, expressive looks. Most of my designs aren’t planned ahead meticulously. They sort of grow as I’m working. It’s a very creative process. I like the unpredictability.

Any favourite flower?

I’m into all kinds of flowers – a good floral designer doesn’t have favourites! Peonies are in a league of their own. They go perfect with my style, using vases and frames, combining flowers and innovative techniques. Peonies are big and voluminous; they’re a perfect natural focal point. When there’s a lot happening in an arrangement, a well-placed peony brings calm and cohesion. Of course I love that there are all these bold, striking colours. Salmon peonies are my favourite. Oh, and the bordeaux red one!

Can you give us a few trend tips for the upcoming season?

I honestly don’t know, haha. I’m not that interested in trends, I don’t think I follow them. I hate copying other people’s work, I’d rather make whatever I like. And I think that’s when you make your best work.

I see more people use metal objects in arrangements, combining fresh flowers with dry material. That has been part of my work forever but I think it’s finally becoming more popular. In my own work, right now I love using warm colours such as salmon, gold, copper, pink; Christmas tree colours! Don’t worry, they go great with any season. As long as the colours fit with what I’m trying to express.

You’re competing in the European Championship! First of all, congratulations.

This Championship is high on my wish list. I’m excited to finally go for it. Because I won the National Championship, I get to compete in the European Championship next year, in Katowice, Poland. I just got all the rules and regulations. There are over a hundred pages, so I’ll be studying for a while.

What are Florist Championships like? Are you nervous?

Competitions are hard work, but also a lot of fun. I don’t stress too much, because at this point I have lots of experience and I have some sort of an idea of what works. You get a feel for what kinds of flowers go together, what the right ratio’s are and which pots and vases to use.

Usually you can’t prepare much, anyway. You receive a briefing, some materials can be prepared ahead and then you have create your arrangement on the spot. Sometimes you just get a “surprise box” with flowers, and they expect you to work with whatever’s in there. So there’s really no point in being nervous.

The Netherlands are famous for their flowers. Do you think Dutch florists have an unfair advantage?

I really don’t think so. Dutch florists haven’t been doing great in competitions, sadly. I’m not sure why that is. Maybe because the Netherlands has such an abundance of fresh flowers, florists have the tendency to cram their arrangements with them. They’re overdoing it, losing all subtlety. Especially with international competitions the jury looks for refinement, and an eye for detail.

What is your dream project?

The first thing that comes to mind was the project I did at Fleuramour 2016, at castle Alden Biesen. Together with Max van de Sluis I decorated the court yard with a giant floral installation, of ten by ten metres, that saw 15.000 flowers suspended in mid-air.

In the future I’d love making a photo book together with Nico, my life partner. He’s a professional photographer and we often work together. It’s our dream project, but – admittedly – it’s not very practical. It would take a lot of time, which I don’t have at the moment, and strictly speaking there’s no reason to do it. But it would be awesome.

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