SHARING EXCEPTIONAL MOMENTS. Thierry Boutemy is a florist based in Brussels, whose ingenious, innocent and precise work derives from a spontaneous creativity inspired by his childhood. Thierry Boutemy is known for the naturalistic craft and beauty of his seasonal bouquets, and in addition to private events has become much sought after in fashion, art and movies.
How come you became a florist?
I come from Normandy and I was an isolated child, walking through nature, and that opened doors to another reality. For me, flowers became a way of communicating with nature, and I found it easier than with humans. With flowers we can stay calm and contemplative.
And so what did you do?
I studied horticulture and botany, and then I studied to become a florist in a classical way. But I did not like the studies because it did not reach the feeling I had with flowers. It was without any love.
“I think that flowers and their scents help you remember childhood memories.”
«LA GIOIA» by Pippo Delbono (2018) Photograph : Luca del Pia
How did you start?
When I was 25 years old I opened my own flower shop, in Brussels by chance. I didn’t want to go to Paris, there is more of a flower culture in the north, and it is closer to Aalsmeer in Holland, the world stock exchange of flowers. I started in Brussels and for ten years I worked by myself, until one day they asked me to work on Sofia Coppola’s film ‘Marie Antoinette’.
The film was shot in France and the set decorator K.K. Barrett with whom I had worked once before contacted me again. This was in 2006.
I have worked for many fashion shows and fashion shoots, and for art galleries, and I have collaborated with artists.
Which fashion people?
For instance Lanvin, Hermès, Dries Van Noten. I worked with Mario Testino and Lady Gaga for Vogue, and with Tim Walker, and then with galleries like Almine Rech, Gladstone Gallery, Galerie Perrotin, Xavier Hufkens, Galerie Rodolphe Janssen, Gallery Fifty One, and the Clearing Independent Art Fair in Brussels, and now there are some museums that call me for vegetal installations.
How would you describe your work?
I am always looking forward. I like to talk about ephemera and the fragility of life. I am not interested in business. I lost a lot of money with my first shop. We live in a society where we only have to make money. I am very happy with my different encounters and through flowers I share exceptional moments.
“I love people that are capable of appreciating very ephemeral flowers.”
We did not yet talk about flowers themselves. How do you make your choices?
It is difficult to say. The project makes me make the choice. I will always go in the direction of simple flowers, close to my childhood, as I think that flowers and their scents help you remember childhood memories.
Which are simple flowers?
Myosotis, Bluets, Daffodils, Narcissi, Poppies, Lilies, Ranunculus, Tulips, Dahlias and Carnations. Also Peonies are nice alone. I like Sweet Peas and Delphiniums.
No roses, no carnations, no orchids?
As I just told you, I like all the flowers. What I don’t like is what we did with the flowers.
We industrialised flowers, producing them as fruits without perfume, vegetables without savour. I fight against it….
Are you interested in plants?
I have a passion for ferns. I am interested in plants, but it is not my job. I don’t like gardens too much because I prefer to walk in a freer environment and not a compressed one. Once I was taken to Kent to visit gardens. The first was beautiful. The second was very beautiful. The third, I got bored. Even if it was beautiful, I had the feeling of being imprisoned.
Do you like woods?
I like woods, and the landscapes of Les Landes, Cornwall and Wales. I like the Swedish landscape and the North Cotentin where I come from in Normandy, close to Cherbourg.
What do you do with flowers?
Bouquets, a decor, a scene, it depends on the occasion. A flower works for different events: life, death, weddings, christenings. The work that I like the most is for funerals, the last homage to accompany a person with beauty and nature.
Do people prefer some particular flowers?
I make my choices according to the seasons. People come to my boutique for my style. I love people that are capable of appreciating very ephemeral flowers. We can appreciate reality in a very short span.
Lady Gaga VOGUE USA March 2011. Photograph: Mario Testino
«Un été chez Pierre» by Marcolini (2016) Event agency PROFIRST
Flowers at Thierry Boutemy’s shop
Show of «PEACEBIRD» AW2016 at Shanghai (2016)
Exhibition «VANITY FAIR» with Thomas Lerooy (2018) Photograph: Lydie Nesvadba
“I would like to change the way flowers are cultivated.”
In this technological world in which we live is there still space for flowers?
Yes, a lot. I think that they connect us with nature. The plant stays, and if we cut a flower we don’t kill the plant.
Do you have some ambitions?
Yes, what I would like is to change the way flowers are cultivated. Not like an industry.
Do you consider yourself an artist?
No. I consider myself “borderline”.
What about Jeff Koons and flowers?
I don’t have an aesthetic opinion. It is not a floral emotion.
Do people love flowers?
Not everyone, but normally, yes. The way of working has changed a lot. I see many social changes. Before I sold flowers to people who wanted to gratify themselves with small means, but the middle class has disappeared, and nowadays flowers are something that have no other utility but being beautiful. It is not a primary need, as beautiful flowers are becoming very expensive and there are less and less. I personally prefer one flower in a vase than many flowers. People want large bouquets when a small one is the same.
Are flowers symbolic?
The language of flowers was created in the 19th Century. For me it’s only beauty and love.
Where are the most beautiful flowers coming from?
What I say may sound like a contradiction, but the best flowers come from gardens. As I said again and again, I am sad about the industrial production of flowers.
How do you mix flowers? Some are more compatible than others?
All colours go together, and flowers have to be able to breathe, that is important. There is a fashion for round bouquets and that is not good.
What makes you successful?
I think that I have a gift to understand people and when they ask me a question it immediately works and everything is connected to dance, cinema, literature and I always try to go further. In my head there is chaos.
Do you work in many countries?
Yes, I went to China, the United States, a lot in Italy, in Puglia, in Rome, in Sienna. I always bring flowers with me. I make the bouquets on the spot and I have a team of twenty or thirty florists. Since ten years we work together. They liked perfection at the beginning, but I always said do something more natural. I worked in Greece, in Lebanon. I am not interested in florists. I like as I said dance, cinema, theatre. For me Belgium is calm for thinking there are not too many distractions. I like very much the work of William Blake. I am not interested in flowers bouquet. I don’t like pictures of flowers made to be aesthetic floral, but I like paintings. I love van Gogh. In London I went to Chinatown, to the French Notre Dame church with drawings by Cocteau, and I love the Chapel of Saint-Blaise des Simples where he is buried.
Are you religious?
No, I wish I was, but I think there is an energy non definitive. I am more of an animist. One day they asked me to make a book on the bouquets. I like bouquets in the small churches. I have to work in the space in large format. I read a lot on the American Indians and the Siberians, and I like very much their relationship with nature, a lot of rituals and respect of the environment and a great knowledge of plants. Sadly nowadays it is only left in books.
What are your next projects?
In Namur in Belgium, I was inspired by the work of Félicien Rops. In the garden I will create a huge bush with the shape of buttocks and you can come inside and they will be full of flowers. I want to continue to share what I do.
What is your ambition?
If I had a desire it would be to work on a ballet from Sharon Eyal for the Israeli dance company Batsheva. To me they are a very inspiring source of thoughts. I would love to work again for cinema. I love to enter in a story. I also like opera and would love to make an opera with flowers.
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