WORDS by Leticia Nguyen
PHOTOGRAPHY  by Gary Parker

Nestled amongst the lush rainforest setting in Lorne, Victoria, lives a young creative with a passion for all things floral. The area surrounding this coastal town is renowned for its earthy rainforests and moss-covered vegetation, which makes it a fitting backdrop and source of inspiration to the work of Phoebe East, the chick with a genuine petal fetish. 

Through her unique floral creations, Phoebe brings floristry to the fore, by making it accessible and encouraging people to think of it as something you don’t need a ‘special occasion’ for. She is quickly establishing herself in the industry by creating contemporary and artistic floral arrangements, from her home studio. Phoebe\’s impressive examples of work demonstrate that flowers shouldn’t be limited to crystal vases throughout the house, but should be featured in much less conventional places in our everyday lives.

Walking into her humble abode is like stepping into a scene from The Secret Garden. Old jars and vases filled with an assortment of flowers sit prettily in the sunshine next to the window. There’s a selection of chysanthemums, kale, camellia, gum foliage, peony roses, lilies and delphiniums, which are in pastels and dusky hues of pinks and lilacs. It’s a day before Mother’s Day and Phoebe has stocked up at the Melbourne flower market in preparation for her Aireys Inlet stall, where she will be selling her wares the following day. As we sit in her kitchen and chat about her two main passions (floristry and the ocean), she effortlessly works on a little bunch of white chrysanthemums mixed with native greenery. Phoebe has a pure and ethereal energy that radiates much like the gorgeous floral arrangements she creates. When I ask her what it is about working with flowers that appeals to her, she simply says, “I just love it”.

Fleeting Beauty

Similar to the organic nature of her work, Phoebe comments, “Floristry has honestly been probably the most organic things that has happened to me. I think it’s \’cos mum and dad and my grandparents have always been into the outdoors and being on the farm”. What started out as a natural interest has now become part of Phoebe’s livelihood, with her business Sunday Flowers (formerly A Flower A Day) keeping her busy as she creates unique and whimsical arrangements for her clients. Working out of her Lorne home, Phoebe’s mission is to inject her personal flair in “creating floristry and styling with quality, innovation, fun and all those good things being of the utmost importance”.

Although flowers have always been a prominent feature in her life, the idea of floristry was a very spontaneous decision on Phoebe’s part. It was during the time that Phoebe was completing an arts degree, she realised she didn’t want to create more ‘things’, rather she wanted to create something with an expiration date, where people are encouraged to appreciate the fleeting beauty that floristry brings. “I’ve always been into the idea of making stuff and being creative, but whenever I’ve gone down that avenue, I’ve always struggled with the idea of making more ‘stuff’”

“Paintings and other art works are beautiful, but are just more things you don’t need, so the idea of making something like this which is so tangible and everyone loves it and then it just falls back into nothing, really appealed to me. That’s kind of why I like it so much and that’s why I was drawn to landscape design as well, because you’re creating something from ‘materials’ that are already living, you’re not creating more things”. The idea of creating floral arrangements was promptly followed by a brief course in floristry and Phoebe says, “It has just kinda stemmed from there”, no pun intended. “So I haven’t really made a decision to keep doing it, it’s just happened”. In a relatively short time, she has created floral arrangements for shop fittings and store windows, weddings, garments, Christmas decorations and most recently, her hair wreaths featured in the Winter lookbook for the talented jeweller, Tara Lawson. With a relaxed approach to her work, Phoebe has developed a distinctive style of floristry in which she favours mixing traditional varieties with native flowers and foliage. After a six-year stint in the city, Phoebe felt compelled to be back on the coast, so she returned to Lorne, where she draws inspiration from the stunning ocean backdrop. She has even taken to the marine vegetation, using bunny tail grass and the vines growing around Lorne Point to make hair wreaths and other creations. Phoebe’s blog, ‘Sunday Flowers’, features photos of her free-spirited and bohemian work and conjures imagery reminiscent of The Labyrinth or Picnic at Hanging Rock. As I mentioned earlier, her knack for featuring flowers in unconventional places is shown throughout her posts, such as facial adornments, clothing, roses sprouting out of goat’s horns and other dreamy arrangements.

But her recent creation that really piqued my interest is her highly original “Fleur suit”. It’s one of the coolest ocean-inspired floral arrangements I’ve ever seen and one of those things you wish you thought of yourself! “It’s one of those weird things where I was trying to think of of ways to bring flowers into what I do. And I was thinking about wetsuits and how cool they’re all getting and I thought, I wonder if it’ll ever work to put flowers on a wetsuit” Channeling her love of bespoke fashion, the ocean and floristry, Phoebe took some scissors and fake flowers to an old wetsuit and voilà, the Fleur Suit was born. While still very much in its prototype phase, Phoebe is currently thinking of ways she can make it far more seaworthy. After a couple of surfs to test its durability, it turns out that Phoebe needs to hone in on her sewing skills before she tries to market it in future. While I\’m marveling at the gorgeous wetsuit, Phoebe casually makes a poignant comment that “It’s really connectable at the end of the day—it’s all nature”. Phoebe now has her sights set on her next project—shaping her very own surfboard, which she plans to resin some handpicked flowers into the glass job, so that she can have pretty petals under her feet when she is riding waves. Phoebe believes it would be amazing to start seeing more of a connection between flowers and the ocean, just as they’re seen in Indonesian, Hawaiian and Polynesian cultures, where flowers and the ocean go together and form a significant part of their identity. Phoebe is constantly thinking of innovative new ways she can bring a good dose of flower power to the world. When she speaks, she can’t contain her enthusiasm for floristry, which she says she’ll continue to push to new levels and would eventually like to see floristry exhibitions in art galleries so that creations of fleeting beauty can be appreciated and admired by the masses. In the meantime, check out her work at www.sundayfs.blogspot.com