There has been much debate about the difference between a florist, a flower arranger, a floral designer and a floral artist. In the case of Moniek Vanden Berghe, she blows all the arguments right out of the park because she is without question – all of those. Moniek is an artist who became a florist and then, through her books, revealed to the floral world a fresh approach to design. In turn this led to an increase in contemporary, chic bridal floristry.
1. How did you first become interested/involved in flowers?
I was passionate about gardening, I had all the books by Elisabeth De Lestrieux. That is where my botanical knowledge started. When I stopped working as a graphic designer (I did not want to sit in front of a screen all day, I didn’t like to work with a computer). At first, it was all drawing, lettering and designing and I was looking for something new, a performance of my creativity in which I could use my hands. The connection between hands and heart is very important to me.
At a vernissage (private viewing) of an exposition of my paintings I received a very ugly bouquet … that made me think, I want to do this myself, but much better with good taste and nice colour combinations.
I enrolled in 2 schools. At 1 school Mark De Rudder was my teacher (a contemporary and friend of Gregor Lersch) he was a great teacher for me, and at the end of the 2 year course he asked me to become one of the teachers at his new school ‘Florademie’.
6 months later I gave my first demonstration … and the rest is history!
2. Have you been professionally involved in the flower industry?
I was 33 when I began my education to be a future floral designer. A year later I started my shop and career as a teacher and demonstrator. It has been 35 exciting years of interesting work and great meetings with colleagues and others. During my years as a teacher, I met a lot of talented people and I have seen them evolve.
3. Do you see International Women’s Day as important and, if so, why?
When I was young, I was already interested in what “women’s lib” was trying to achieve. It became an important feminist movement. Every year, “Women’s Day” is important to me. The rights that young women have nowadays are not so obvious as they would think. And there is still inequality between men and women, so it is important that the feminist movement stays alert.
Women are beautiful creatures. It is nice if, once a year, they are the centre of attention.
4. Do you believe that being a woman in the flower industry is more challenging than if you were a man?
Personally, I must confirm that I am not that physically strong, which is needed for building big projects. Fortunately, I was surrounded by people who supported me all the way, especially my husband Ward. Together we realised beautiful projects.
The “floral designer” world was dominated by male colleagues when my career began. Gradually, I earned my place and became a source of inspiration for others, especially the women among them who understood that being successful was also possible for them.
I developed my own style from the beginning, and being blessed with a fine feeling for colour, I was soon noticed, because my work was different from others. I had an art education too, so I looked at floral designing from another angle. I always wanted to perform at a high standard in order to continuously show a high level of quality in my creations.
5. Do you recognise some common challenges that women face in this industry, and have you encountered some personally?
I don’t know if I can generalise it, but men are usually more self-assured than women, in our profession too. That is why I am rather a perfectionist, and that doesn’t make is easier!
6. How did you go about overcoming them?
I tried to manage stress, caused by my being a perfectionist. (Meditation and yoga helped me.) But I always said YES to new challenges that came my way. I always had good contacts with my colleagues, which helped me a lot to live happily in floristry.
7. What is your advice for young women starting out in this industry?
A good education, good teachers and different visions are important.
To cooperate with top florists can improve your knowledge and insight.
Realise that the job asks a lot of working hours and dedication.
If you do not mind that, and you have the passion for it, then please go your own way, believing in yourself. Ask for help and advice when needed, that is okay. Experienced colleagues will help you out.
8. What do you love most about your work?
Creating beauty every day. The contact with people because of the flowers. Making people happy, bringing them consolation, touching their hearts with the beauty of flowers in well-balanced and peaceful arrangements.
The challenges … because every assignment is different and asks for another approach, that’s what makes our profession so exciting.
And, of course, the possibility to work with gorgeous flowers and materials.
9. What are some of the more significant milestones in your career?
My first steps in the industry as a demonstrator / teacher at Florademie.
The publication of my first book “Flowers in Love 1” and the fact that it was so well received all over the world.
My collaboration with the design company “Serax.” We made hundreds of designs for them: most were original containers for flowers and plants.
My presentation for AIFD in Washington, USA.
10. Can you briefly describe some of your more special or most appreciated moments?
The presentation of the books was always a very happy moment. After months / years of work finally holding it in your hands and bringing it into the world is incredibly special.
My demonstration tour in Australia. It was such a joy to work with the Australian florists. I enjoyed their skills, their positivity and their humour and it left me with the very valuable friendship of Mark Pampling.
The collaboration with the young French florists, who came over to work with me for several months (Erasmus). I still am in contact with all of them.
A few of them are working with organic flowers now, but with their original touch. I am very proud of them.
11. Apart from flowers, what else are you passionate about?
I love sculpture art, preferably in nature and parks.
I still like gardening, walking in nature, walking and playing with my joyful dog Zazou, and practicing chi-kung in the garden.
And my mushroom-printing and other mushroom-inspired work.
12. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our members?
Do not be guided by hypes and Trends. There are already enough dull flower hoops in every house (often well done). Even if you are an enthusiastic fan of a particular florist, you don’t need to copy him or her.
Be inspired by them but follow your inner compass and always respect the flowers.
Try to find a healthy balance between work and leisure time. (Too bad I failed myself … I often ran from one assignment to another, without enjoying my work.)
Enjoy the beauty of the flowers, let your creativity flow, let your customers and your loved ones enjoy it too!