In May of this year, I teamed up with Francoise Weeks to give one lucky Botanical Brouhaha reader the chance to attend her 3-Day Wedding Workshop in Portland. Susan McLeary (Passionflower) was the winner and attended the workshop last month. I’ve asked her to write a guest post for today and share a little about her experience with you. Welcome Susan!
“Over 3 years ago, I stumbled upon the floral design website Bollea. The site features hundreds of talented designers from around the world, but I was instantly sucked in by just one of them. I kept coming across these intricate, textural, uber-natural pieces… they were just fantastic!! The designer of these amazing works of art was Francoise Weeks. Ever since then, I’ve followed her work, and have been increasingly impressed and amazed by her. Her pieces are immediately recognizable and completely her own!
When I saw that I had won the drawing for her free wedding design workshop on Botanical Brouhaha’s blog, I could hardly believe my eyes! I sat at my desk starring at my computer, crying tears of joy!
I’ve been dreaming about going to Portland to attend one of her workshops for years, but it never seemed to be the right time. And truth be told, the workshop I won was sandwiched between 2 of my busiest wedding weekends, and also wasn’t the ” right time” to go. But, I had been handed a golden ticket, and I was certainly going to take full advantage of it!
Francoise is very kind and helpful, and she recommended a comfortable, welcoming bed and breakfast within walking distance to her home studio. When I arrived, I was so pleased to be tucked into her lovely neighborhood, close to numerous enticing little restaurants and cafes.
Walking up to her lovely home studio, I was flooded with a wave of excitement. How lucky was I, to have 3 days to delve into the world of a true floral artist?!
The first day, after gawking at the amazing array of flowers, foliages, pods, and potted plants she had ready for us, Francoise led an informative discussion on wedding design, touching on color, texture, and unconventional ways to use flowers and foliages.
She then demonstrated a number of ways to design her trademark, gorgeously textured woodland centerpieces using reclaimed wood, branches, and cleverly concealed containers.After learning the mechanics behind these table top landscapes, we dug into the amazing array of materials she had for us, like kids in a candy store!
I chose to cover a simple plastic tray with lichen, bark, and moss, then I added crabapple branches, ornamental cucumber, hydrangea, pokeweed, sea star fern, scented geranium, and numerous other wonderful textural components. Here’s my first design:
After a lovely lunch, we came back to the studio to design a second woodland centerpiece utilizing a very humble plastic tray that we transformed into something truly extraordinary! Here’s my second design, using curcuma, thistle, romanesco, herbs, succulents, pods, mosses, ferns, and jasmine vine.
And here’s my centerpiece back at the B&B!
The second day, we learned how to make the incredible woodland bouquets that Francoise is famous for. For these we used Oasis European bouquet holders. She gave us many creative tips for concealing the holders, to create a seamless work of art. We couldn’t wait to begin! I chose to cover my handle with ornamental grasses and air plants. I then covered the underside of the bouquet holder’s platform with kale leaves. The face of the bouquet was a true joy to design, I really could have spent hours creating this tiny landscape! Francoise’s workshop was filled to the brim with succulents, interesting houseplants, ferns, herbs, vegetables, pods, seeds, grasses, and flowers that we clipped, trimmed, and deconstructed to make our pieces. It felt so good to have the luxury of time and the gift of all these amazing elements at our disposal. The workshop was quiet and peaceful as we became absorbed in our designs.This is the woodland bouquet I made, using curcuma ( I fell in love with these little beauties ), various succulents, tiny cactus, arabica, air plants, ferns, lichen, cyclamen foliage, tree ivy pods, and herbs.
After lunch, we learned how to make botanical handbags… each was so different! She instructed us on the mechanics needed to build a substantial base for these handbags, and then let us loose to let our imaginations run wild. I had so much fun with this, utilizing grasses, ferns, feathers, andromeda buds, echinacea, curcuma, gomphrena, and jasmine vine. Here’s my fantasy handbag:
On the third and final day of the workshop, we were lucky enough to accompany Francoise for a visit to the Portland flower market. What an incredible place! After we drooled over the lovely array of flowering branches, succulents, foliages, and flowers, we made our way back to the workshop to learn the secrets behind ceremony decor and wedding centerpieces.After we got back to the workshop, Francoise demonstrated a number of ingenious tips for creating and manipulating vessels for an array of uses. I had to catch myself, because my mouth kept falling open in amazement! I even gasped a few times, as my mind jumped from one idea to another. This is the beauty of Francoise- her clever way of seeing the world is contagious, and once you have these ideas in your head, you keep thinking of new ways to use them! I deemed Francoise the “McGyver” of floral design- she is just full of tricks, tips, and clever ways of manipulating and using ordinary “one use” products that I never would have looked at twice before! Here she is demonstrating how she used to make her woodland bouquet holder before Oasis invented their flat European bouquet holders. Talk about resourceful!
After learning the mechanics for making the ceremony cones, we again dove in to the lovely array of foliages, flowers, and natural textures. I created a little cone fit for a pew end, shepherd’s hook, or for a junior bridesmaid to hold. The little cone featured a handle made of a dracaena stem, the leaves of the same plant covered the base. The cup of the cone held globe thistle, porcelain berries, grasses, romanesco, arabicum, succulents, and various pods and foliages.
Here it is:
Unfortunately, my day ended after this design, as I had to run off to the airport. After design workshops, I usually give away my designs- I love to pass on flowers to unexpecting strangers- but these little gems were different. I simply had to take them home with me! Francoise wrapped them in tissue, and helped me pack them up. She even insisted on driving me to the airport during her lunch break!
As I flew home, I reflected on my good fortune, my mind full of inspiration and new ideas, my heart full with the kindness and generosity I was shown. Here are a few of my pieces, back in my studio, still looking lovely a few days after the workshop.”
If you would like to attend one of Francoise’s workshops, you can find her schedule here.