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H

er distinctive work has won her many national and international awards, including the 2018 Dutch National Championship of Floristry and the 2012 Barcelona World Flower Cup. Because of these successes, she was an obvious choice to join the popular Dutch TV show ‘The Netherlands’ Best Flower Stylist’ as a jury member for two seasons.

Hanneke: ‘I have been in love with nature ever since I was a little kid. At home, I had my own lot in our back yard, and I was always collecting stones and shells. Because of my love of flora and fauna, I decided to go to Agricultural School. There, we had a weekly class of Flower Arrangement, which I enjoyed tremendously. When I learned that I could actually study Flower Arrangement, I instantly knew what I wanted to do with my life. Up till that point, I never imagined that there was a whole world behind a flower shop. I didn’t know anything about freelance work or competitions.'

‘I started doing competitions at quite an early age, around 21 years old. It was during these first competitions that I discovered I had talent. After winning several prizes, I was featured in industry magazines and invited to do presentations. Performing on stage turned out to be a good fit as well, so I was asked to partake more and more, and in larger competitions. Before I knew it, I was offered the best assignments you can imagine as a freelance florist.'

My golden idea

‘My best competition so far was the 2018 Dutch National Championship, which I won. That was my ticket to the European Championship for professionals in 2020, which was pretty high on my wish list.’

‘I really want to show myself there. I don’t know the assignment yet, so I can't tell much about what I'm going to do. I am now busy approaching sponsors, which always takes a lot of time. Not many people do this, but I like to grow by own plants. I will receive the first order within a week and will grow them in the garden in special ways. I know which materials I like to use, so I have already ordered those. And now we wait. The assignment comes half a year in advance. Then I lie awake for a few nights before I have my golden idea. I usually know what I want to do pretty quickly. And then it really starts!’ 

Both fragile and robust

‘I love colours. I prefer mixing cooler colours with brighter ones. I am a perfectionist when it concerns colours, because everything comes down to having an eye for the smallest detail. 

‘I don’t have specific type, but I always like using the Gloriosa, and the Clematis. Carnations are also very beautiful. My work is very diverse, with the use of multiple types. That diversity is a big plus. That way, you remain surprised when you look at a certain piece of work for a second or third time.’

‘Both fragile and robust flowers are very beautiful to me. I’m currently making large frame bouquets, with very compact shapes at the centre and smaller ones on the outside. There, you will find personal favourites like the Clematis, Gloriosa and Craspedia. And for the heart, I tend to use bigger things.' 

Influence in Flower Land

‘One of the things I like most about giving workshops is to surprise the participants. They have often seen things from me on social media or during a show and expect the workshop to be very difficult. And then they find out that it is in fact quite simple. Creating a piece is often easier than inventing one.’  

‘At the end of the day, it is nice to see them go home happily with their newly created work. But the best thing is when you follow them afterwards on social media and see that they have actually used your tips and ideas. That you really have a kind of influence in flower land, so to speak.’

Impossible to find

‘One of the things I like best about my work is that I get to travel a lot! It can sometimes be a hassle and you are on the road for a long time, but you get to know a lot of new people.’

‘Another perk of going abroad is that you often get surprised by local floral varieties. At the flower markets over there, you come across things that are almost impossible to find back home. I really enjoy that, finding new varieties and new colours. I think those fern curls are very beautiful, for example. You can’t get them here, but they are pretty standard in China. That is really nice about the foreign work.’

"I would just ruin you"

‘One of the nicest things that has happened to me so far was a compliment by none other than Gregor Lersch. He is a true giant in our industry. Gregor knows what’s going and speaks his languages. When he entered the stage during the last world championship, he got a standing ovation for just showing up.’ 

‘A while ago, we had dinner together, because he wanted to meet me. After a while, he 
said he wouldn’t accept me as a student. ‘No, I would just ruin you’, he said, ‘And I don’t want that. Just keep on doing what you’re doing and go with your instinct. You’ll be able to compete with absolute best.’ That was a such big compliment, I’ll never forget that.’

It may sound funny, but I think there is just too much inspiration these days

A blessing and a curse

‘It may sound funny, but I think there is just too much inspiration these days. Before the rise of social media, you had to buy books and visit shows to get new ideas. Nowadays, you can check out Pinterest, browse the online trade magazines and copy whatever tickles your fancy. This may sound as a good development, but I think it is both a blessing and a curse. 
Before we had all these online platforms, you really had to figure everything out yourself.’ 

‘At the same time, I do have to admit that the availability of online media works out pretty well for me. Thanks to my photographer boyfriend, it’s easy for me to present my work to a large audience. New clients contact me after seeing certain photographs that they liked, want to learn a specific technique they have seen. I also receive requests via Facebook and Instagram.’

 

Raising the bar

I like to raise the bar as high as possible. I don't settle for anything less than winning or being the best. I am obviously happy with the successes I have had so far, but it would be great if I do well at the European Championships. I would also like to publish a book with my boyfriend, by the way.’ 

Finding your own identity

You have to work really hard to make it in this particular business, because success doesn’t come easy. Participating in competitions require a lot of money, time and energy. It really isn’t for everybody. You must have good contacts, a lot of confidence and talent. And you have to be able to present yourself well on stage.’ 

Of course, a lot of work is being copied, but I always encourage everybody to give their own spin to their work. Try to find your own identity. You only get to the top by doing things in a different way. So yes, you can use other one’s ideas or techniques, but then you have to combine it with your own thing.’


 

Stay ahead of the competition

‘I think it is important that florists continue to distinguish themselves. Not only to cope with ‘cheaper’ competition at gas stations and supermarkets, but also because precisely those techniques and innovations will make your customers happy and inspired. So, keep going to shows, demonstrations and master classes. That way, you can stay inspired and remain distinctive as a florist.’

Hanneke gave an exclusive Masterclass at Marginpar. 

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