People

Out to dry

Antonia De Vere specialises in creating new art out of that provided by nature.

Mark Seeney and Antonia De Vere are otherwise known as MarkAntonia. Under this alias, they creatively endeavour in the realms of flowers, furniture and candles for weddings, events and general home beautification. We sat down with Antonia to find out how it all comes together.

Specialising in flowers and furniture is a specialty indeed. How did this creative marriage come out of your marriage to Mark? Back when Mark and I were just friends studying design together, we discovered that we have a similar ethos and aesthetic taste. After we got together I ventured off into floristry and Mark went into architecture. It was then that we discovered that the contrast between my wild, whimsical floristry and Mark’s industrial, clean designs created this great juxtaposition – this really balanced aesthetic – so it seemed only natural that we work together. So now we do floral work and styling for weddings and events, and custom-design and manufacturing of furniture. We also have an in-house range of scented candles, so we can custom blend scents to complement the ambience or floral work of any occasion. It all works together really well.

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What’s it like being partners in life as well as business? It’s nice as a couple working together, as we play off each other for advice and input when we have more specialised projects going on. Mark’s opinion is the most important to me – in work and in life. His logic balances my rather illogical thinking – he’s like a tree and I’m like the wind.

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Is sustainability important to your practice? One of the main reasons I focus on dried flowers is their longevity. Fresh flowers, as beautiful as they are, just don’t have the lifespan that dried do. Dried arrangements should last months if not years if treated well. I treat my dried arrangements more like sculptural pieces, constructed using appropriated parts of plants combined to create something that doesn’t grow in nature. I am treating flowers like a precious rarity, rather than a commonplace and disposable commodity, as is increasingly the norm.

I am treating flowers like a precious rarity, rather than a commonplace and disposable commodity, as is increasingly the norm.

Do you have any other philosophies that guide your work? Yes: trust your creative instinct, don’t listen to too many opinions, as everybody has an opinion of what you should be doing. I’m trying to trust myself more and trust in the things that I think are beautiful.

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What do you love about working with dried flowers? They give you the potential to create work that’s long-lasting and interesting. You can potentially be more creative with them because as the flowers dry they become like paper and so can be used differently to fresh flowers, in all kinds of different ways.

How did you develop your signature style? It came out of wanting to create floral arrangements that were long lasting but made from organic plant matter – not fake. I thought of ways that I could do that by reading about drying techniques and came up with what I do today. Although put it into practice, there was a lot of making, making and more making. Always trying new things and accepting disasters allowed more ideas to spring out of that process. I discovered what I really loved making and I would like to think that shows through my work. I think you have to love what you do, no matter what that is. If you don’t it’s very hard to grow artistically. I do what I love and am very lucky that people appreciate it.

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What is a typical day for you? I tend to be quite a sporadic person and go through ‘crazes’ observed by my husband from week to week. I am a terrible emailer but try my best to email as soon as I wake up. Then I go for a walk and take snippings from weeds, unloved plants and wild things along the way – sometimes I take a bag to collect fallen leaves, moss or anything interesting left on the ground. Then it’s back to the studio or the market for any flowers I might need. I spend the day either rushing around or creating in my studio. Six o’clock is chips o’clock and time for a break, to play with the cats or catch up with my friends. Work is left for the next day, unless there is something that absolutely must be done. That said, I have been known to work into the wee hours on something I am quite obsessed by.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of working at home? Working from home is wonderful if you love what you do – and I do. I’m always surrounded by my work and love watching my flowers dry and seeing the different stages they go through. The disadvantages are outnumbered by the positives in my belief. However, if you want a day off not thinking about work, forget about it! Also the whole house tends to be turned upside down for big jobs. My house resembles more of a flower forest than a typical home but that is how I choose to live!

For more information visit markantonia.com

Photography Neeve Woodward

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