If there’s a challenge, she’s up for it. From pushing the border between pure Form-Linear work and Decorative with Form-Linear touches to testing her brain and skills – right now with an exercise in balance, mixing wild and commercial flowers to create bouquets – Berit Skjøttgaard Laursen is always exploring.
Born in Denmark to an artistic family, Berit was fortunate enough to be surrounded by creativity her entire life. Berit’s mother was incredibly creative and very good with her hands. It was from her mother that Berit learned to love and respect nature.
Her father was an architect who owned his own contracting company, which may have played a role in Berit’s own desire to pursue architecture after high school – until she began work at a very big, very beautiful flower shop while waiting for classes to begin.
Berit had definite potential and a built-in love for nature cultivated by a youth filled with skiing, hiking, running, picking flowers, grasses, and simply studying plants and animals for hours at a time.
Berit’s great adventure in floristry took off when she won the Danish Championship in 2012. “It was my first participation, and I knew if I could qualify for the Danish Championship, I could go the whole way and win it,” said Berit. In Denmark, a country that’s packed with talented florists, there are 12 regions and to qualify for the Danish Championship, a florist must first win regional championships.
Berit had participated for years in the regionals, coming in second, third and fourth. But when she won the title of Danish Champion and an enormous golden cup, that’s when doors started opening and all Berit’s patient, hard work began to pay off.
An Ambassador for Smithers Oasis, a member of International Florist Teacher groups, and owner/proprietor of florist-school Flower and Design (floweranddesign.dk) where she offers individuals and companies a variety of services as well as teaches onsite, you could say Berit has her hands full. But that doesn’t slow her plans for 2016, which are to continue exploring and participating in as many competitions, demonstrations, and classes as possible.
FlOOS and Floral Fundamentals are two groups that Berit is involved with. FlOOS was founded by Floral Designer, Carles J. Fontanillas and is supported by some very well known Master Florists. Berit has a collection on FLOOS with “Floral Recipes” available to create your very own.
Floral Fundamentals is another project that Berit is involved with. Floral Fundamentals is about bringing the growers and the florists closer together, giving the florists access to better quality flowers, products, inspiration and a whole lot more. (They even have a free app ‘Floral Fundamentals’)
Planning as Key to Design
Berit especially loves planning her designs. From the ideas in her head to the sketches, planning the colours, textures, materials, proportions and then making the creation to see how well it matches the picture in her head.
“Inspiration can come to me everywhere, anytime and from everywhere – in a museum, walking down the street, in magazines, sleeping – but mostly when I´m alone in nature,” said Berit. She’s had a keen love for nature since childhood, growing up surrounded by beautiful meadows, beaches, and forests can do that.
Berit’s creative process is rooted in the belief that ideas create ideas. An important part of her planning process involves blocking days on her calendar to create ideas in her sketchbook. She will sit quietly, focusing on a single colour, theme, form, or mood, sketching out ideas as they roll through her mind. When it comes time to plan for the next demonstration, show or project, Berit will take her book along to see what ideas there are to use as inspiration.
Collaboration is Key to Success
As an ambassador, teacher, artist, and top floral designer, Berit’s work has taken her to many different places including Poland, Russia, Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Faeroe Island, the Baltic States, Spain, China, and Japan. She’s learned valuable lessons during her time at competitions and working with other colleagues that she shares with her students and fellow artists.
“I always tell my students – you have to learn the technical background for our profession first – when this is embedded, you can start playing, exploring and learning more – and nothing can stop you, keep on challenging yourself and keep on getting excited.”
Danish and European competitions are full of opportunities to work with other florists in a way that’s both collaborative and challenging. Florists are extremely focused but still very friendly and professional; that’s why Berit loves to compete so much. The biggest challenge in competitions in Denmark and other countries said Berit, is the conditions of storing and of the materials. “There are so many factors that can go wrong and mostly do. Heat, the wind, moisture, and other factors you can’t even begin to take into account.” But the beauty of the competition is that everyone has the same problem, and they always come together to discuss the best solution when they meet.
“Making ‘mistakes’ is the best way to learn,” Berit believes. “A lot of fantastic florists have inspired me through the years – through technique (I never get tired of trying, learning, exploring new techniques), special ways of working, talented colour combinations in the person’s work, or something different. I learn, take a little from many, and make my own.”
A few countries Berit would like to visit and make beautiful floral works of art in are Australia, New Zealand, and Korea.
A Unique Design Style
Berit’s style is natural, harmonious, joyful, respectful, simple and full of life. She takes great pride in her planning and picking the materials, always using the whole plant or flower from root to tip. She loves to combine different textures and colours with high contrast, taking advantage of the looser, open floral design style so that her pieces appear to grow and behave organically. Indeed, many of the elements in her pieces look like they’re satisfied with the placement as if they grew there naturally.
It must be nearly impossible to choose a favourite work, but when we asked Berit she had a couple of projects in particular to share.
The Ugly Duckling
First up, the Danish Champion winning piece – a piece that was 2x2M and 3M high, made entirely of flowers and materials picked in nature. It was one of the hottest summers ever in Denmark and for every day, Berit’s most important element in the task had to change. Because of the weather conditions – the flowers would finish blooming or could not take the heat – it was extremely stressful.
It took Berit a long time to plan, drive around in forests and meadows to find the right colour and height of materials (all materials had to be of a natural length, no tubes), and to find the ”unknown” rare flower to use as ”queen” in the arrangement. Once the initial planning, picking, and prepping of materials was complete, Berit was finally able to start creating.
The project was the famous story by fellow Dane, Hans Christian Andersen. Berit crafted a large 1x1M copper leaf with holes in it as the technical base to hold the materials. Everything else was in a clear acrylic container 2x2M and 17cm high, filled with nearly 400L of water, and standing on a wood table covered with a mirror. If you know the story, you know that ”the ugly duck” looks down in the water and discovers it has become a swan in the reflection.
The massive piece was enough for Berit to say she would never work with only wild materials again, but the decision was short-lived. The Ugly Duck will remain the craziest, most challenging project Berit has ever completed.
One of the most interesting projects Berit has worked on involved working with flowers at the Ice Hotel in Sweden, close to the Arctic Circle. “It was quite extraordinary to see the materials freeze when taking them outside and to work with them in a way not possible elsewhere, with a water freezing technique using snice (a level between ice and snow) like glue,” said Berit, “Really funny.”
Fun Facts About Berit
Berit’s favourite seasons are spring and fall. Spring because it is a new beginning, everything grows again and is fragile and infantile. Fall because of the crisp blue skies, fresh air, and beautiful colours. While every season holds its beauty, Berit loves the changing of the seasons. “I get sorry when the tulips stop, but then comes the ranunculus and so on. I am very easy to enthuse,” Berit says with a smile.
Her colour palette mostly consists of strong colours mixed with pale ones, white-greens, and totally pale colours but always mixed. Rarely will you see one of Berit’s arrangements in a red with lighter and darker reds, “I very quickly get finished looking at it, whereas combining several colours in the arrangement challenges me, demands more of me.”
Berit’s Competitions and Placements:
- Gold – Danish Region Championship 2012
- Gold – Danish Champion 2012
- Gold – International Master Championship 2013
- Bronze – Danish Region Championship 2014
- Silver – Danish Championship 2014
- Silver – Huis Ten Bosch Flower and Garden Show, Nagasaki – Japan 2015
- Europe Cup 2016 – no. 12
Berit’s future is bright, recent and upcoming projects include a demonstration and bridal bouquet show for the Pui Wa Floral Design School in Beijing’s 15th Anniversary, and the Danish Championship on Hindsgavl Castle. To learn more about Berit, her endeavours, and her florist-school, visit floweranddesign.dk.
We wish Berit the best of luck and can’t wait to see what the future has in store for her!
Interview and writing by Kali Simone.