If you told the teenage version of Per Benjamin that he would become one of the world’s premier floral designers, he probably would have laughed at you. But oftentimes greatness comes from the most surprising place.
In much of Europe, the education structure is set to provide children with the fundamental learning they need in all of the core areas of knowledge until they reach the age of seven. Once students reach this age, they get to explore what it’s like working work for two-week periods at various places and in various professions with the goal of finding their ideal career. After the students reach the age of 14, they hopefully have a better idea of what they want to pursue, and the rest of their schooling follows accordingly.
So young Per began his journey, spending two-week periods working in all kinds of places – from pushing paperwork as an office worker (boring!) to spending a stint at a major fast food restaurant that nearly turned him vegetarian. Disappointed and disheartened, Per knew that he wanted to do something more creative with his life and asked his teacher for advice. The advice was to try flower shops, a suggestion that didn’t exactly leave the 14-year old boy jumping for joy. So, with little choice and a bad mood, Per went to try his hand as an apprentice at a local Stockholm flower shop. After just a few days it was clear that Per had found his passion for life and future profession: flowers!
One of a Kind Design Style: Modern Contemporary Decorative
Over the years, Per has created his own style of floral design. Best described as “modern contemporary decorative style,” with the trademark Scandinavian transparency and lightness, and a colour spectra of his very own. Per’s floral designs are fun, energetic, and make amazing use of new non-plant materials. He gathers inspiration from everywhere in life, but mostly from fashion, architecture, interior design, graphic design, and art.
“I love seeing and translating other crafts, techniques, materials and colours.” It is not uncommon to find designs of Per’s that incorporate feathers, wool yarn, and even ice! He doesn’t have a favourite type of non-plant material but is always looking to incorporate something new.
Whenever non-plant materials of the day start to become mainstream, Per knows it’s time to look for new ones. That being said, he still has a special place in his heart for wool of all kinds.
From Competitions to Collaborations
Since discovering his love and receiving his Craftsmanship Diploma and silver medal in 1994, Per has participated in (and won) many competitions across the world, the first of which was in 1996. Most notably, winning the 2002 World Cup in Holland. An enthusiastic competitor, Per enters each competition with joy and curiosity, and encourages other designers to do the same, “Go in for it with joy, curiosity, and the thought of outperforming yourself, no one else.”
From the very beginning, Per has loved the challenge that competitions offer, but he knows not everyone does. To novice competitors entering their first competition, Per says to go for it and just give it a try. “You’ll soon know if it’s something for you. It is not for everyone like so many other things in life,” said Per, “You can grow as a designer in so many other ways also.” The key to growing and nurturing your creativity lies in the ability to challenge yourself, as well as receiving constant input of all kinds.
A man of his word, Per continues to grow and branch out, sharing ideas and discussing problems with other designers and florists. He believes one of the best ways to learn and grow is to teach and help others. That’s why he offers custom courses, seminars, and workshops to individual flower shops, retail stores, companies, wholesalers, flower schools, Interflora and independent branches, enthusiasts, and more at his company Benjamin’s Botaniska (Benjamin’s Botanicals) in Stockholm, Sweden.
With so many professional accomplishments in a relatively short time, one would think it hard for Per to choose a favourite. Not so. Without a doubt, Per’s favourite assignment was one of the world’s most famous and televised events: the 2015 Nobel Prize Ceremony. Per was charged with decorating Stockholm City Hall for the Nobel Banquet during Nobel Week.
The theme for the design was the Nobel medal itself. Directing a team of 29 florists, Per used more than 13,000 flowers to create various magnificent circle-shaped arrangements in different gold nuances.
Some of the flowers he used were carnations, orchids, gerberas, lilies, olive leaves, eucalyptus and bear grass. “The challenge,” said Per, “was to show our craft and make that work both in the special room as well as on the screen, two very different things.” Per still smiles when he thinks back on those weeks of hard work and all the positive responses.
Floristisk Coaching for Creatives
Per doesn’t just try to improve himself and his craft, he also works to better the flower industry as a whole. One of the most admirable of these undertakings is a unique business program for the floral industry in Scandinavia. The program is called Floristisk Coaching and focuses on the business side of running a flower shop. He has also taught parts of the program for Interflora in Australia twice. “We have so many great designers but not many great business persons in our industry,” said Per, “We love flowers and hate paperwork.” Who can blame them?
The Floristisk Coaching program offers a huge variety of practical courses from shop exposure training and teacher courses to economics, sales, displays, shop makeovers, leadership training and so much more. Each is designed to improve the creativity of a florist, as well as every other role they play in the shop. Custom topics and programs are available as well.
Advice From a Master Designer
While Per’s favourite flowers and plants may change with the seasons, he did share his one all-time favourite flower to work with: the Dianthus (Carnation). “It’s the best of all everyday flowers and widely underestimated,” said Per. It exists in a huge spectra of colours, it has a long vase life, and it is great for structure work.”
What about words of advice to fellow designers? These days, Per says the most important characteristics and skills that a designer needs in order to be successful are: curiosity, stubbornness, patience, and positive thinking. “Inspiration is everywhere to be found if we simply are open for it,” said Per.
If you’re a professional looking for inspiration, or if you like looking at pictures of fun, energetic floral creations, Per shares design and coaching ideas on both Facebook, Per Benjamin Flowers and Instagram, @PerBenjamin. When asked what predictions he has for the flower industry, Per sees a bright future, “But only if we follow the times, trends and fashion, reinvent ourselves, and focus on creativity. No one will give us a place in the limelight, we have to take it.”
When asked what predictions he has for the flower industry, Per sees a bright future, “But only if we follow the times, trends and fashion, reinvent ourselves, and focus on creativity. No one will give us a place in the limelight, we have to take it.”
Thank you, Per Benjamin, for letting us feature you and your work on our blog.
Interview and writing by Kali Simone.
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