04 Apr Cynthia Fan: SA’s florist giving local flavour to the Japanese art of flower arrangement
Cynthia Fan is an imaginative florist living in Cape Town and working at Lush Flowers in Tamboerskloof. Her world is flower-filled and enchanting, the young creative divides her time between being in the shop and scouring wholesale nurseries and flower suppliers for exotic-looking specimens. Her artful arrangements feature anything from otherworldly blooms to moving branches and even potted plants.
Cynthia has worked on many exciting commissions; she recently curated arrangements for Pichulik Africa and an editorial spread in Marie Claire South Africa. “Working on these shoots was initially intimidating for me, because I had to trust my own ideas. But these shoots helped me see my arrangements in a different context and I loved them for it,” she explains.
We caught up Cynthia to get the low down on what it’s like to work with blooms and bits of foliage day-to-day.
Where were you born and where do you live now?
I was born in Durban. I moved to Cape Town seven years ago.
What were you doing pre-floristry?
A masters in molecular biology, on desiccation tolerant plants.
What attracted you to the floral world?
I grew up with my mom buying cut flowers for the house almost every week. It’s a simple act that has always made her happy and this resonated with me. When I moved to Cape Town, I realised that I had inherited my mom’s habit. This need for having flowers in the house prompted a housemate to refer me to the Pot Luck Club and the Test Kitchen to do their weekly flowers. Somehow they agreed and it has been an enjoyable learning curve since I started!
What type of florist are you?
A florist avoiding a PhD.
How did you develop your signature style?
Ikebana, the art of Japanese flower arranging, is probably the biggest influence on my work. My teachers at the Ohara Chapter in Cape Town have taught me that a balanced composition requires three elements within a container, each working together in different ratios. The three elements are the principle stem, an object and a filler.
Can you talk us through your process of putting an arrangement together?
I like to start by finding one special element. This could be an unusual flower, a moving branch or a R20 ceramic piece from the Milnerton market. I then work on adding lines and spaces to the arrangement with two or three other elements.
Where do your flowers come from?
I do a lot of foraging and picking because I love to use branches and dry elements. For flowers, there are a couple of great wholesale suppliers that I go to. My favourite place in Cape Town is the Constantia flower farm owned by Charles, Malcolm, and Moses.
What is a typical day like for you?
Over the last six months I’ve been working at Lush Flowers in Tamboerskloof. My days have generally been spent working between being in the shop, wholesale nurseries, flower suppliers and wedding venues. It’s great!