A Flourishing Eye
Words by Anja Bratt
Photography by Sigrid Bjorbekkmo
Growing up she never wanted to work creatively. Today, she spends her day-to-day life using her eye for details, creating both costumes and bouquets. With no education in her field, Marie Sofie Istad Nesset enters new creative jobs with the words—if I don’t know how to do it, I’ll learn it—in mind. Two years ago, she wanted to work with flowers, and so she did. Her untraditional way of styling has already made her small business PLUKK blomster a well-known name. Hopefully one day, the full-time job for the woman who never saw herself working creatively will be filled with flowers.
"My mom has always been telling me that I have a good eye for style and details. And I’ve always believed her." With a bachelor degree in political science and a bachelor degree in journalism, you may wonder how Marie Sofie Istad Nesset ended up working as a costume designer on weekdays while styling flowers at weekends.
"Expressing myself through clothes has always been natural for me, but I never dreamt of working with that or any other creative profession. While studying I worked many years as a salesperson in a clothing store, and I met a lot of inspiring and creative people. At the time, I started doing some styling and my interest developed. Somehow, the jobs kept coming in and today I work as a costume designer for various production companies whom make commercials, films and drama series.
Her path into creative fields has mainly been through friends in the business, but most importantly in daring to believe in herself.
"I’ve always said yes to everything. If there is something I’m not exactly sure of, I will work my ass off to learn it. ‘I want to work with flowers,’ I said when a friend of mine asked me what I wanted to do when moving to New York a few years ago. And through common acquaintances I got a job as an intern at the floral and garden design studio, Fox Fodder Farm. Walking into the attic where they had their studio—it was so beautiful! Flowers everywhere! Taylor Patterson, the woman I worked for, didn’t have any relevant education as a florist, and she gave me a lot of creative freedom. The first day of my internship she said ‘just make something pretty, you’ll figure it out.’ Those are words that I still keep in mind to this day."
Returning home from New York, Marie Sofie was hooked. She wanted more than a bouquet of flowers on her dining table, she wanted to make flowers a part of her livelihood. Together with her friend Eirik Slyngstad, they decided to start a small business called PLUKK blomster (PICK flowers). At the time, Istad Nesset and Eirik Slyngstad had already worked a lot together in the past, describing themselves as a visual team. The first step of their journey was to set up a blog, which they called Blomsterbloggen (The flower blog). Today, the blog is filled with beautiful and inspiring pictures taken by Eirik Slyngstad.
"The vision was to create an inspiring platform that would function as a live portfolio and a place for customers to get in touch. At the time, there was nothing like it in Norway. After just two months online, one of Norway’s largest newspapers called and we started getting many requests from people who wanted us to make flower arrangements for them."
Today, the Oslo based firm creates floral decorations for weddings, other social gatherings and stores. The firm has held workshops, for example, one in collaboration with Kinfolk magazine, as well as providing the world of flowers with something new. Or is their rather untraditional way of styling really that new?
"Almost nothing inspires me more than flipping through housewife books from the 50s. Their way of styling flowers is so laidback and unpolished. Nothing like we see today. To me, perfect is boring. So that’s what we want to create—something vivid. You should be able to look at our arrangements and imagine that the flowers are about to grow out of the vase. We work with living materials—it should look alive."
Their business name sums up their style quite well; they mainly prefer to use flowers they can pick themselves.
"I guess it’s natural for me as a Norwegian florist to say that I’m at my most inspired during spring and summer, as nature is actually budding here then. We like to use all kinds of flowers, even the ones you find growing in ditches. This makes our products more personal and lively."
Even though she has received no education as a florist other than her internship, she has a lot of respect for it.
"Maybe one can say that the lack of education makes us more willing to try out new things, but I try to read and learn more about the field because I find it very interesting. However, I believe that if you have a good eye and the ability to create, you can do beautiful things even without schooling. With such beautiful material, it’s almost impossible to go wrong."
You can see them everywhere. There’s a feed of flowers on both Instagram and blogs. Even different stores use them in their visual merchandising, to decorate their shops and window displays. You might say we’re talking about a renaissance of flowers, a trend Marie Sofie hopes is here to stay.
"I don’t want to talk politics but I think that we’re the last generation who will be able to travel as much as we do, and that something is going to happen with the way we think about the products we use on a daily basis. In the future it’s not given that we will be able to get a hand of flowers from the other side of the world as easily or cheap as we do today. I hope that people in general will start to use and grow more locally."
Coming from the beautiful area of Sunnmøre, known for its high mountains and deep fjords, nature was always a part of her everyday life when growing up.
"During my childhood we went hiking a lot, we picked berries, skied and so on. I think that kids who grew up in the 80s without any Internet took more advantage of the outdoors than kids do today. Even though there were days where I didn’t want to go hiking with my parents, I’ve always been able to see the beauty in the nature surrounding me. We have to show an awareness of nature, especially now when you consider how the climate is changing."
For Marie Sofie, entering the world of flowers after a busy week is meditative. With fresh flowers on the table, she puts on some music and shuts out the world for a while.
Since the other half of PLUKK blomster is busy studying, it’s mostly Marie Sofie who makes the floral arrangements these days. But Eirik still functions as a creative consultant and adviser.
"Two is always better than one. Having someone give you a second opinion is important for reflection. Even though Eirik is studying right now, we have some visions for our small business. The blog hasn’t been updated for a while—we’ve now launched a new webpage. We hope to eventually start selling flower subscriptions, which means that one can subscribe for an amount per year, and we will send you a bouquet of flowers once a month. But for now, we will continue to work seasonal with flowers, mainly in the months from April to September. That is what fits our little company’s vision the most. Though, if someone is interested, we will make flower arrangements during winter as well. On another note, we’re having a pop-up shop this
summer, with as many wild flowers as possible."
Now Marie Sofie is excited about the summer season. Long days, light evenings, flower picking, taking a swim in the ocean, before heading home with a bag filled with blossoms.
"I think one of the nicest things we can do for each other is to give a self-picked bouquet of flowers. Not only is there something magic in taking advantage of nature like that, but also offering something you have used both time and creativity on—it’s valuable."
Today, the woman who never really wanted to work creatively, makes a living out of her flourishing eye. The little blooming business is here to stay, and they will continue to do their own thing, serving people floral decorations that are a bit messy, but are most of all beautiful.
"Right now I’m pleased with where I am in life. But of course, the idea of one day working only with flowers—that must be the dream job!"