In Conversation With: Ani Wilson

Ani Wilson is our Brisbane store florist and the creative behind The Stone Willow Studio. She is radiant, innovative and a breath of fresh air. Ani creates one-of-a-kind arrangements from foraged florals in order to showcase a plant’s uniqueness and beauty. Recently, we had the pleasure of discussing her journey into floristry, her creative process, and her dream collaboration.

Ani during our in-store flower market. 

What is your background? 
I studied a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Classical Ballet and Contemporary Dance) at QUT, and then I moved to London because I had blind ambitions of working in the Music Industry. My plan didn’t exactly work out and I ended up working for an Asset Management firm as a Portfolio Manager trading foreign exchange.

How did you come to discover floristry? 
In 2016 I was living in London and had just been made redundant from my job working for an Asset Manager. My brother introduced me to Florence Kennedy of Petalon Flowers and when I mentioned I would love to volunteer, Florence very generously let me help with the preparation and set up of an event. The experience was incredible. After close to a  decade of working in finance, I found it so grounding to be getting my hands dirty- Literally, instead of figuratively for once. I moved to the US shortly after, but I thought about that experience for two years before I finally gave in and booked myself into a Career Course at The London Flower School. 

What is rewarding and what is challenging about your career?
On a daily basis I’m fortunate enough to witness people in their best light, everyone is happy when they open the door to find a florist on the other side. Florists keep very unsocial hours, I’m usually in bed by 8.30pm and my alarm for the flower markets goes off at 3.30am. Needless to say, I’m always the first person to leave a party. 

Where do you source your inspiration for your designs? 
I walk a lot, I am constantly looking at the landscape around me and the shapes that plants and flowers create when they are left to grow naturally. I try to look past the surface appearance of a branch or a flower and imagine how I could modify or edit it so the most beautiful aspects or perhaps a usually ignored strange feature, is clearly evident. 
I also study Ikebana, the Japanese Art of Arranging Flowers, through the Sogetsu School in Brisbane. The structural discipline of Ikebana inspires me, arrangements that often involve less than five stems can take on profound forms. 

When feeling stuck or uninspired where do you look? 
I look to books, primarily old reference books on Art, Architecture, Design, Fashion and Ikebana. Sometimes I find that I might not consciously be taking everything in on a page, but more often than not an image will pop out at me and spark inspiration. 

You forage for a lot of your florals...what has been the most elaborate
piece you have created from foraged flowers or plants? 
In March I had the pleasure of executing an entire wedding from foraged materials. The wedding was hosted at ‘The Barn at Foxground’, one of the most superb properties I have had the pleasure of experiencing. The owner of the property Maura Cato encouraged me to cut from her stunning garden and allowed me free reign on the property to cut anything from the surrounding rainforest. I battled three days of rain, leeches and sliding down muddy hills in the forest, but I have never had so much fun, and the flowers were as local as they come.  
Do you have a dream project or collaboration? 
I would love to meet the Japanese Botanical Sculpture Artist Azuma Makoto. His work is brilliant, and his creative brain juice fascinates me. 

Even with all the uncertainty in the world right now, what are your goals and hopes for the future? 
I am finding it difficult to have clarity about hopes and goals for the future amidst the unease and overall unpredictability that has come in the wake of the pandemic. One important thing that I do hope changes in the flower industry is that we start supporting small, local flower farms more, instead of unnecessarily importing flowers from overseas. We have some of the most beautiful and interesting flowers in the world growing in Australia, we are so lucky! 

Ani & Katie during our in-store flower market at our Brisbane boutique. 

What is your favorite flower? 
The Monotropa Uniflora is my favourite flower. It is a North American wildflower that only flowers in mature, shaded forests, and is commonly known as the ‘Ghost Flower’, ‘Indian Pipe’ and the ‘Corpse Flower’. I will never forget the feeling that came over me when I saw it for the first time in Upstate New York, it was sheer astonishment and curiosity. It lacks chlorophyll, so it has the appearance of translucent alien flowers sprouting from piles of fallen forest leaves. It is truly sensational.