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Behind the scenes of Tomas De Bruyne designs

emc designer floral design May 30, 2022

Capturing the spirit of stunningly unique flowers

Floriade 2022 Expo - the Japanese pavilion 

As part of the Floriade 2022 Expo in Alemere, Netherlands, the Japan pavilion stands out with its elegant simplicity, the cozyness of the space and the atmosphere building around it. It is inspired by the traditional ecological lifestyle where the garden, farmland and forest are closely connected. 

The theme ‘Satoyama’ refers to an area that consists of farmland, irrigation ponds, forests and grasslands surrounding cities and towns. The landscapes of Satoyama have been shaped by various human interventions over the course of a long history. The inhabitants are very conscious of natural resources, which has created a rich culture of life in which people live in harmony with the environment. 

The Japan Flowers and Plants Export Association, is an organisation that proudly represents the Japanese growers, who produce amazing varieties of botanicals for floral art use and is focusing on promoting these flowers outside of Japan. As it happens with many things coming from that island-country that seems to lie at the edge of the world|: what seems normal in Japan has an extraterrestrial dimension for the rest of the world. And we mean that in the best way possible!

Tomas de Bruyne, lead instructor of EMC was invited to design and implement two large scale installations for the Japanese pavilion an the Floriade Expo 2022, aiming to showcase the unique floral varieties that Japanese growers produce, bridging the remote world of Japan with the international floral community. Interpreting the task with elegance and know-how, Tomas has created two amazing installations that have been admired by all visitors of the Floriade, as well as enjoyed by the flower providers from Japan through their delegates and via social media. 

The two designs, although executed by the same designer, were very much different, serving the purpose of keeping the pavilion fresh in appearance, while delivering the same message: Japanese flowers are extraordinary in the most literal sense possible!

"I somehow credit my international career as a floral designer to Japan, as it was the actual place where I started with my first demo tour. I still remember I was amazed by the culture, the environment, the energy and the fantastic flowers I found there, and those feelings will most probably stay with me forever. When I was approached regarding these installations, I knew this project will resurrect those feelings and I focused myself on delivering designs that will arise the same emotions in the visiting public as well. As a floral designer, I am a communicator and creating emotions beyond aesthetics is so important for me. I used the Japanese art as inspiration for both my designs, translating elements that are typical, easily recognisable as being Japanese and incorporating them into an overall international story. My experience working worldwide with flowers, in so many different cultures and traditions, has though me that emotions are actually the one universal language we all understand and that is what connects us. I saw the opportunity here to showcase the best flowers Japan has to offer, not as a product, but more as an emotional connector. 

The first installation was soothing, smooth and with a calm energy. Envisioning a meadow like installation, that would be relatable to the European public through flower disposition, mixture of textures and play of heights, I picked as an inspiration point the "The Great Wave off Kanagawa" by Hokusai, an iconic work of art that influenced so much the Art Nouveau movement in Europe, besides being a landmark oeuvre in Japan as well. Displacement of flowers in wavy like groupings helped create that flow of energy, but the connection to Japan was even more enhanced by the importance of line and colour usage, two elements that are recognisable especially in the latter works of Hokusai as a signature style. The gold leaf coverage of the construction was done with respect for the art, using traditional means, authentic gold leaf and patience, in true Japanese spirit.

My second installation is explosive and emerging vertically, inspired by the Shoji blinds and incorporating flowers in such a dynamic form that is transforming the design into a work full of active energy. It's a strong statement installation as to emphasise that there is so much to discover in the Japanese flowers, that they are powerful, resilient and impressive at the same time." Tomas De Bruyne

The W’s we teach about in EMC play an important role in Tomas’ designs for real life clients. In this case the purpose was to showcase the amazing varieties of flowers the Japanese growers are providing in an artistic way. Showcasing the true potential of each individual flower is as important as achieving a visual impact for the public. The design conceptualised traditional Japanese elements in a signature style Tomas De Bruyne design, symbolically becoming a liaison between the western style designers and Japanese growers. Tomas is well known for his international blend of styles, he teaches European design, but actually stretches the limits of what European design is to transform and rise to the occasion, no matter where his clients are from. Since the Japanese growers are using this opportunity, being at Floriade, to extend their desire to provide stunning flowers outside of Japan as well, it made sense that the design was created to appeal to a wide range of people.

The project was such a wonderful collaboration within EMC family as well, as the JFPEA contacted our alumni Ikuko Hashimoto AIFD. EMC to be their official mediator and interpreter for the exhibition and her input into organising the two installations was so important.

"I was a mediator for Tomas and JFPEA for this event and though challenging, it was very rewarding to see it come to fruition. It was very challenging for various reasons, but mostly because the Japanese growers were not sure how each flower’s condition would be after transport. Flying over Russia being impossible right now, all their flowers took seven days without water source to arrive, instead of the regular four so we had a lot of concern from their part. This is just to prove how perfectionists they are in their metier as growers. The care and handling was done properly and the flowers exceeded our expectations in how they behaved during the week long installation. What I enjoyed most on this project, though, was to be able to see Tomas work around these challenges with confidence and certainty. His design concept was clearly thought of in such a manner that though showcasing the flowers was part of the W's, he did not put his focus on one detail, but rather on all details, exploring their full potential. It was an amazing experience to work along side him for these two installations and see the theory I have learned in EMC put into practice!" Ikuko Hashimoto, AIFD, EMC

EMC teaches the theory of floral design from a very practical perspective and this is surely a thing that was influenced by Tomas De Bruyne and his real-life activity as a floral architect for big events. As one can imagine, the bigger the design gets, the more you actually have to be on top if your game and control the outcome you're set up to deliver to the client. When the installation is big, you cannot count on doing last minute corrections, because you're in a whole different league. Everything you do and plan for such installations has to be done with a clear set of ideas in mind, with a final outcome that needs to be achieved and planning and executing on the way has to guide your work towards that outcome. Sometimes challenges can appear, but overcoming them is much easier when you know where you want your design to go, which is answering the needs of your clients through communicating their message, their story, to the audience. 

"The JFPEA has had the honour and pleasure of collaborating with Tomas De Bruyne during the Floriade 2022 Expo, in bringing to the public of this world expo two large scale installations, as part of the Japanese Pavilion exhibit. The project of the Pavilion at Floriade 2022 is representing Japan as a country, with its culture, specificities and authenticity, and has the support of the Japan Government. Bringing a designer like Tomas De Bruyne to help us connect to the public in a more authentic way, presenting our beautiful varieties of flowers and opening a bridge of communication with the European audience was a decision we all embraced and were excited to see it come to fruition. 

It was with great professionalism, respect for the cultural differences and open-mindedness that Tomas De Bruyne replied "yes" to joining this project. He listened to all our requests, asking the right questions regarding the purpose of the installations and he formulated the designs in such a way that it responded to all our needs. It was amazing to see him interpret the same request in two completely different ways, building a story behind the designs, working with inspirational elements from the Japanese culture and incorporating our florals into a very distinct manner in his signature style designs. We have been impressed by the professionalism of the work, the way he finds solutions to any challenges and offers support to all people involved; the determination in getting the story told in the right way and his capacity to overcome any obstacles in order to deliver what he promised.

There is no doubt that Tomas De Bruyne is indeed a “floral architect” and a magician in his own unique way, a true connoisseur not only of floral design but also of delivering a story; a true, authentic story. For us it was the story of Japan being able to produce stunning, special varieties of flowers, like nowhere else on the planet. We desired to showcase that to the European audience in a way that they understand that message and I am entirely certain it was a success due to the creativity and involvement of Tomas."  Kenichi Saito, Head of Department JFPEA Flowers 

Floral design is communication, story telling and art, it's emotion and dedication, it's so much more than just flowers. Teaching the theory behind the practice from a very practical perspective is what EMC is aiming for with our educational program. We understand that building character and confidence in our students in order for them to showcase those features in their designs and presentations in front of clients is more important than anything else. And these attributes of our core program come from the personal real-life experience of our lead instructor, Tomas De Bruyne. 

by Diana Toma, EMC

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