The show "The night of Inspiration" apart from the fact that this is a bright, grandiose show, for our magazine it is also an opportunity to communicate with leading florists. This year we managed to meet with a wonderful Natalia Zizhko and ask her questions that interest us.
Natalia, you were born in Estonia. The press of this country refers with some regret to your move to Russia. Tell us about the move and how you became a florist.
- I moved to Russia after school, entered the university at the biological faculty. My move was connected with this. Initially, I did not plan to stay in Russia, but while I was studying, many things happened. I learned floristic, got a job and began to deal with flowers. Of course, when I reached a certain career "ceiling" in Tomsk, the question of further employment raised. Therefore, I moved to Moscow - the place that offers more opportunities to grow, travel, work. At this stage, the return to Estonia was no longer considered.
And you became the champion of Europe from Russia.
- After the victory, I thought a lot: I was born in Estonia, now I live in Russia, my mother is a Tatar, my father is a Belarusian-Polish Catholic. All this makes my level of perception largely multicultural. But I grew up in Estonia, the country of Scandinavian design, in a minimalist environment, where people have an intrinsic sense of taste and harmony. There isn’t doubts that a big part of my success came from this.
Since we are talking about your absence at the World Championships - 2016. You were among those who signed the scandalous letter to Interflora?
-I was its author. It was my inner impulse. I wanted to write a letter with explanation why I do not participate in the qualifying competition. I had a preliminary agreement with Interflora Russia. We negotiated and they agreed that I would represent Russia. For this, they wanted me to create a design line for Interflora. A month has passed, we started preparations for the photoshoot, I declared to half of Europe that I'm going to the championship and suddenly it turned out that there will be a contest and the conditions for participation in it are unacceptable for me.
- This is by no means below the level of my dignity." There is no sense to play cards with sharers, otherwise you will have to cry and prove that you were deceived.
How did Interflora explained her answer? After all, as far as we remember, the three winners of that selection eventually took the last three places at the World Championships and it's hard to believe that the organizers did not want to see a strong participant in their competition.
- It turns out that they weren’t interested.
Well, let’s leave this subject. Tell us about the Tridvornova art-bureau project. And your role as art director.
- We have been working together with Tatyana Tridvornova for more than thirteen years. The Tridvornova art-bureau is our common business, we are partners in it. This is an amazing collaboration that has turned into a friendship that brakes all business laws. This is a complex combination for two creative people, but Tatiana and I have separate areas of responsibility and we are self-sufficient. Tatiana is a genius manager. This is what she loves to do and does it honestly and with all her heart. And I like to work with flowers. There are certain difficulties (laughs), but in general we have been successfully cooperating for a long time.
Your first competitive success was in Kiev. I would like to know what drives florists to compete with other florists?
- Self-doubting (laughs). The desire to show what you currently represent as a creative person. In the first contest I was driven by absolute self-doubt. I thought that if there is such an opportunity and there are such wonderful people as Inna Petrenko and Marianna Debchinskaya who organized the contest, I will go to the contest, do everything I can and let them tell me whether I need to continue developing floristry skills, or go back to Tomsk to put the chrysanthemums into the cellophane.
Do you remember the feelings of that victory?
-There were a lot of small problems that I faced - "the order did not come", "the wrong color", "at the wrong time", usual stuff for the beginners. So at the moment when I was sitting and sprinkling ash on my head, asking myself "What are you doing here among all those geniuses who have such beautiful designs", they called me on the stage and gave me the first place.
It prompted me to move to Moscow. When the first significant victory happened to me, I thought: "No, it's an accident”. It felt that I need to prove it to myself again. Only with time I learned to treat competitions not as a fight, but as an opportunity to present my work without thinking about the result.
Did you go to the Czech Republic, to the European Championships with this feeling?
-Yes. I wanted to see the realization of my works. I wanted to see all my works done. The task was to show the maximum that you are capable of at the moment. A great happiness is, when the result of your work is understood. If it is good estimated means it is understood. So, you were able to transfer the idea that were put into the design.
You participated in the Russian Championship 4 times. There is a feeling that during the period when you competed, a large number of strong florists participated in the competition. Now the trend is that the winner of the championship does not participate in it anymore. Do not you think that the Russian championship is losing its status because of this?
-The reason of the changes is in the daily reality . You see, my child has finished school already, and I have never took him by the hand on his Day of Knowledge, because it always coincided with the contest.
Slowly, our large group of florists and the participants of the championship themselves grew up from this competitive movement. For those who are taking part now, perhaps this is due to their life position. I don’t think that the absence of the last year winners lowers the level of the competition. There is a change, when one "wave" receded, and the second only gains strength. I have already seen new, strong, growing contestants. Now there are more opportunities: you can go to some competitions in Europe. In the past there wasn’t such possibility, and we just walked in a circle until we have found the "doors" out.
Well, there are also certain reasons that do not allow people to spend money so recklessly anymore. Because when we participated, often companies, flower organizations, salons were sponsoring. Florists had certain obligations before them. Now all the participants of the championship themselves close this financial question. It became more financially expensive. Therefore, this also affects many possible championship participants.
Anna Popova twice took the 2nd place. How do you think, what did she lack to win?
- Anna Popova is an incredibly talented and motivated person. I would say that this is the first conscious case in my practice, when I purposefully began to work with a person as a student. She personally came to me and said: "Natasha, I want you to prepare me for the contest. Can you? "Although I have such proposals before, and I believe that I took a great part in the creative destiny of Pavel Chernyak, Irina Golubeva and many others. Many came and asked me to help them with the preparations, but I refused most of them. But Anya became an exception. I immediately told her "yes" without even thinking. This turned out to be quite an interesting experience. Her works are original and outstanding. What didn’t let her win? I think it is just an incredible combination of circumstances.
I participated in the Russian championship many times. For me it was always a contest with an incredible elation. At some moment I quit floristry for 2 years, because I couldn’t understand where such low scores come from. There were always elation and emotional breakdown. When I won, I was captured by the idea that I wanted to realize. You know, “in order not to lose in the war, you need not participate in it”. To win the contest, you don’t have to compete. I think Ana had a little lack of this inner freedom. But there is also a positive side - thanks to this, we will soon see Anna Popova at the Russian Championship again.
In an interview with our magazine Anna Popova said (mostly as a joke) that she is jealous of you for Asian students. Because you began to give them too much energy and creativity. Why do we often see you in Asia?
- You know, there are many doors around, but you can only enter into one that is open". They invite me often, so I go. Asia is some kind of discovery for me. A year and a half ago I was in Asia for the first time and was pleasantly shocked. There beats the pulse of the whole planet.
Is the floral vector already there?
- Already there. It isn’t sleeping Europe, not even Central and South America, what engaged floristry as a hobby for housewives. It's not North America, what is on its wave. And it's not even Scandinavia, what has a lot of geniuses and champions of floristry. In Asia there is a lot of energy, positive and interest in floristry. They have a completely different way of thinking. They first hone the technique. For them, floristry is like a job, not a hobby. Everything is perceived without discussion and as instruction to action: they take and immediately do. If in Asia in the lesson to show, for example, two works and say to choose and do only one, they will find the time to do the both works. With each work they will approach, they will ask, they will listen to all the comments, they will go and remake. They are completely focused on what they are doing. Also I am amazed by their culture. If you ask them something, they will certainly give it to you. Because they believe that if a person asks, then it is more necessary to him.
Can we catch up with them in contests sometimes?
- In the competitive movement, they are not so strong, although they broke into the elite, probably today they do not have enough experience of participation, very soon they will understand what mistakes should be avoided and will grow stronger. South Korea is still very powerful. And this is not only Alex Choi, but a whole galaxy of excellent florists.
Well, when I got to the flower market in Seoul, I realized that I had not seen anything better. I understood how Alex Choi works with these small flowers - they have this usual range, this is the material they live with.
But answering the question, I will also remind the words of Gregor Lersh, who believes that only we and the florists from Asia have not lost the passion for floristry.
You were speaking about the family and children, and that it is very complicated to spend enough time with them. How it is possible to maintain a balance between work and family?
- Of course, it's complicated. Luckily, the children are at that age (19 and 13 years), when the mother sitting on their head is not what they need. I am very glad that they are supportive, respectful and interested in what I do. Now we have found the right balance… and I am the one who starts to miss them more than they do for me (laughs).
Your work - "Flower Carousel" made a big impression to everyone. Could you please tell us about this idea?
- "Carousel" is a story about the emotional aspect of flower design. This is what I set myself as a goal. I understand that the first "Carousel" in terms of floral design was far from perfect, but the concept is that the flower design is less clear if you tie it to some emotional aspect.
I was invited to make a central installation and I began to think: "What could be the meeting point?"
"Carousel" is a story about a point of a meeting, an opportunity to return to childhood, this is such a clear emotional effect for everyone. All who see this feel the pleasant emotions. Also there is a philosophical aspect in the fact that our Earth is also some kind of rotating carousel. I wanted to combine not only the emotions of design, but also interactivity. That is why we made up a photo zone. Everyone who entered, interacted with it, and these emotions were real. It was our trick that made me very happy.
The second "Carousel" in Bruges was more difficult in terms of floristry. I brought hundreds of meters of plastic from China specifically for this design. We made a dome with electric garlands. It seems to me that this supposed to events, public spaces, exhibitions. After all, visitors didn’t just look and passed by, they stayed, sat down, examined, rested. We organized the place to stay for the visitors in this design. This is something I wanted to experiment on and continue to do.
Do you still have a lot of ideas and motivation despite the fact that you make such projects and have achieved great success in competitions? Where are you looking for motivation?
- The result is my motivation. I feel happy when I see the result of my work.
And in the end, your advice to all novice florists, or those who are in creative search.
"Just do it." Do not think why you need it. Just take it and do it.