Before arriving at the Kingsland studio of Markantonia – given the nature of their business – I was naturally expecting to see a lot of dried flowers; but I never envisioned the sheer volume that was actually there. Flowers and branches were hung from every conceivable beam or door; hydrangeas filled vases, buds and leaves that had been carefully clipped filled the glass jars on the shelves. A veritable wonderland for the floral enthusiast.
If you have some preconceived idea of dried flowers being something that you’d find at your grandmother’s house, think again. Antonia, of Markantonia, has brought a cool edge to dried flora like I’ve never seen before. Locals here have embraced her creations to an almost cult-like devotion. Her arrangements are displayed nationwide in the coolest store and commercial fit-outs.
When you meet Antonia and her partner, Mark, you get it. The two of them are twenty-something hipsters, out exploring their creativity and earning a living from it – and they do it well.
The couple met at art school, and combined their talents in flowers, furniture and living, along with their names, to create the business, Markantonia Ltd. While this story is about flowers, their business is not just about that. Mark designs bespoke furniture and homewares, while Antonia looks after the floristry and hand poured candles.
Markantonia’s dried floral arrangements are not just about putting together twigs and flowers; they are about recreating mother nature into Antonia’s own version of it as she literally takes them apart to glue buds and leaves onto twigs to her aesthetic. I had no idea that she actually did this. I have to sheepishly add here that I even own one of her creations and naively thought the flower species actually existed and that she just had an incredible eye for choosing and arranging them. But apparently I’m not alone with this thought.
Antonia studied jewellery design, floristry and aromatherapy. Interestingly, she has managed to combine her training in all three. She satisfies the intricate work she learnt in jewellery-making in her floral creations, and the aromatherapy has been put to use in the hand poured candles, although this weaved its way into the business organically. The very first candle they sold, the Winter Candle, was actually made for a keepsake for the guests at their wedding in Auckland’s Winter Garden. Their friends’ response to the gift gave her the idea to make it to sell. From there came the other three seasons, followed by client commissions and a number of collaborations with some big fashion brands here. Expanding on that, Antonia, with the help of an aromatherapist, is currently developing a skincare range for the brand.
Watching Antonia create an arrangement for a client opened my eyes to the painstaking work that goes into it. I mentioned this, and Mark nodded his head in agreement. He said that he does most of the quoting for clients, and at times he looks over and watches how much time Antonia spends in preparation alone. Each leaf or bud is carefully clipped, and all the while the clock is ticking. It often makes him wonder if he had underquoted. But they both shrugged this off, and it’s evident that while this is a business for profit, first and foremost, it’s their artistic expression that is the main player here. It’s certainly an exciting and busy time for this creative duo that have so much to look forward to.
Thank you Antonia and Mark! For more of their beautiful creations, pop over to their website.
This is the final instalment of my New Zealand Month. In case you missed it, as I make my way to my new life in Sweden, the month of September has been my homage to this beautiful country that I called home for over five years. It’s a dedication to its people and talent. Here is a list of the other NZ features that you may have missed:
Photos by Mel Chesneau for Styled Canvas