WOMEN OF NOTE:
Azzmin Frances | Artist & Owner of Braer
The morning is bright and fresh for Azzmin Frances. Waking up in the green pastures of Mullumbimby, the day often begins with gentle movement or a trip to the flower market. Guided by the centuries-long art of Japanese Ikebana, Azzmin's home and floral studio, Braer, exudes a certain peace, light, and simplicity that leaves you feeling calm and inspired. From delicate orchids—striking and unusual—to long dry grasses swiped from roadside fields, all florals have their place at the Braer table.
To celebrate our latest Resort collection, Azzmin designed a hanging arrangement of floral pom-poms and dangling grass for our Byron Bay concept store. We spoke to Azzmin about her favourite flowers, seasons and how she unwinds, captured in the studio wearing the Curved Shirt, Mid Short, and Ruched Tie Dress.
Location: Mullumbimby, Australia
Time: 4.08 PM
Where are you from and where are you now?
I was born and raised in Mullumbimby. I left the area for a number of years and returned to build our family home and raise my sons there too.
Can you tell us about your home, what is the view like?
My partner and I built our home just over 3 years ago. It's a small 2 bedroom house made out of ply wood and other natural materials. It is a beautiful space to live in, modest but well designed with some special sentimental pieces we have collected over the years, from artists I represent at Braer and from family. The view is of our little veggie garden through large cedar bifold glass doors.
Mary Oliver says it better:
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?
from poem “Swan”.
Where did your love of flowers, and love of floristry begin?
I grew up in the bush and my dad grew flowers to paint. My mum is a gardener too and my aunty and cousins are florists. I have always loved nature and plants. I started floristry after having my second son as a creative outlet and a part time job. I started researching Ikebana and learning all the plant names and the seasons they grow in whilst learning from other florists too. Ikebana opened my eyes to seeing materials everywhere. As the founder of the Sogetsu school of Ikebana Sofu Teshigahara says you can create Ikebana anytime, anywhere, using any material. The philosophy behind ikebana is grounded in Japanese aesthetics, which emphasizes simplicity, understated elegance, and a respect for nature.
What does a day in your life look like at the moment?
I try to move my body in the morning but its not always easy to fit it in if I am getting to the markets early or visiting a growers farm. Then I get my sons to school then usually a coffee in the car on the way to work. Some time is spent making flowers and then often catching up on my inbox or plans for Braer. If I am lucky I will get to take the boys and the dog to the beach after work too.
In life and work, who and what inspires you?
I'm inspired by my vintage Ikebana books (there are so many more I want to collect on my list). Music and architecture inspires me too but my forever love is flowers. I’m obsessed.
How would you describe your creative process?It is different on each day. Sometimes I see a texture in a plant growing on the side of the road and feel inspired to make something with it. Other times I have been tasked to design an installation and it has some parameters I need to design within. This often dictates the variety of plant species I choose to work with - this along with the season the plants are growing in. I like this about working with natural materials, each year you see your favourite flowers again with a fresh perspective.
Do you have any florals in particular that you've been leaning towards recently?
It is so hot and tropical here so I have been using lots of Bromeliad flowers along with my summer favourite Oncidium orchids that smell like soapy sherbert.
Do you have a favourite scent?
Anything Fig or Tuberose.
How do you unwind?
I love to take a really long bath or cook something delicious for my family.
What are you currently reading, watching and listening to?
I haven’t been reading much lately but I listen to audio books and heaps of podcasts and I’m re-watching Mad Men. I am listening to the book Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman. And this is very dorky business owner stuff but I listen to How I Built This and The Great Creators with Guy Raz almost daily in the car.
What is your approach to dressing each day and what is your go-to attire?
When I am working I wear usually mostly black oversized clothes and sneakers. Everyone at Braer loves all of the Deiji black cotton sets for working in the studio or on-site installations. I usually choose clothing that is comfortable and the fabric is natural or the shape is interesting. Some of my favourite things I have owned for many years, like my antique french nightgown or my blue MNZ shoes.
When do you feel most yourself?
When I am creatively fulfilled with my work and when I am looking after myself - getting good sleep, exercising and eating well.
Do you have any family traditions?
If it’s a sunny day on Christmas Day we love to take a picnic to Whites beach and spend the whole day there with friends and family.
What is your favourite season?
Winter because the mornings are sunny and its cozy in bed. We often wake to hot air balloons out our bedroom window! It makes it harder to get up early for the flower market but the flannel flowers are the best in winter too.
What are you looking forward to this year?
I’m looking forward to growing Braer in new ways in our new studio. There are so many ideas and not enough time!
See more of Azzmin's work at Braer here.