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Flower.Style35: Sharing Personal and Professional Perspectives, FTD World Cup Champion Bart Hassam Gives Us a Glimpse Into His Unique World of Flowers

Based in Brisbane, Australia, Bart Hassam is a celebrated floral designer, demonstrator and lecturer who travels around the world teaching and sharing his passion for floral engineering. With a comprehensive background in commercial floristry, Sogetsu Ikebana and European design, he also has extensive experience in the realm of competitive floristry. Bart has won the Australian Interflora Florist of the Year Competition five times, among several other international competitions.

In 2018, he co-created Maison Fleur Floral Design, a trio of luxury floral boutiques in Brisbane. That same year, Bart was selected to represent Australia at the 2019 FTD World Cup, for which he would eventually be named as the event's winner.

1. What is your idea of the perfect flower arrangement? It would be the idea of the next design made. It's always the one in the future—the one that's a little more edited and closer to what I'm trying to achieve, which is harmony and beauty in a refined and effortless way. I never reach it, but I strive for it.

2. How did you get started in the floral industry? My grandmother had a huge garden and I would visit her each Saturday while I was growing up. She taught me about plants and how they grow. As a retiree, she was part of the local Floral Art Society and started entering me in the children's section of their flower shows.

3. If not a florist, what would be your fallback profession? The dream is architect, but honestly, it would probably be something in hospitality, like Maitre D' or Sommelier. I enjoy the retail side of floristry so much, and I love making people feel special, so something in food service would be a natural fit. 

4. What's your present state of mind? To be frank, it's very mixed. I think the world is in a very unsettled state, and in turn, none of us feel very stable. I'm thankful, if anything. (But also tired, worried, happy, concerned, overworked, depressed, relieved and all the other things—usually in the same day.)

5. What is your most treasured possession? I have a few special ones that are important—a letter and some Japanese ceramics (you know, "objects"). But really, it would have to be my relationships with my partner Jeff and my good friends.

6. Which words or phrases do you most overuse? "Darling" and "love."

7. Where do you find inspiration outside the flower world? Architecture, fashion, gardens, art galleries and restaurants, among others. 

8. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Physically, let's go with 10cm taller. But actually, I would just like to worry less. 

9. What do you consider your greatest achievement? It's hard to go past winning the FTD World Cup, mostly because I felt an enormous amount of pressure to do well. And with the help of a few great people, I managed to get through it with a positive result.

10. What's one thing you would tell your younger self? There are lots of things, but probably, just relax a bit more. You're OK!

11. What event or job has been your favorite? The demonstration I did at the 2014 Asia Cup held in Numazu, Japan. I had won the previous Asia Cup in 2011, and I was demo-ing at the next one as the "half-time" entertainment after the contestants made their last item (while the judges were judging). As I had worked in Japan for years and love bamboo, I felt really comfortable with all of the materials and assistants, and I was able to produce some great pieces of work. And my previous Japanese boss was my onstage compère—so it was great! It's also the day that I met my life-partner Jeff, so it's a hard day to beat.

12. Any projects that you wish you could forget? Design-wise, likely not. Sometimes you don't have enough time, there may be difficulties with product or proportion of containers, issues with transport, or not having enough assistants, but really, they're all good experiences that make you a better florist.

13. Who are your heroes in real life? My grandparents. My mother died when I was two years old, so they basically raised me as a child.

14. Who is your floral hero? Gregor Lersch.

15. What is your favorite color? Black, the non-color.

16. What is your favorite flower? To work with: any orchid; to have at home: poppies.

17. What flower could you live without? Kale (not a flower, but do plants count?).

18. What would you call your style of design? I've tried to describe it a few times, never really succinctly, so here we go. Formal Linear, with a heavy Japanese influence in style and structure, and proportioned from the Art Nouveau period with floral elements popular in the Victorian era. How does that sound?

19. Who's on your playlist? Sting, Dinah Washington, Craig David, Sarah Vaughan, George Michael, Adele, Charlie Puth, Sondheim, Nina Simone, Sara Bareilles, Keane, Lauryn Hill and Sia.

20. What's on your to-do list? So, so many things! Mostly preparing for the AIFD Symposium in July and my partner Jeff's 40th Birthday. And running three florist shops.

21. What flower best represents your personality? Why? Poppies: they're tall, skinny and they mix well with anyone.

22. Who is your favorite artist? Painting: Mark Rothko; sculpture: Henry Moore; architecture: Tadao Ando; fashion: John Galliano.

23. What’s the last book you read (and loved)? "Lost Years: A Memoir 1945 - 1951" by Christopher Isherwood (and all of his other books).

24. How do you unwind after a long day? Good food, good wine, the current T.V. show I'm engrossed in and not talking. With three florist shops, you talk all day, so it's nice to have a break!

25. Favorite beverage? Sparkling Water or champagne.

26. What do you see trending in floral design? Everything and nothing. (Are there even trends anymore?) Probably, the overall trend is similar to the '80s/'90s in both retail and design, so transitioning from opulence to minimalism.

27. What's out? Once again—everything and nothing. But mostly the arrogance that our industry has nothing to do with the survival of the planet and we don't have an effect.

28. What is your flower motto? "To create beauty through plant material, with elegance and appropriateness—but above all, with a respect for the flower."

29. What's your motto in life? Trust in the process. Everything always works out.

30. How would your friends describe you? Nice, patient, artistic and a workaholic.

31. What would surprise us most about you? I'm inherently lazy and a homebody. Even though I'm extraverted, I could easily become a recluse. 

32. What have you learned from flowers? That they're always changing, and that beauty is death. Time should not be wasted.

33. If you could invite 3 people (dead, alive or fictional) to a dinner party who would they be? Describe the centerpieces. Emma Thompson, Craig Ferguson and Stephen Colbert. The flowers would be simple, casual, understated—it's only a table of four after all. 

34. What's your best advice to someone just starting out in the flower industry? You will always learn throughout your entire career in floristry, and if what you're doing has something to do with flowers, it will be a valuable experience. Going to a plant nursery, attending a flower show, reading a landscaping book, taking Ikebana classes, getting a job at the flower market, walking home to look at the gardens (and weeds) of other people's homes, taking a short course, attending a demonstration, going into a competition—it's all education.

35. What did we forget to ask? My zodiac sign, which is Pisces.


To stay connected with Bart and view more of his work, click on the links below.

Bart Hassam Website | Bart Hassam Instagram | Bart Hassam Facebook | Maison Fleur Website