One thing that has come to save all of us is this great urge to get back to nature. Whether your current conditions are open to dine out with your pod or stuck at home with hours of Clubhouse/ Tik Tok, this push and pull of our social habits has led to a surging culture around plants and vegetation aka a major plant selling boom. A desire and affinity for a sense of being grounded amidst the endless isolation has come with an added side effect of grounding people and understanding the might of greenery. Central to QooA’s philosophy of slowing down while still indulging, writer Janelle Zara found her path with her latest creative endeavor ZARA FLORA a project which fuses her lush floral devotions with that of her extensive art/architechtural background.
For Zara, an accomplished writer whose critiques of art, culture, and architecture can be seen in T, WSJ, and Architectural Digest, early quarantine strolls through Hollywood’s Beachwood Canyon and roadtrips with her boyfriend to Lake Arrowhead and Big Sur informed her needs to delve into nature. This biophilic desire coupled with her artistic and architectural background has well informed her design aesthetic. We got to discuss this floral venture as well as learned why you mustn’t call Zara’s gravity defying designs ikebana.
How did you get into floral arrangements, I feel like I’ve known you for ages and had no idea that you were so naturey.
Oh yes and road trips with my boyfriend, I look at trees and see how I could make them out of flowers. A friend of mine introduced me to this flower shop where you pick your own flowers. When he gave a bouquet to his friend I saw how his face lit up, It was full of so many unusual flowers. Doing this I realized we’re exposed to such a limited variety. The kinds of flowers you see in the grocery story isn’t even the half of it, I like working with the weird stuff. The really unusual creatures.
Would you consider this work consider this going in with the Ikebana trend that is so diffinitive right now? How did you learn to compose your arrangements?
It’s not ikebana. That’s a real art form with rules. I’m just putting flowers in a pot. I taught myself on instagram, really. Not by copying other people but studying their mechanics. It took me a while to understand the way that flowers work. You need to build up an arrangement with different depths and levels. Working in 3D is a lot different from looking at pictures.
I know you began this as a hobby but at what point did this become a business?
My friends were all really jazzed and supportive of what I was doing. They were the ones who convinced me to start an instagram, and then the interest started to grow from there. I was surprised that anyone would ever want to pay me for what I was doing for fun. It was a pandemic hobby!
Why do you think the art world has embraced you so much?
They’re my friends, a lot of them. In real life I’m an art critic/journalist. But also I’m really designing for certain graphic qualities—motion, contrast, etc… After I make an arrangement, I spend a lot of time trying to get a photo that captures that.
I love the full dimensionality of the arrangements, has your career in art and architecture inform some of your designs?
I think about it a lot like architecture; it’s about structure and problem solving
It used to take me days to figure out a floral arrangement. Lately I’ve gotten a lot faster, It still takes over an hour
What are some of your favorite flowers?
I like to mix high/low; really high end statement flowers with your grocery story basics. I have a secret spot where I get secondhand vases, and it’s a gold mine. They feel like the way we treat people; we treat the most delicate flowers like they’re the most precious But I live for a big fluffy bunch of carnations.
Do you Use a lot of flowers with fragrance?
I use a lot of allium, which literally smells like onion, I almost feel bad sending them to people, but they look so damn good. Otherwise not really. I don’t use a lot of “flower” flowers.
If you were to personify the plants and flowers you use who are they?
Flowers are challenging. They’re a lot harder than you’d think. They each kind of do their own thing in their own way, and the longer I do this, the better I get to know their individual temperaments.
Tulips: so underrated!
Anthurium: easy crowd pleaser!
Roses: just getting into them now. I thought they were really traditional but they can do a lot.