One might refer to Maria Claudia as a ‘late bloomer’. Her creative career in floristry grew out of sheer circumstance when she began doing arrangements for the restaurant she was waitressing for in New York City in the mid 90s. Maria's childhood memories are imbued with subtle joys stemming from explorations with nature in her hometown of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Adventuring to Paris and ultimately to Sydney’s eastern beaches (for love), Maria’s journey with flora is primarily self-taught and took solid roots in early 2005 when she started doing business out of the garage space in her new Australian family home.
Specialising in floristry and floral sculpture for corporate events, weddings and private residences. Maria’s endeavour is now based in Bronte. Samambaia Flowers – a common Brazilian name for ferns used in the language of native Indians – continues to blossom, presenting ‘exquisite flowers and special findings from around the world’.
With a sincere drive and passion for the wellbeing of our environment and the people in it, it seems that Maria’s ability to tune into mother nature has seen her business, and those who connect to it, come up smelling of roses.
After speaking with her about all things inspirational and business, we’re reminded that all good gestures, no matter how small, are needed in our current landscape. We invite you to join us in taking a leaf out of Maria’s book and in doing our little bit everyday - in whatever way you can - to stay grounded, protect our planet and ensure we’re planting seeds for a brighter, shared future.
What was it like growing up in Rio?
It was really wonderful and I have lovely memories. I had a lot more freedom than many kids do these days. I had no fear, even being away from my mother whilst out playing when I was really young. I used to ride my bike around the neighbourhood, walk on top of fences, roller skate and make my own perfume out of flowers. There was a lot of creative play and direct contact with nature, and next to no screen time of any kind. I still remember when colour TV was introduced and my grandfather had one imported from the USA for us!
Back then, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to do figure skating!
What took you from Rio to New York City?
It was actually from Paris to New York City. I met my husband in Sydney when I was there for work and was then living in Paris when we crossed paths again. He didn’t speak any French and it was going to be hard for him to get work. We had both always wanted to explore living in NYC, so off we went! We didn’t know how long we would end up staying, but it turned out to be our home for the next seven years.
Why did you choose flowers?
Well, I am completely self-taught and I guess actually, the flowers chose me! I was working at a restaurant in New York City where the owners were constantly having problems with their regular florist. One day I got fed up and told them that I thought I could do a better job myself and they agreed to hand me the reigns. Customers started to ask who had done the arrangements and I began to get the odd job here and there. So that’s how it all started.
When did you start?
Back in 1996.
Who has inspired you on this path?
When I look back now, I can totally see that my mother was a complete flower and plant lover. She definitely imprinted the mark somewhere on my brain. I guess it just didn’t bloom (pun intended) until years later in my life.
What is it about your profession that you love?
I love that no two days are ever the same. It’s the daily surprise that nature brings - no flower or leaf is ever the same.
What has been the greatest unexpected joy for you in floristry?
Definitely the people I have met since opening my shop in 2013. When I think that we may never have crossed paths otherwise, I’m reassured every day that this is all worth it.
Do you have a favourite flower?
I can not choose a favourite flower! But I do have a real soft spot for orchids… I guess I have favourites for each season.
What are you passionate about?
I am really passionate about texture and movement, colour, tones and scents. I have always loved woven items – baskets, bags, rugs – you name it! Indigenous woven works from around the world really inspire me and are among my favourites.
What are you being inspired by right now?
I am inspired every day by different things; it’s hard to pinpoint. The obvious one is nature, because it is my daily source of creative material and I do have tendency to bring much of what I see out in nature into my day-to-day work. I am consistently inspired by people who are driven to make a positive change in the world, my eldest daughter being one of them. I also adore music and could absolutely not imagine living without it.
Which artists are you drawn to?
Picasso is one of my favourites, but honestly the list could start and never end! There is a fantastic contemporary French artist named Pauline Ohrel whose works always amaze me.
What's most important to you as a business owner and creative practitioner?
Being a business owner brings so much more responsibility than one might initially think. My primary concern is doing my best to protect the environment, both within the framework of running my business and in my personal life.
I aspire to use my business platform to support other communities of creative practitioners and artists at home here in Australia and elsewhere around the world. I feel an obligation to do the right thing when it comes to the products I sell and the environment we operate within to hopefully have a more positive impact on the world. No matter how small the act of good might be, it is needed, and if we were all able to do the same then the world would be a much better place for us to exist in.
What other businesses inspire you by what they're doing?
I really admire what Ludmilla from Iggy's Bread does for the earth and her business. Her level of care for our planet and the people inhabiting is truly relentless and inspiring.
I also admire the work of the people behind SeeMee. They’re operating in a way that ensures direct and positive impact on people’s lives.
Of course, I also adore everything Shannon is doing with Dharma Door - and that’s why I’m such a big supporter of the brand and am honoured to stock them in my shop. They embody the harmony of woven magic that I love and have an intention I align with behind their endeavour! From the type of weaving, the soft feel, the quality to the detail, the visual beauty and the fact that the products are ethically produced and are empowering communities that wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity, is all wonderfully potent and inspiring to me.
What drives you to get out of bed in the morning?
My family, dog and of course my flowers.
When do you feel most in your power?
When I am creating my own woven sculptures, or when I am doing a hanging floral installation that requires me to work in a massive frenzy of creation, beauty and movement! It’s a rush and I definitely get a natural high out of it - a wonderfully good feeling!
How do you best connect with yourself?
Probably when I do my Sydney coastal walk - Bronte to Bondi.
How do you best connect with others?
Through my flowers.
What do you believe in?
Respect, kindness, telling the truth, giving without expecting anything in return and loving unconditionally.
What is it that you love about women?
Our inner strength, no doubt.
What do you feel unifies women universally?
The fact that we go through so much, and that only another woman can truly understand and relate to that type of endurance and strength.
What is your one wish for women everywhere?
That we are given the respect that we deserve. Like all human beings deserve.
What are you looking forward to?
A few more days off!
What are your favourite home comforts?
My true comforts are a cup of tea in my favourite mug from E5 Bakery in London (a must to be checked out - their zero waste program is truly amazing, as is their incredible sourdough bread!), sitting on my sofa with a linen throw on my feet and a book or an interior design magazine in my lap makes me feel truly happy!
What is the one thing you'd like to share with the world?
I think we collectively must really pull it together and stop being selfish in order to truly care for our planet. Every reason the planet is being destroyed is as a result of people wanting to make more money, compounded by those who don’t want to take responsibility for the mess we’ve already made. It makes me really sad to see the number of people who are reluctant to change their day-to-day behaviours for the environment because of sheer laziness and for the sake of convenience. We need to return to our roots and more sustainable ways of living now.
Which Dharma Door piece do you have your eye on right now?
I have my heart set on some of the piecescoming up in the new collection - another beautiful curation!!
Words by Ellen Watts @_theatelier_
Photographs by David Pritchard and Shannon Sheedy
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