As a child, Thilde Maria Haukohl Kristensen spent a lot of time at her grandmother’s farm in the Thy district of western Denmark. Kristensen is the founder and creative director of Copenhagen-based floral design studio Poppykalas, which is releasing a new series of prints this month.
“[That’s] where I was first introduced to flowers as an art form,” writes Kristensen in an email. “My grandmother used to paint huge flower bouquets with a special layering technique that created a sort of 3D effect, and she always made flower decorations in big porcelain bowls around the house. She would also paint on the walls, and on pillows—there were no rules, like in Pippi Longstocking’s Villa Villakulla.”
Despite the early indoctrination into the power and beauty of flora, Kristensen took a winding route to floral design. She holds a B.A. in theatre, and a master’s degree in modern culture and cultural communications. “I worked with communication and public relations in performing arts for more than 15 years, specializing in theatre and contemporary dance,” she notes. “Only after becoming a mother for the second time did I finally decide to go into the world of flowers.”
Poppykalas Floral Design Studio officially opened in 2016, and Kristensen’s dramatic, expressive arrangements quickly caught the eyes of companies, publications, and designers around the world. Soon she was collaborating with, and providing floral styling for events and campaigns, for big names including Fritz Hansen, Bang & Olufsen, Ferm Living, Nike, Copenhagen Fashion Week, and more. Her work could be described as maximalist, sometimes bordering on garish, and it is a refreshing turn from the ubiquitous minimalism that has taken over the design world in the past decade. There’s something about brightly colored, overstuffed floral arrangements that feed our guilty pleasure in extravagance, and the aesthetic wildness runs against the grain of neat and tidy bouquets to emulate the idea of plants left in nature to grow at their own will.
“While my educational background might seem far from the floral world, I draw on my insight into modern culture and the performing arts when composing my floral arrangements,” Kristensen writes. “Flowers make me feel something and connect with nature. They calm me and make me happy (most of the time). I feel so lucky to be able to touch flowers every day.”
On November 1, Poppykalas is releasing a new collection of art prints featuring six photographs of flowers situated in different elements including water, grass, sky, marble, stone, and sand. Called Flowers for your Lungs, the series evolved from the idea that flowers and elements have a calming effect on our nervous system, similar to someone taking deep breaths. Some of the flowers in the images take on an almost fake quality with their vibrant coloring—one shot, of a bouquet in water with a purple plastic spray bottle floating nearby, has electric blues, neon oranges, and deep purples. Kristensen notes that this is purposeful, and goes on to say that she wants her work to evoke an emotional reaction in its viewers.
”Like an expressionistic painter I’m trying to distort our perception of flowers by changing their colors a little bit like I did with the blue gerbera, which in itself is a very hated flower. I think it deserves a second chance,” she writes. ”The flower itself looks artificial from nature’s hand and I love to play with that. I’m very inspired by crossovers between the senses. I would love to [be able] immerse ourselves between the colors and shapes in the pictures. The intention is to prompt different emotions in the viewer. When you make a close up of a bigger picture you can hopefully create a feeling of prescience in the viewer’s body.”