Up close and personal with the female floristry force behind creative duo Mark Antonia

7 January 2019
By Fashion Quarterly

No two days are the same for floral artist Antonia de Vere, who, with her husband, comprise the creative duo, Mark Antonia.

Antonia de Vere is the quirky, colourful half of floristry and design business Mark Antonia, alongside “multi-dimensional” husband Mark Seeney. We chat to the creative floral artist about her “chameleon-like” style, why she loves working with dried flowers and how she juggles her hectic schedule.

How would you describe your style?
My style is more architectural. My work has a lot of Japanese floral inspiration, from ikebana to wabi-sabi ideals. It’s hard to categorise what I do; I see myself less as a florist and more as a maker/artist, so naturally, I am inspired by design, sometimes more so than flowers. My style is rather chameleon-like; I dress and style my home via my emotions. While art and architecture are very serious, my personality is not and that comes out in the way I dress and how I live. I like to have fun with my appearance.

What do you love about your job?
Working with dried flowers means I have unlimited possibilities. I find you can be more creative with dried flowers than with fresh. I don’t have to worry about my arrangements perishing – they are, as I like to think of it, immortalised. I love the versatility of dried flowers and coming up with designs that no one has done before. It’s like being an Egyptologist of flowers.

How do you find working with your husband?
We are rather joined at the hip, and to be honest we have never known otherwise. I love being equal and I enjoy having a business with my husband. He’s proud of my work and I am equally proud of his work. We hardly ever fight. Mark is fantastic, he’s so multi-dimensional and smart. He develops the products I sometimes leave half-finished because I have to get back to flowers. Mark’s role is sometimes less obvious than mine but he works equally hard, if not harder, on the business. Mark’s furniture and work fill our living space. The man can make anything. I think he is a genius; he can fix any problem.

How did you two meet?
Mark and I met at uni; he was studying furniture and I was studying jewellery. He was such a nerd and I was so naughty. I hated the strict confines of a jewellery degree and didn’t finish it; he loved learning everything, and when he completed his furniture studies he went on to study architecture. We have been together for nearly 10 years.

What prompted you to go into business together?
Our business came about rather naturally. We started part time about five years ago with my flowers and then added Mark’s furniture and design. I created floral works in my downtime while working part-time. I started creating wedding flowers for friends and quickly built up a regular gig. When Mark finished school we got married – together we did everything for the wedding, from the flowers to the invites down to our first scented candle, Winter. Our Winter candle was our wedding scent – the scent filled the reception and everyone took home a smaller candle.
Our business intuitively grew from there and we haven’t looked back. I love our business; I’m extremely proud of what Mark and I have achieved in rather a short time.

Tell us about your space.
We are always changing our space; Mark and I can’t help it. At the moment we live and work out of a warehouse in Kingsland, Auckland. It’s split down the middle – one side is our studio/showroom, the other is our apartment. It’s quite a big space, more than we probably need, but for now we are happy here. Our studio, naturally, is filled with flowers – like trees, practically – hanging and drying on every wall or spare space. Almost everything is painted in our brand colours: putty pinks and sage greens. It’s a bit like a lolly shop of flowers, especially all the flowers in apothecary jars, which we also use for our seasonal candle and seasonal ‘Scented Dried’ range of fragranced dried flowers.

What came before floristry?
It feels like I have half-studied a lot of areas in the arts. First fashion, then jewellery, then floral design and aromatherapy. This is where I found I could channel all these artistic avenues into something which suited me.

What are your favourite projects?
My favourite projects are the ones I have a natural affinity for, the jobs that feed my creativity. I am such a visual person that often I see the project in my mind. I might not have the words always to convey that to my clients. But it’s the clients I have been so lucky to have. They trust my creative process and the more creative freedom I have, the better my work.

What does an ordinary day look like for you?
Every day is quite different for me because I have so many different jobs running at the same time. I start late; I would rather work into the evenings than get up at the same time every morning. I know that is a complete luxury; I’m extremely lucky. Every day is making flowers, and designing or communicating about a new project or product. I try to text at least one friend to tell them I love them each day because it’s almost impossible to make plans with me.

How do you switch off from work?
Switching off is very difficult when you have your own business and sleep right beside it. To switch off 100 percent is near impossible and there is no point in pretending there is a magical solution. I take time to have a quick power nap, I spend time with my cats, and Mark drags me to the park with the lure of a beer and putting our bare feet in the grass. I read when I can and spend time with people that enrich me rather than drain me. Sometimes I have to be selfish – or self-aware – and take time for myself, to energise my secret, introverted self. I love a good podcast too – I fill my head with history, facts, knowledge and exercise my brain. I’m studying Egyptology when I can, without the pressure. Online courses are wonderful. We get away to our bach, thick in native bush, to unwind.

Do you have any plans for this year?
We have big plans for our business and ourselves; we want to make more products in so many areas. I’ll never not be making flowers but I hope one day soon I’ll have more time to get the ideas I have in my head (and Mark has in his) into something tangible and real. I want to see so many projects take off but I can’t mention them right now as they are still beginning. We want to be closer to nature, which might mean moving out of the city. To be honest, we don’t 100 percent know our plans. What we do know is that Mark and I will always be creating. Not knowing everything, not having a blueprint, is terrifying but also exciting.

What floral trends are you seeing for the year ahead?
I see a trend towards the hyper, unreal, almost unnatural aesthetic, just like in makeup. Lots of people are sick of the messy ‘bed head and no makeup’ look. Glitter, metallics, brights – that’s where it’s at!

markantonia.com @mark.antonia.ltd

Words by: Fiona Ralph
Photography by: Helen Bankers


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