"Statement Art Houseplants that you can't kill!"
I went over to Caroline's studio in Seven Sisters to chat about her brand Brazen Botany which I discovered during the lockdown. Since its inception in 2020, it has been stocked at Liberty London and was nominated for the 2021 Independent awards modern crafter award.
So, Brazen Botany…How did you come up with the name?
I was toying with names for ages. I’m drawn towards bold colour combinations and graphic shapes and wanted the brand name to reflect this. I tend to imagine that the things I make take on personality traits and characteristics of their own. For me these plants were oozing personality and were making no attempt to hide it, so wanted this to come across in the name too. I love word play and alliteration, so my friend and I were toying with a few ideas like - bodacious botanics, flagrant foliage, perennial papers - and then Brazen Botany just stuck!
And how do you describe your pieces?… Do you call them sculptures?
Yes, they’re statement art houseplants or botanical sculptures. I’ve always been drawn towards objects and 3D art and love that these colourful art pieces are standing proud in people’s homes.
What was your journey to starting Brazen botany?
I’ve always been creative and loved working with my hands. I’ve never had much patience for drawing or painting on flat surfaces but can spend hours problem solving 3D creations. I studied ceramic design in at NCAD in Dublin. It was a 4-year degree and towards the end I was desperate to express my ideas in a wider range of materials than clay alone. I had become obsessed with large scale installation art and then set design which seemed to be the perfect career choice for me as it was both commercial and creative.
My set design career began working for Shona Heath and later Andy Hillman, this experience was invaluable. I was lucky to work alongside them and several industry leading creatives over the next 7 years. Our projects were always creative and often extravagant, every day we made impossible happen. After 7 years I felt I was ready to move on and explore my own ideas. Working in the set design industry is physically demanding and the hours are often unpredictable. And then the pandemic happened, and all my work suddenly stopped.
What was the lockdown experience like for you?
This was unsettling but also gave me the opportunity to fully throw myself into personal projects. I felt I had nothing to lose which was liberating, lockdown gave me the head space to explore and experiment on my own terms which was something I had been craving. I temporarily moved into my boyfriend’s flat, we thought lockdown was only going to last for 3 weeks! Like most apartments in London, our space was limited and every day I would take the duvet off the bed and use the mattress as a makeshift workspace and that’s where Brazen Botany was born.
With the lockdown, I felt it provided so many of us with a hard pause to take stock and ask the questions, Why am I doing this, how am I doing it and do I still want to do this and having you that then to just experiment is such a luxury that we don't even realise until we don't get it - having the space to play around with this until we get it right. While working a full-time job, most of us don't have the time to do this, and it's such a shame because this is where the magic is created.
Exactly! After I had finished the initial prototypes, lockdown kept dragging on, I started thinking about what should come next and began working on the packaging and then making an online shop. Every week that went by allowed me to push things a little further until the plants started to resemble a finished product. It was rare for me to have this much time and head space to see a personal project all the way through.
And I think appeal to the plant adverse, or places that don't have light - I worked in a basement office for 3 years, and it drove me mad, but having one of these on my desk would've lifted my mood.
It’s so true! I know a lot of people are specifically looking for plants that are suitable for low light spaces, my plants live in a lot of bathrooms for example. They’re also perfect for people who generally struggle with keeping plants alive. They’re safe for animals which was something I hadn’t realised was an issue among houseplant lovers as many plants are toxic to animals. And then obviously many people are just drawn to the bold colour combos which are an instant mood booster!
This is the thing, all these new builds keep putting bathrooms in the centre of the home away from any windows, so I think you are genius for being able to provide botanical art for those anti-plant places around the house, and also anti-plant people!
How do your cactus sculptures differ from your other plant sculptures?
The cacti are more organic looking than my usual graphic plants which makes for a nice for a change. They’re made from a pliable textured paper as opposed to smooth craft paper. This paper requires specific techniques: folding, pleating, pulling, and tweaking to become lantern-like in form. Once the paper is manipulated it almost takes on a mind of its own and moves in unexpected ways, allowing me to create these unique forms. Your right, the paper suits the cactus form which are accordion-like, allowing them to expand and shrink.
While making, do you get lost in flow?
Yes, that’s my favourite part. If I’m problem-solving new prototypes time fly's by and when working on repeat orders, I listen to podcasts back-to-back. Thankfully as soon as lockdown ended, I could get back into the studio and expand and refine production in a more suitable way!
I think the colours and the textures are part of your signature style; your fun contrast and use of colours just spark joy. They are very uplifting.
That goes back to the name Brazen; they are loud and proud.
The contrast in your work and colours is so much fun and sparks joy when I look at them.