This London native loves her city, and not in a generic or dutiful way. With a burn of history at her back that bolsters an appreciation of her roots, Tania Dupon-Martinez is a blooming beauty in Forest City drawing inspiration from her personal relationships accented by her love of nature. Her days are spent cultivating community and experiencing all the natural beauty London has to offer. These passions are effortlessly reflected in her picture-perfect bouquets masterfully arranged in her quaint shop, and artisan prints crafted lovingly by hand on a 19th-century press. Here, Tania shares her design process, her love for London, the challenges of mixing work and art, and perhaps most importantly — where to find the best hummus in town.
HOW DID YOU START YOUR BUSINESS?
Tania Floral Design started as I imagine most small businesses start... as a true labour of love. It still very much is, and it's just growing and becoming more balanced in combination of pleasure and reward. I suppose I started my business very quietly — almost as a secret. After working in a retail floral shop for years and apprenticing under a designer at a flower shop in town, I started becoming more confident in my own eye and approach to design. I was more sure of the techniques I was using and was learning how to properly care and handle flowers; this allowed me to really have fun and explore shape, structure, and beauty through floral. I found myself leaving my 9-5 job with bunches of floral. Once I found my own "home" in the wonderful world of flowers, I stayed there. I was excited and energized by being able to communicate with colour, shape, and the botanical meaning of a stem. This love just look over; it was really very natural and I just followed my heart. I would get home from work and keep designing, keep exploring, and keep adventuring in my own little floral world. Soon a part of the process became documenting and photographing my work to create a portfolio. As I started sharing my own creations and designs on my social media and website, I started getting inquiries. Inquiries for custom orders, to be a part of artisan markets and fairs, to run workshops, and then design florals for weddings... to which I said yes to anything and everything! In the beginning I was trying to do it all - for a couple years I was working for a florist here in town, freelancing for weddings and special events, and still keeping up with my own orders and events on the side. There was definitely a point where I reached a fork in the road; it felt like my own business and designs were catching enough steam to take the plunge and jump into the self-employment fast lane. But I was pretty terrified of that, so I took my time — ha! After moving from a home studio into the truly majestic and wonderful space of Parker Branch (also known as the first N+1 Cycle headquarters) my florist's heart started to dance with a little more hip action. Soon after I got connected with the London Small Business Centre, which was a huge game-changer for me. I got in touch with a fabulous business advisor (shout out to John Anagnostou at the SBC!) who not only mentored, educated, and supported me, but he — honest to goodness — was a light who believed in what I could do as a young entrepreneur. Meeting him was a very special and imperative step to start my business. It's pretty lovely to think how powerful and positive supporting one another can be; it's a virtue I hope to always grow in. Anyhow, to anyone wanting to start a business: I would say that mentorship in this sort of formal capacity is key. Plus, the government has got money to give you! So I mean.. it's pretty straight-forward! Get that dough — get that guidance. It has been a great experience and since getting involved with grant programs available to young entrepreneurs I've definitely grown as a business owner and I've seen the very real fruit of that labour. Tania Floral Design is coming up on one loud and proud year, my math skills are getting better, the flowers are blooming, and business continues to grow, surprise, and keep me really happy! So I guess that's a big "Woohoo!" to working hard and following your dreams!
‘‘I get most of my inspiration from the people I love, the people I keep close to me that always bring me insight or comfort my true blues. I think people have the capacity to really impact you in beautiful ways.’’
YOUR ARRANGEMENTS ARE
DIFFERENT EVERY SEASON, DOES THAT SOLEY DEPEND ON THE SEASON?
My designs all depend on what is in season. I try to use as much local product as possible; it's better quality as it lasts longer. Often times what I am designing reflects the colours that are in bloom. It's the feel of the season and the colours that you find naturally while walking down the street.
EVERY FLORIST HAS A CERTAIN
WAY WITH THEIR BLOOMS. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE?
Unstructured by design, inspired by nature, and typically I am drawn to a softer more saturated pallet. It's garden inspired — more flow, more movement.
WHERE DO YOU FIND YOUR INSPIRATION?
It's always different depending on what I'm working on, but if it's an arrangement, I'm most inspired by nature. I spend a lot of time walking, hiking, and just soaking up my surroundings. If there is a tree in front of me I'm focusing on the way it's growing differently. I pay a lot of attention to the organic shapes in my environment and gain inspiration from the beauty of nature.
ALONG WITH FLORAL DESIGN, YOU ALSO DABBLE IN PRINTMAKING, TELL US MORE ABOUT THAT?
The awesome thing about working for yourself and doing what you love is that you get to work for yourself and do what you love! If that's rooted in a creative exchange sometimes it can take away from your creative process; all of a sudden you're mixing pleasure with business. Which is a fortunate thing that not many people get to do! But at times, especially when you're creating multiple arrangements on a deadline or have specifications that limit your creativity, it is a little bit of a constraint. It's interesting — I have friends who are artists who specifically make sure they don't intersect work with their art. They are afraid that it's going to take away from the beauty and the freedom they get from their art; it's like mixing the two is this really anxious idea. I understand that — I have found that I need to have other outlets or mediums that I can invest into, that are just me. For me, it's totally printmaking. The theme is always floral or a botanical, herbs, or cuts of foliage a different way to appreciate the nature I find so inspiring. I really value carving drawing out the print, carving it, and then printing it. It's such a freeing experience. It's an intricate and slow process; you can't rush it. I've even tried to carve in front of other people and it's ended up being a disaster. So, I have learned it is this deeply intimate relationship between your sketch, your carving, and your print. It slows me down I rely on it to keep me balanced, to keep me happy.
AS A CREATIVE, WHAT DOES
BEAUTY MEAN TO YOU — WHAT CAPTIVATES YOUR ATTENTION?
Not to be redundant, but the things I find most beautiful or the things I'm most struck by are things that I find in nature. There is such an honest and raw element to growth — like a sprig growing in between the crack in the sidewalk. I think that's why I bring so much of that natural movement into my work — I am always so blown away by how things grow in nature. Just like a flower grows towards the sun, it's not taught or confined to anything. I also find a lot of beauty in personal interactions or the individuality of a person. Often times if I am designing for someone, I will ask questions that give me a deeper insight into who they are as a person. Whether it is for a bride or someone's birthday, I try to capture those feelings a person can evoke with the design and shape of what I am creating.
SO YOUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH PEOPLE ARE A HUGE SOURCE OF INSPIRATION?
Yeah, I would say that my work is deeply personal for that reason. Every interaction or conversation that I have in a day — or just my relationships really — impact the way I create. I am very reflective and I go inward a lot. Whether it's someone really lovely that you are graced to be friends with or a supportive and caring mentor, the individuality of a person is what makes them special and unique — whether they are soft or sweet or hilarious. I get most of my inspiration from the people I love, the people I keep close to me that always bring me insight or comfort my true blues. I think people have the capacity to really impact you in beautiful ways.
IN YOUR OPINION, WHY DO YOU BELIEVE IT'S IMPORTANT TO IMMERSE YOURSELF IN YOUR LOCAL CULTURE/COMMUNITY?
I think it's important because there are so many tangible, unique, and really special things happening right outside your door. For example, my neighbour across the street and I connected over gardening as soon as I moved into the shop. She welcomed me onto Stanley with such warmth and I feel like I won the jackpot with our friendship because she's got such beautiful soul, along with a lifetime of stories and wisdom. Our friendship has taught me a lot about the loveliness that comes along with being connected to your community and loving your neighbour. I am so thankful for my location at 99.5 Stanley Street; I have gotten to know so many wonderful people just from being active and contributing to our neighbourhood. Nan across the street, Sue just a couple blocks over, other amazing business owners that are around this area. There are so many people in this city who are making beautiful art or creating beautiful sounds or living in a really beautiful, astonishing, truly marvellous way. I have found that being connected to my community and allowing there to be a space to learn about others and how they live to be very inspiring.For instance, making time to read Misha Bower's book (Music for Uninvited Guests) or listening to Megan Arnold (as Shhh) or heading down to the Arts Project to marvel at Angie Quick's paintings - there is so much local talent and so many business owners in this city to familiarize yourself with that have really creative and unique ways of seeing the world.I have always loved living in this community, you know, learning about our history and the people who have contributed to our communities throughout the decades or currently. There are so many people, especially in the downtown core, with interesting stories of how they got where they are — it's really interesting and fascinating to hear. There is so much to learn from them every day and it's definitely encouraging to be a part of your local community.
IT'S INTERESTING THAT YOU MENTIONED THAT YOU'VE ALWAYS LOVED LIVING IN LONDON, I FIND THAT'S NOT ALWAYS THE CASE, ESPECIALLY WITH CREATIVE PEOPLE.
It's not too common, though I have always been described as a through and true optimist so I think that has something to do with it. Not to be cheesy or a total nerd, but I think that has been influenced by my family heritage — and how my parents grew up. Both of my parents' upbringing but especially my mom — her life story — her story of growing up and being a young 20-something, has really influenced me. I often think about the challenges she had to overcome as an immigrant to Canada and how it's always impacted our family. It's been a huge part of my life just knowing the struggles that my family had to overcome to enjoy life here in Canada having been from Guatemala. I am always reminded of how good our lives are here and how much we have to be grateful for. I feel very fortunate that I can start my own business and work for myself — that I can enjoy beautiful things every day. Mind you, I do have to work my butt off every day to keep that sustained but it is a privilege that I have and I can recognize and appreciate that. I think that's why I have always been such an optimist. I think that's always been the theme; admiring my mother and what she had to go through and her being the most important lady in my life. I'm really grateful to enjoy a good life. So, I don't complain about London because we're really lucky in Canada. And in respect to being a business owner, staying in London has been a smart business move. I've done a lot of work in different cities, but I feel that London is the perfect spot to start a small business. For florals in particular, the market isn't saturated with the style of design that I do — it's more common in cities like Toronto. The rent in London is less expensive, the community is smaller and wonderfully encouraging, and the Small Business Centre here is incredible; there are a lot of tools to get you started and get you up on your feet.
YOU MENTIONED EARLIER HOW YOU LOVE BEING IN NATURE,
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE SPOTS IN THE CITY?
A good friend of mine owns a home with one of the most beautiful gardens I've ever seen. Her home was the first house built in Blackfriars in 1855 and originally sat on 2O acres of land stretching from Riverside to Oxford. The original owner was Alexander Leslie, who was a market gardener and nurseryman supplying flowers to flower shops and markets around the city. Their garden and property is now an acre but his incredible legacy lives on with the heirloom peonies, cherry trees, and rose bushes that are stronger than ever and so alive on their property. Walking through their garden, thinking about the land's history and marvelling at their magnolias is definitely a treasure. Their garden is one of my favourite places in the city — it's way too gorgeous. But I also really love to just bike to the cities outskirts, find a random dirt road to peddle down and dream about a farmhouse and a barn that I might own one day — ha! Usually I'll head out towards Denfield, pack up a blanket and a lino block, and try to find a perfect plot of grass where I can work on a carving. One of the best parts about London is that it doesn't take much to get outside of the city and be surrounded by fields and quieter sounds.
HOW ABOUT NON-NATURE, URBAN SPOTS, ANY FAVOURITES?
To be honest, this little shop is one of my favourite places on the entire planet. Can that be my answer? I love it for many reason but especially because of the awesome folks that were in this space before I was and what they did with it before me. I really admire the guys at N+1 Cycle and Parker Branch — Anna and Jason are some of the most amazing people I have ever met and the things that they did with Parker Branch was very profound and incredibly lovely. This place holds a lot of history and I love being in here. It's a cute little tiny shop that has really rocks my world. But I also love City Lights Bookshop. I'll get lost in there any day. It's a nice little tranquil spot to sit and get lost in a book. The Hyland Theater too; being able to sneak out of work and walk 5 minutes to see a film that you can't see anywhere else in the city is a dream.
WHERE DO YOU LIKE TO EAT/DRINK?
The London Brewing Co-op; I friggen love their Pound Galena. Whether you're picking up a growler, having a pint at The Root Cellar or sitting down on location at the brewery. It's awesome. Jeff and Ellie have it going on, so super cheers to them. It's a rad space with beautiful beer. I also really love Rebel Remedy. I feel like every time I eat/drink something from there I turn into superwoman. Everything is just jam-packed with the best product — those two ladies really know what they are doing.
WHAT'S ONE QUESTION YOU WISH PEOPLE ASKED YOU MORE OFTEN?
Where to get the best hummus in London? (laughs)
AND WHERE WOULD ONE FIND THE BEST HUMMUS IN LONDON?
The Shawarma Shop at Wharncliffe and Euclid! It's so smooth, it's almost unbelievable. I don't know how they do it but if you're ever in a pinch, they've got your potluck contribution figured out!