Local Creatives: Frances Palmer & Lisa Przystup
Collaboration is a concept we hold in the highest regard. The sparks that fly through a meeting of the minds is invigorating and the process is always inspiring. People that compliment one in other in personality or skill create the most thoughtful end results.
We had the pleasure of sharing the day with two of these kinds of very special people, Frances Palmer and Lisa Przystup. The talents of these two ladies are endless. Potter, gardener, and the most gracious host, Frances invited us to visit her gorgeous grounds in Westport, Connecticut. Her gardens are just teeming with excitement to bloom in the upcoming crisp weather. We invited the lovely and gifted florist/writer Lisa Przystup to join us at France’s garden to create the most whimsical, heart breaking arrangements (in France’s unique ceramic creations of course!)
We spent the entire day frolicking through Frances courtyard turned garden and fields of dahlias, sunflowers and marigolds (don’t be jealous, you can do the same at the upcoming Garden Conservatory Open Days). Weaving through aisle after aisle of precious blooms, we were enchanted by the perfect afternoon (just enough clouds to capture the magic) and these ladies expertise when it comes to the garden, flowers and home. We were happy to do a little styling with France’s stunning ceramics and Lisa’s completed work.
It may sound silly but our little hearts skipped a million beats while watching these women work. Awe-inspiring magic from these two! At the end of our shoot Frances treated us to a homemade plum torte and fresh verbena tea (picked straight from her garden) which just put us into a happiness coma for our ride home. Enough from us, take some time to get know these skilled women, their process and how they found themselves surrounded with flowers!
You have your hands in quite a bit of creative mediums. Walk us through a day in the life.
Making pottery, gardening and cooking are connected and sympathetic to each other. I think the underlying link is that ultimately, the process itself moves beyond my original intention. The work that I produce is more of a collaboration. Meaning, the clay and firing transforms the thrown form, the planted seed in the garden grows as it will in a hopefully fertile bed and the food that I cook changes by virtue of the stove/oven. I embrace these changes that occur beyond my control.
How did you find your way into gardening?
I grew up in New Jersey and my mother always had a flower and vegetable garden. Also, NJ is known as the garden state and we had dairies and farm stands quite nearby. When we moved out to CT, I was excited to have the opportunity to create a garden and especially grow flowers to use in conjunction with my ceramics
We love the idea you had to repurpose your tennis court into a garden! Please tell us more about that transformation.
The tennis court, which had been originally constructed in the 1930’s, was in disrepair when we purchased the house. Our children were then young, so we restored the court. In fact, none of us played tennis. I had wanted more space to garden and my husband suggested the court, as it was already fenced. I started with a few raised beds and am now up to quite a number. It gets full sun all day and the flowers and vegetables are very happy there.
Favorite time of day to shoot ceramics and fresh flowers?
First thing in the morning or last thing at night.
Your ceramics and fresh flower gardens speak beautifully to one another. Your handmadeceramics are so elegant yet whimsical in nature. As a potter, where do you find the balance inform and function?
I am a functional potter, so the first consideration is how the piece will work. I often make pots to hold a particular flower or food and so will throw the form accordingly. When I am at the wheel to finish the pot, it often guides me in the direction to follow to complete it.
So thrilled for your stunning gardens to be a part of The Garden Conservancy Open Daysprogram. Can you share some more details on this event?
Yes, this Saturday, September 12th, my gardens will be open from 10-4 PM to benefit the Garden Conservancy Open Days Program for Fairfield County CT. I believe that there are two other local gardens open that day. Then, also on the 12th from 4:30 - 6 PM there is a Digging Deeper event, which is a cocktail party. Details may be found at the gardenconservancy.org/opendays.
Best baked good to pair with a fresh arrangement while entertaining?
For an early morning, I often make a blueberry coffee cake to serve along with the flowers.
Thoughts on foraging?
My idea of foraging has greatly expanded this summer. I took a workshop in June with Erin Benzakein of floretflower.com and she opened my eyes to all of the wonderful flowers/fruits that already are blooming on my property and on the roads. Then, I was recently at a friend’s pollinator garden in Rhode Island. Many of the plants that I once regarded as weeds are actually great pollinators for the bees and butterflies. It amazes me how one can perceive something familiar so differently. Now, I love using everything in my arrangements.
Visit Frances Palmer’s website // insta
Lisa Przystup of James's Daughter Flowers:
We hear the early bird catches the worm, but seriously how early do you wake up as a florist?
Ugh. I’m terrible at this part. Guiltily not that early (I always set my alarm with the best of intentions though). Today was the exception to the rule: I woke at 6:00 am. It was still dark out. Just terrible.
What are those mornings like?
Regardless of how late or early I wake up the morning always looks the same: roll out of bed, make coffee, procrastinate, head out the door without breakfast, get to the market, buy a bunch of stuff, overestimate my capabilities and try to carry the impossible down to the subway (I don’t have a car). That usually ends two ways: 1. I actually make it to the subway and manage to take it back home (feeling self-conscious and neurotic the whole time that I’m pissing people off) or 2. I give in and take a cab.
We love that you are a slashie–A total multitalented queen. Tell us more about your day to day as a very talented florist and writer.
I’m a freelance copywriter for part of the week, I’m a freelance beauty writer another part of the week and I do flowers everywhere in between. This usually means that I really don’t have a day off but the nice thing is that I’m always doing something different.
Take us through your arranging thoughts (also known as your "process").
I know this sounds like a cop out but I don’t really have one. I usually do the whole “establish a base with greens, add in filler and top it off with some showstopper blooms” thing.
Florist babes all have a certain way with their blooms. What are three words to describe your arrangement style?
Wild. Rambling. Unstable.
Favorite moment from frockling in Frances's garden wonderland.
There’s something outrageously thrilling about being in a garden and just having flowers there to clip and use—it always feels like I’m somehow getting away with something. Stumbling upon that creamy beige dahlia that looked like it was lit from within was also a pretty great moment. Oh and of course plum cake and lemon verbena tea (we all can’t stop talking about it).
As a florist/writer with some serious style, which local designers are hanging in your closet?
Ilana Kohn. Some Tocca from when Emma Fletcher was designing for them. But mostly a lot of vintage and Zara.
Saying goodbye to summer is so bittersweet, what are some things you are looking forward to about the fall season.
I’m still in denial about summer ending and answering this question would totally ruin my carefully constructed delusion.