Who are you?

My name is Melanie Stapleton and I am the founder and creative director of Cecilia Fox, a floral studio guided by a deep devotion to the natural world. I’m more than that too—I am a mother, friend, sister, daughter, partner, dreamer, lover and gardener. 

Why floristry?

Floristry was something that found me. When I was 16, I started working at a suburban florist shop in Auckland, New Zealand and I just felt something. That something has held on to me tightly for over 27 years. I have melded and moulded what floristry means to me over the years, and it in turn is constantly changing and challenging me to expand what I think is possible.

Your works are often very organic in their form. Is this intentional? So as to mimic your medium growing in its natural environment?

Our work is intentionally organic, the idea is to create a dreamscape of nature, not to mimic nature exactly but to be a transcendent homage to nature. To honour all of nature not just the pretty or nice but the dirty, ugly, messy parts. Our work is somewhere between sculpture and compost. 

How important is it to you to be connected with the natural world on a daily basis?

The natural world is what feeds me and holds me. Living in the city doesn’t always afford us the luxury of being deep in nature but things as simple as cooking, house plants, mindful breathing and moving my body outside keep me connected. I have just spent four months camping with my family, being outside in nature all day, every day, and I can say that I have never felt more myself.

How do you care for yourself?

Caring for myself has always been challenging, I’m an enduring pleaser. When I am deep in a season at work, it is incredibly hard to find time for myself among the needs of clients, staff, the flowers, my children and my other relationships. I tend to bury myself in work because that is where I feel safe and where I feel worthy. 

The period when we were not working due to COVID-19 was the longest time I had off my business EVER. It was a gift. I started running most days and that has become a treasured time to be by myself, to be in nature and to tame my erratic brain. I learn to take care of myself more each day. When I think about rituals, my instinct is to say that I don’t have any, but on closer consideration, I do! I suppose I always think of rituals as things like “I meditate every morning” or “I moisturise my face every night,” and those things are not really me. As a family, we always sit and eat together in the evening. We also read bedtime stories to our children.

How does the natural world influence and/or inspire your creative process?

The things within nature that inspire me and drive me right now are mostly related to cycles and to sustainability. Creating both a sustainable business and life means more than environmental sustainability.
How do we sustain and support the wellbeing of everyone and everything within our community? How do I create a business that has longevity and sustains myself and my family creatively, financially and physically? 

Often my creative process is not that creative, it’s responding to a very strict brief. I am always trying to bring a softness and a lightness while at the same time fulfilling the client’s demands. That includes steering them gently toward what is in season and leaving room for a little bit of magic.

What does it mean to you to be well?

For a long time, I felt that my self worth and my sense of achievement was tied up in my job and who I was in that job. Being well to me means having the time and space to find the joy in life and not searching for that in a crammed work calendar.

We live in a society that is increasingly disconnected from the natural world. How important do you think a meaningful connection with nature is on both a personal and community level?

Connection to the natural world helps us to engage with empathy and that is incredibly important. We feel connected when we are in nature because we are nature. 

When and how do you feel most fulfilled?

When I have my hands in the dirt, when I am holding my babies and when I am creating and sharing.