02 May Takako Mine
Interview & Photography by Kat Leung
Florist Takako Mine’s life journey has led her from Tokyo to New York City and now Taipei, where she has lived for the past 7 years. With a background in fine art and growing up between cultures, she has been nourished creatively for over a decade. Her flower design draws influences from the natural world, painters, arts, and mixed cultures, making her kind of floristry a true form of art. She loves the diverse and unique plants in Taiwan, and she enjoys working early in the morning in tranquility. With summer just around the corner, we visited Takako’s new shop Salon Flowers where things are wild with foliage and filled with a sea of Taiwanese seasonal colors, plants, and ceramics. We talked about the intuitive floristry she develops, her muses and inspirations, to her definition of a balanced life as a mother and a business owner.
Can you tell us about your background and the culture you encountered when you were growing up?
My family is not a typical Japanese family. My father is half-Indonesian as my grandfather married my Indonesian grandmother. This was quite rare at that time. My grandfather was working in an import company in Indonesia. My grandma was his secretary and she has 1/4 Dutch decent because, at that time, her home Manado was occupied by the Dutch. She could speak Dutch and English which made her quite international. After they got married, they moved back to Kyushu, a very male-dominated area in Japan and she had a very hard time as a woman. Eventually, my grandma decided to move to Tokyo to find work opportunities near the GHQ American Army. She worked at the telegraph center and then tried to make money for the whole family. She started her business, opening the very first Indonesian restaurant in Japan and she took care of everyone till she passed away. I always think I am very much influenced by her. She had a strong business mind and was forward-thinking. The restaurant was like a social center for all the Indonesian officials. She even decided to move back to Indonesia to open the first Japanese restaurant. My father graduated from high school and started running the restaurant in Tokyo all by himself.
I grew up in this unique family and went to an all-girls school for years. At that time, my dream was to become a kindergarten teacher and get married. Yet when I started an internship at a kindergarten, I realized I didn’t like it at all. I got really lost and thought I could try illustration. Then a friend suggested to me to study fine art in New York. I was lucky as my parents really supported me, but at that time, New York was very discriminating and there were not many Asian students. I learned to live on my own in a totally new world.
From Japan to New York and then to Taipei, how has the cultural differenced influence you?
The first two years were really hard for me. New Yorkers were so cold. I was not used to studying with the crazy boys at school. I had a lot of culture shock and my English was not good at all. I felt lonely, but slowly I started to enjoy and learn how to handle loneliness. I found that New Yorkers were very happy in solitude. I would sometimes read a book or go to the free museum to spend my time. Being alone makes thing simple. I saw a different world in my college friends as their lives were so simple. They didn’t have a lot of things; they were very clear on what they want to do. Even just reading a book with an apple, they could fully enjoy and feel very happy.
How did you decide to become a florist?
I worked in a window display company in New York for a while, but slowly I got tired of being surrounded by dried fake deco materials. Finally, I decided to move back to Tokyo. Back then, a good friend of mine opened up a flower shop, so I naturally started working there. Growing up, my surroundings had always involved flowers. I remembered there was a colorful flower shop in front of my childhood house. I love how flowers are seasonal and full of various scent. Later, I worked in a Japanese company called HP France as a florist. It was a lifestyle and fashion chain which was probably the first select shop in Japan. They always found unique staff to manage different shops, and I was given the chance to be the head buyer in their pioneer concept shop that included furniture, antiques, flowers and a hair salon. I travelled a lot to France, visiting factories and trade shows. However, I was fed up as the work always revolving around fast fashion and following trends. Later after I got married, I decided to focus on my values and become an independent florist.
What made you decide to move to Taipei?
I actually had never thought of moving to Taipei. The thought began after the 3.11 earthquake when people were really discouraged and stressed in Tokyo. My husband, our 3-year-old daughter, and I came to Taipei for a getaway trip. I’ve always thought about giving my daughter a foreign education environment, during our stay in Taiwan, we visited schools and thought would be nice to let our daughter study different languages here. I also visited the local flower markets and found a lot of interesting local plants here. Since Tokyo and Taipei are so close, I felt that I could move here, start my business, and take care of my daughter at the same time. Now, that was almost 7 years ago. For me, it is very important to establish something of my own. I always prefer to work professionally as opposed to only staying home as a mother. In Taiwan, people are really friendly and stress-free, where I can just be myself, versus in Japan where we always need to be polite and restrain ourselves, because Japanese care too much about how others think. Therefore, I think Taiwan is a better environment to educate kids. Taipei is very convenient and compact, so I don’t need to spend a lot time in transportation or traffic. Everything is smooth and quick, and I can manage my time easily.
How would you describe yourself?
I am a really curious person, and I love to meet different people. I am very direct in terms of expressing myself; I always tell what I like and dislike.
How do you find your inspirations and explore new ways/styles of arrangement?
Mixing different cultures. I love mixing the exotic Taiwanese local plants with the western style. In my mind, I have many cultures mixing together. I admire Chinese and Japanese culture and love to mix them with flexibility.
I love visiting antique markets for vintage findings. Old things keep me inspired all the time, and I enjoy quiet observations, like visiting museums and looking at paintings and colors, as well as reading different art publications.
Can you tell us your typical work day?
I wake up at around 5:30am and send my daughter to school by 7am. Sometimes, I visit a farm on Yangmingshan to pick seasonal plants and buy vases in a small market in Beitou. I usually work until 3pm and I’d pick up my daughter, then we cook dinner and eat together. I sleep before 10pm just like a farmer. I’ve always been a morning person. Night people love to watch movies and I don’t really enjoy movies that much.
How do you define beauty? What is the essence of a beautiful object?
The definition of beauty changes through time and age. I think original and primitive shapes are very pretty. I love simplicity. For the look of a woman, I don’t like too much makeup and styling. I always believe that beauty comes from within. It’s important that you are not influenced by too many exterior things but have a strong concept for yourself. You need to trust yourself in order to be confident.
It’s always difficult to keep your own ground and stand for what you believe. When you feel insecure or not sure about your decision, what would you usually do?
Everyday I still encounter that, although it is getting better. I think just the everyday experience helps us practice and brings confidence. I usually just try to do everything step by step and stay consistent. Doing something simple but repetitive everyday, like knitting, cleaning up, or gardening, works as my practice. Sometimes if you don’t know what to do, you’ll need to wait. These simple works occupy the mind and have meditative and calming effects. I prefer continuing on things that I started rather than complaining about the process.
How do you balance your life and work as well as your relationships with family and friends?
As a mom, a wife, and a business owner, it’s really difficult, yet I try to enjoy different phases and find the balance in between. I think my main job is still a mother; my daughter will always be my first priority. I’ve never hired a helper and sometimes I would work too much that my daughter would become cranky, but I have also learned to ask her to work with me. To me, working with kids is also an education. I want her to enjoy being surrounded by plants and to influence her to be creative. Although my daughter still complains sometimes, now she understands the situation of teamwork. Thing are getting better by going with the flow and allowing time to balance all things.
Tell us your favorite style to dress in?
It depends on the season. Most of the time, I wear really simple. I can also be very colorful when I get bored. I love jewelry as it can bring a look to a different level, further presenting the wearer’s character and taste. Also, it is something that you can enjoy and keep for a long time. Whenever you see jewelry on a person, you can very much tell what kind of person he or she is. However, it could be tricky sometimes as jewelry can be worn to show one’s social status.
What kind of people or characteristics would attract you? And what kind of creation would attract you?
I’ve always liked Jane Birkin. Tasha Tudor, an American illustrator, is also my muse and role model. She has a strong character and she has done her work persistently for years. Her garden brings happiness to people and she plants every seed to make her garden bigger and better. I respect her work and lifestyle very much.
In terms of creativity, I’ve always liked abstract artists such as Monet and Rothko. I like things or colors that are ambiguous and unclear. The works of French feminine visual artist Annette Messager is also very inspiring. Her sculptures and installations always explore between colors, dreams, and memories. It’s very provocative.
In this fast-paced informative generation, what kinds of articles trigger you to read?
I don’t read a lot online. It is very tiring like fashion. I hope we can have less internet and more real connection. We always want to share but forget to enjoy the present. We are all addicted, but we should not confuse them with the true important things in life.
Do you like reading? Do you enjoy being in solitude?
I face a lot of people at work, so I really need time to be alone. That’s why I wake up early or I go to cafes by myself. I love reading traditional Japanese literature like the books by Kawabata Yasunari. I also love reading stories with a strange twist, such as the beautiful but dark tale of “Le Grand Cahier.” I was greatly influenced by this book.
What brings you into tranquility and helps center your mind?
I would go to the mountain. Bath time is also very important for me. I would put on my favorite aroma oil, light a candle, or read a book.
If you can leave your current surrounding, where do you want to go for a break?
Morocco. I am very interested in its fusion of Spanish and African culture. There are many exotic plants and flowers, and I always want to visit places with unique plants.
To keep on doing one thing with persistency is always difficult. How have you discovered your personal belief and practice with consistency?
I have trusted my sixth senses very much since I was small. Whenever I start something, I always follow my own judgement.
How do you decide on the final look of a flower/plant arrangement?
I would make it till I am convinced to pay for it myself. I prefer less design and respect the original shape of plants. If the arrangement looks stiff and unnatural, I will try to fix it. The container is the only a thing human can control, so picking a nice container and vase for my arrangements is a very important job. Also, I would always try to make my work look good even when it dries out.
I am not a florist who mirrors someone else’s style. I want people to like my personal design and I am not interested in making my business big. I simply just like the idea of people coming to my shop and picking up flowers for themselves or for others to be happy.
What’s next step for you? We know that you opened your own shop this year. Can you tell us more about your shop, Salon Flowers?
One of the reasons I decided to open the salon is to share my ideas in a well curated space. I want to encourage people to buy seasonal flowers in any occasion, even if it’s just one flower. Flowers have the magic to heal people in their busy lives. Even the simple scent of rosemary can make people feel a bit different and refreshed. Placing plants in the house can also bring the surrounding a different aura. Even when you see the flowers die, it can still look beautiful. I hope incorporating flowers and plants can slowly become a practiced lifestyle and habit for everyone. At our shop, we also teach people how to take care of the plants instead of encouraging them to buy new ones. I want people to see the shop just as a local neighborhood bakery, which integrates into our livings. We will also have different kinds of workshops, such as knitting and calligraphy activities to add some sparks to our daily lives.
In a hidden corner by Yitong Park lies the stunningly curated Salon by Takako Mine, reflecting Takako’s philosophy and artistic expressions.
It is a space filled with seasonal flowers and greeneries, providing creative classes that elevate the experiences of an ordinary floral shop. The presence of Salon Flowers leaves a beautiful mark in Taipei, where the busy city still remains an oasis of blossomed hearts.
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