A story about our embroidered Intuit Tee collaboration with Vancouver-based floral designer Eriko Semitsu.
I first met Eriko Semitsu when I entered the creative industry and founded Vestige Story. Before Eriko, I had no idea “floral designer” was an actual occupation.
In fact, my initial impression was that a “floral designer” must be a la-di-da title for a “florist”. This prejudice quickly dispelled. From making deconstructed bouquets at photo shoots to dressing models head-to-toe in blooms to creating raw and rustic arrangements, Eriko’s flowers never ceased to amaze. It was never just about the aesthetic either. Her pieces always conveyed her own intentions and reflected her Japanese culture.
I picked up the t-shirt we collaborated on. We had embroidered the phrase “The end is just another beginning”, in Eriko’s own handwriting, onto the side of the tee.
Eriko had never hesitated when it comes to chasing new dreams.
We are often stalled by the fear of change when it comes to chasing dreams. The idea of cutting off a comfortable routine can be discomforting. Starting anew takes both guts and consideration.
Eriko, however, had never been afraid of letting go. To her, fresh starts were rejuvenating, and often, necessary.
She was born in the Yamaguchi Prefecture, in a small town in Japan. Life at home was simple, yet comfortable. She lived with her parents, her sister and her grandparents. Despite having little travelling experience, she decided to make the first big change of her life, and moved 100 miles north to the big city of Fukuoka to study Economics.
The changes did not stop there. After navigating the routine life of a Japanese salary-woman, she decided it was time for another move. She resigned from her administrative job at an international corporation and decided to pursue a creative career somewhere far, far away. Alone yet determined, she moved across the Pacific Ocean to Vancouver, Canada.
“Were you ever scared?” I inquired.
“Not at all,” she replied without hesitation. “I always trusted how my heart felt.”
Upon arriving in Canada in her early twenties, Eriko felt like it was time to reset her life yet again. She had a stable job that paid well. Yet, she felt the desire to do more. Her heart wasn’t happy. She had no idea what was in store, but only knew that she needed to let go in order to achieve more.
She reached back to her early roots. Flowers were her first love, her first dream. In an essay she wrote in kindergarten, she revealed that she wanted to become a florist when she grew up.
This passion likely stemmed from her Grandpa. He was madly in love flowers. A variety of plants always bloomed in her home’s garden. The sun room attached to the house was also filled to the brim with flowers, so much so that there was barely room for the young Eriko to play in.
Grandpa stayed in his garden all morning and all night. Eriko would watch him tend to his plants and occasionally help out with watering. Between caring for flowers, he would sit at his desk and write. Eriko recalled him being a bit of an eccentric scholar. He vigorously studied the culture of foreign countries, and enjoyed discussions about women’s rights.
As Eriko’s parents were busy with work, her play times were spent mainly with her Grandpa and Grandma.
“Grandma used to tell me that there is a bowl inside of each of us,” Eriko recalled. “And that bowl has a limit to how much it can hold in our lives.
In order to gain new experiences, absorb new values, form new thinking, the process of making space in that bowl is necessary. Every decade is akin to a new stage of life, and there will come a time when you need to let go and start again."
Grandma’s wise words also permeates Eriko’s craft. One’s taste, current trends and seasons are all important factors in floral design. Yet, a design cannot be overly considered. A designer must also learn to let go of rules. This is evident in some of Eriko’s works, where she opt to use dried or dead flowers instead of perfect blooms.
“But what is next after letting go?” I asked, picturing the process in my head.
“That’s the perfect time to start anew,” Eriko smiled. “It requires a lot of courage. It’s okay to think back to what you have done, there is no need to discard everything. It’s more about continuing to challenge yourself. By finding new aspects of yourself, only then can you grow.”
“You know yourself best,” she continued. “It’s easy when someone tells you to improve certain things. However, true improvement only happens when you self reflect.”
She considered this a win-win situation. Although the outcome of a change is unpredictable, but changes would always bring in new experiences. A learning experience, she stated, is still something gained.
Often times, caring for plants meant scooping out bad soil from the bowl, and refilling it with good soil. Interestingly, the most nutritious soil is made with “dead” ingredients — decomposed insects and flowers — with things whose spent life give birth to new ones.
“And how are you filling your bowl with good soil right now?” I asked.
“I ensure that my movements are never stagnant. Information is so readily available in our day and age, you can research endlessly about a decision — but that’s also feeding into our tendency to overthink. I rather think less, take action and keep moving forward.”
To Eriko, the bowl inside of her is her inner garden. Each day, she tends to and nurture its growth. And when the right time comes, she overturn old soil to start anew.