LO­CAL FLORIST WALKS THE TALK

Eu­nice Teo tells TEH ATHIRA YU­SOF about her jour­ney in per­fect­ing her skills, which earned her a job in a Hol­ly­wood block­buster

New Straits Times - - NEWS -

THOSE who watched the film Crazy Rich Asians will most likely re­mem­ber the wed­ding scene of love­birds Collin Khoo and Aram­inta Lee.

The piv­otal scene stood out not only be­cause of the cast’s im­pec­ca­ble act­ing, but also due to the de­sign of the set, which show­cased a deca­dent ar­ray of flow­ers and green­ery.

The bride walks down an aisle, flanked by or­chids, pe­onies and other plants with a man-made stream flow­ing through the aisle.

It will prob­a­bly be­come one of the most mem­o­rable wed­ding scenes in film his­tory, but what many peo­ple may not know is that the film’s flo­ral ar­range­ments were the work of Malaysian florist Eu­nice Teo.

Teo, 51, worked un­der the film’s set dec­o­ra­tor, An­drew Base­man, and Hol­ly­wood set de­signer Nel­son Coates, who have praised her pro­fes­sion­al­ism and won­der­ful work.

Ex­plain­ing how she got roped into the movie, Teo said: “I re­ceived a call from an un­known num­ber and the man told me that he bought a few stalks of flow­ers from me many years ago.

“I could not recog­nise him, but he told me to go for an in­ter­view with a po­ten­tial client.

“I went for the in­ter­view, and there were some pic­tures of flo­ral ar­range­ments on a wall, which they asked if I could do. Of course, I said yes,” said the mother of two, who is the first Malaysian and South­east Asian to hold a cer­tifi­cate from the Amer­i­can In­sti­tute of Flo­ral De­sign­ers (AIFD).

It was only in the sec­ond in­ter­view that she found out the gig was for a Hol­ly­wood film. It was the first time she would be a flo­ral de­signer for a film set.

“My job was to set up all flo­ral ar­range­ments, ex­cept for the tall grass and padi stalks in the wed­ding scene,” she said at her home of­fice in Amtrol Flower De­sign­ing in Da­mansara Utama, Petaling Jaya.

Teo, who is of Per­anakan her­itage, said her roots were re­flected in her work.

She also went the ex­tra mile to make sure the set de­signs on Crazy Rich Asians were up to stan­dard.

She de­cided to make the tan­hua flow­ers her­self for the bloom­ing scene.

She han­dled a huge amount of flow­ers for the film. Up to 3,000 pe­onies alone, con­sist­ing of both ar­ti­fi­cial and fresh ones, were used through­out film­ing.

Be­ing on-call around the clock on a film set for three months was tough, es­pe­cially when she had to deal with a fam­ily emer­gency at the time.

“I was tak­ing a nap while the shoot­ing was go­ing on in the early hours at Car­cosa Seri Ne­gara when I re­ceived a call from my sis­ter.

“My mother was un­well. I was re­ally wor­ried and thought of noth­ing but to see my mother, so I had to go to her.”

Teo was raised in Muar and comes from a close-knit fam­ily. The sec­ond of four sib­lings, she said she was trained as a pi­anist as a child at the re­quest of her fa­ther, Teo Jui Peng, 80.

She even­tu­ally be­came a pi­ano teacher at 14, but re­alised that her true call­ing was to be a flo­ral de­signer.

Teo has been ar­rang­ing flow­ers at her church in Muar since she was four. See­ing her grow­ing in­ter­est in flo­ral ar­range­ment, Teo’s par­ents sent her to stay with an aunt in Sin­ga­pore dur­ing the school hol­i­days, where she learnt flo­ral ar­range­ment.

Af­ter com­plet­ing her stud­ies at 18, she fol­lowed her teacher to Kuala Lumpur to help out with de­sign­ing wed­ding bridal bou­quets. That was when she met her first em­ployer.

In 1994, when she was 26, Teo started her com­pany, Amtrol Flower De­sign­ing, upon re­turn­ing from study­ing flo­ral ar­range­ment in Ja­pan.

She started the com­pany with a RM40 cap­i­tal, which she bor­rowed from her boyfriend, Calvin Tin. He later left his job in in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy to work in the com­pany.

Teo used her favourite flower, the glo­riosa lily, whose petals bow when in bloom as the com­pany’s of­fi­cial logo.

“The flower sym­bol­ises hu­mil­ity,” she said, adding that it was im­por­tant for as­pir­ing florists to ob­tain in­ter­na­tional cer­ti­fi­ca­tion as Malaysia had yet to recog­nise floristry as a pro­fes­sion.

“If you want to train to be a florist, there is no means to ob­tain cer­ti­fi­ca­tion in Malaysia. You have to seek ac­cred­i­ta­tion over­seas.

“I have met many as­pir­ing florists. I tell them to be con­sis­tent and to per­se­vere in the face of chal­lenges. I also be­lieve that God has His own ways to help one to suc­ceed.”

She urged young and as­pir­ing florists to “walk the talk”, as there were many dis­trac­tions that could de­ter one from be­com­ing a great florist.

“If pos­si­ble, avoid so­cial me­dia as it could al­ter one’s cre­ative thoughts,” she said, while ex­plain­ing that when­ever she faced a cre­ative stum­bling block, she would read Ger­man florist Gre­gor Lersh’s Prin­ci­ples of Flo­ral De­sign for in­spi­ra­tion.

Teo said she would con­tinue ed­u­cat­ing peo­ple about flo­ral de­sign, and was plan­ning to bring her stu­dents to sit the AFID cer­ti­fi­ca­tion ex­am­i­na­tion next year.

Teo said she was blessed to be part of and to be able to have a spe­cial mo­ment with ac­tress Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh.

“On the last day of film­ing, God granted my prayer to meet Michelle Yeoh. I wanted to thank her for giv­ing the pro­duc­tion crew and me a chance to work with them. The crew told me that with this film, they were able to have proper pay­ing jobs.

“When I said this to Michelle, we be­came teary-eyed and she hugged me.”

PIX BY SUPIAN AH­MAD

Flo­ral de­signer Eu­nice Teo speak­ing about her flo­ral ar­range­ments for the film ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ at an event re­cently.

Crazy Rich Asians, Teo cre­at­ing a flo­ral ar­range­ment.

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