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Sebastian Ee

When pondering the profession of floral designer, you might imagine it as a pleasant job of creating attractive flower arrangements for bridal decorations or artwork boutiques. Fresh plants add vividness and beauty to a space, and are de rigeur in gift giving. But to some extent, Sebastian Ee is an indoor architect more than a florist. He's also an artist who will use his creative skills to go far beyond simply arranging gorgeous bouquets.

Sebastian was born to a family of flower specialists in Singapore. "I am the fifth generation of my family working in the flower business," he reveals. "So I have had a strong familiarity with flowers since I was young. At the beginning I worked with my parents in the wholesale purchasing business, which opened a window for me into the world of flowers. " Sebastian began to make his first flower arrangements at the age of 11. "I didn't like to stay at home working when my peers were all playing after school," he says. "But I needed to help my family business."

Until he finished his commitment in the army, he devoted himself to the family-owned business, Sing See Soon Floral & Landscape, on a full-time basis. He had the job of purchasing fresh-cut flowers from around the world. The task sent him to nearby Asian and Pacific countries including Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand, and even farther to places like Kenya and Zimbabwe in Africa and Columbia in South America.

"I learnt the basics from my parents," he says. "Our business was very close to a traditional sales operation." After a few years of working in the supply-side of the business, he accumulated a vast knowledge of flowers but also found himself artistically talented in an industry that allows for creativity. "Flowers are grown in season and regionally, thus you must learn the growth cycle and origin," says Sebastian. "The importing of flowers into Singapore is very convenient. I have imported cut flowers from more than 10 countries to fulfill the demand."

Sebastian at work

Moving from purchase to design, Sebastian has followed a natural arc in his career. "I tend to be more open-minded and creative," he points out. "The forms in art are connected with each other. I think flower arrangement is similar to window display – color match, geometric space and comparison of materials…judging how to create art out of flower design is a skill that can improve gradually. So an ability and talent to learn on one's own is crucial for newcomers."

Before he turned 30, Sebastian had become one of the first Asians to be inducted into the American Institute of Floral Design (AIFD), an internationally prestigious certificate program for floral design. "My business in Singapore was already very successful," he says. "I wanted to appraise my ability on the international level, so I determined to take the examination in the United States. Fortunately, I was qualified by the AIFD."

A profile of him on the website of his company, Bloemen Huis, reveals that Sebastian was the founder of Bloemen Huis in China, and was co-founder of the Floral Designer Society Singapore (FDSS) in 1997. He also was president of FDSS from 1998 to 2000, a time during which he helped groom the local fl oral scene in Singapore with his creative vision.

"I felt responsible for upgrading the expertise of Singaporean florists," he relates. "I invited foreign florists to share their ideas and wisdom, and I organized exchanges and held exhibitions and competitions…The founding of FDSS was significant to me."

In 2000, Sebastian began to cooperate with local hotels for special events and space decoration. "Flowers mean a lot to me," says Sebastian "They are a bridge to help me express my emotions on different occasions and in different places. Sometimes a floral decoration brings you to a new and unique world, while at other times it naturally becomes a part the existing space." Sebastian has no limit when it comes to using different materials – metal, wood, and acrylic and handmade weave, for example – whatever he needs to create a special work of fl oral art.

Occasionally, he works as a consultant for an Indonesian hotel and practices his career in other Asian cities. "I have become so familiar with everything in Singapore's hotels – I can count out the number of the pillars and the surface of the ceiling in all hotels," he says. "It was not challenging to me at all." In addition to conducting some short programs in Beijing, Shenyang, Shanghai and Tianjin, he is now mostly based in the southern Chinese cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen, working in cooperation with international hotel brands like Four Seasons, Shangri-la and Mandarin Oriental. "I spend half of each year in Guangzhou and Shenzhen and devotes my business here. There are a lot of working opportunities in Guangzhou where the customers are more open. My fl oral business here is very successful."

Sebastian has had a long partnership with the Mandarin Oriental, Guangzhou. "The hotel is fashionably designed in modernistic style," he reports. "I opt for using bright yellow colors in the lobby to echo the simplicity and light up the space. When guests enter the lobby, they merely notice the installation in existence because I havemade it immerse into the whole."

Sebastian's design

(By Jessie Huang)
Editor:Lynus Tan
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