In early 2020, I first shared an interview with Sandra Sigman, a floral designer and the owner of Andover-based floral and french housewares shop, Les Fleurs. In the interview, she shared about her love of Paris, floral design, and some of the beautiful discoveries she’s made on visits to France.
Today marks the release of her first (of hopefully many) books, French Blooms with the forward written by her good friend, Sharon Santoni of My French Country Home. In this interview, Sandra gives us an inside look into when she decided to turn her passion into a book, the best place in Paris to see spring blooms and a look into the process of bringing her first book to life.
When did you first decide to turn your passion for florals into a book?
The idea didn’t come from me initially, my dear friend Kindra Clineff, the primary photographer for French Blooms, planted the seed. She had photographed many books before and often spoke about doing a flower book together.
She loved my story of how I lived in Paris in my early 20s and worked at the floral shop near my apartment. Fast forward to 2019, and we were planning a trip to France to shoot photos for her editorial work and my shop. We both knew there was something special about our trip together but never imagined a book would turn out from this magical week. I believe now that with Paris and flowers as a backdrop, it wasn’t too hard to see the potential.
Your friend Sharon Santoni of My French Country Home wrote the foreword for your book. Given your friendship with Sharon, how much did it mean for you to have her be a part of the book?
It meant the world to me, and I’m incredibly grateful she wrote the foreword. I’ve always admired Sharon and am so thankful we’ve developed such a close friendship over the years. The first photos from that 2019 trip were taken in her garden, so she was an integral part of French Blooms from the beginning.
We also share the same passion for entrepreneurship and running multi-level companies. I have a retail brick-and-mortar shop and she runs an online business that features subscription boxes, tours, and a bi-monthly magazine. Different in some ways but similar in our passion for doing what we both love. I often feel this journey of running a business can be lonely, and having someone to share your thoughts with is invaluable.
What did you enjoy the most about the process of writing the book and selecting beautiful photographs, florals, and scenes from Paris and beyond?
Every step along the way is a result of collaborating with incredibly talented individuals, and that’s what I loved about the entire process- getting to work with other creative women! Also, returning to the place that connected me with flowers and my mom was what inspired me to write the book. I originally fell in love with flowers through my mom, but moving away from home and seeing how the French fleuristes (floral designers) designed brought my obsession to a whole other level. I hope this story of a mother and daughter and their love of flowers and all things France comes through on the pages I wrote.
Out of all the areas around Paris that you shared in the book, which do you consider to be a must-see for someone looking to see the best spring florals?
The Parc de Bagatelle took my breath away! It’s one of four botanical gardens in Paris and was built in 1775. In addition to giant trees, varied plant life, caves, and waterfalls, the park boasts a magnificent rose garden with 10,000 rose bushes from 1,200 different species! When it’s in full bloom (usually mid-June), it’s the most magical place. Definitely a must-see!
How closely did you work with the three photographers whose photos are featured in the book?
Kindra was the driving force behind the creation of French Blooms. Her photos inspired me and gave me the confidence to move forward. Sadly, in early 2022 Kindra unexpectedly passed away from a brief illness. As devastated as I was, I will never forget our time together creating this book. She was my shining star and made me realize that you must live in the moment and treasure every second of your life. Therefore, as hard as it was to even think of finishing the book without her, I knew I had to complete this dream we held dear to our hearts and find another photographer to help with the last few photos needed.
I can’t even put into words how grateful I am to Anne Soulier and Abby Matses for helping me complete the book! Anne joined me in Paris to shoot the cover and finish the last recipes I needed. I’ve known Abby for many years, she used to work at the shop, and she never hesitated when I called asking for help to capture a few flat lays in Andover. Every single shot in the book is a collaborative process. Photographing flowers is an art form; all three ladies made it look effortless!
What are some of the florals that you gravitate towards while in France?
I love lily of the valley and the meaning it has in France. The celebration of spring on May 1st is highlighted by the cheery tradition known as “La Fête du Muguet.” They celebrate by gifting lily of the valley bouquets to their loved ones. The tradition continues every year, and you’ll find them sold everywhere on the street! I treasure this holiday and smile every time I see lily of the valley blooming in my own garden.
Along with chapters on floral design, containers, and arranging basics, you also share recipes featuring French florals. Which of the recipes do you like to make the most frequently?
Any arrangement in a compote vase is my favorite…preferably vintage from France, of course! This style lends itself well to my garden-design aesthetic. When entertaining, I love gathering pretty blooms and vines from my garden and using them to spill out of the container in a loose, organic way.
You can’t go wrong when using these types of vessels when styling your dinner table and they always steal the show on a beautiful mantle or credenza too. Printemps à Paris, Eclats de Dahlias, and Belles Tulipes are good examples!
What was it like working with the team at Rizzoli?
I had no publishing experience before this book, so I relied heavily on Rizzoli for guidance. My editor Sandy Gilbert was amazing and helped guide me through each step. The process takes years, and every detail matters. I remember countless zoom meetings and phone calls to get every detail right. I had no idea what producing a book was like, so having her team there for support was incredible.
To share a special moment of how supportive they were, I had doubts about the selected original cover. The Rizzoli team was very supportive and trusted my instinct when I told them I still needed to be convinced about the cover. They gave me an extra chance to fly to France with my antique jardiniere in my suitcase and shoot the flowers you see today! I’m still incredibly grateful that they gave me this opportunity knowing we were going to print and only had one week to get the cover shot. Merci!!
Now that your first book is out in the world, do you have plans for a second book down the line?
I would love to publish more books! After 30 years of experience running a floral shop, I still have so much knowledge to share. French Blooms is all about floral arranging in Paris, but I have many more special antique spots and gardens to share across France.