Naomi Savio and Dana Cooke are the creative couple behind new venture Mr Fancy Plants. Combining their backgrounds in visual merchandising and industrial design, and a love of all things leafy and green, they began to grow (literally) the idea for this side project. Now their weekends are filled with designing and producing planters and propagating and tending to greenery for indoor and outdoor spaces.
We chat to Naomi ahead of our first pop-up shop-within-a-shop! Mr Fancy Plants will be taking over our workshop/exhibition space during April 15–17, with a launch event on the evening of Thursday April 14 from 5–8pm and a free workshop on Sunday 17th April 2 - 2:30pm (reserve your spot here).
Can you please tell us a little about yourself and your craft?
I’ve always had an interest in art, design and nature. Most of my childhood was spent wandering around our six-acre bush property in outer Eastern Melbourne. I moved to the city after high school, and studied Visual Communication at RMIT followed by Visual Merchandising at RMIT, and have worked in retail design ever since.
The other half of Mr Fancy Plants is my partner Dana – he is originally from the US and moved to Australia when he was 16. His background is in industrial design and works as a toy designer.
We’re really lucky in that we both love our day jobs, to the extent that it creeps into our hobbies and side projects too. Mr Fancy Plants is the result of that – a combination of horticulture, product design, and visual merchandising.
When and how did you first get interested in plants?
I come from the ultimate ‘green family’ – my dad is a horticulturist and my mum is a landscape architect. While growing up, dad ran a wholesale plant nursery specialising in rare and unusual house plants. He bred, propagated and introduced some well-known plants to the Australian market from the early 1980s until 2003, such as the beloved Chain of Hearts, String of Pearls, Hoyas, Zygo-cactus (which included one named after each member of our family!) and 'Fairy Lights'. I often assisted with plant propagation and the selling of plants at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show from an early age so I guess plants have become second nature to me!
Can you describe the early days of setting up your business?
Dana and I had been discussing doing a side project together for a while. We wanted to find more constructive ways to spend our weekends besides watching TV series and finding the next best breakfast café! We thought it would be fun to do a micro version of dad’s nursery business model, and Dana was just looking for an excuse to buy a 3D printer, so we decided to grow plants and create some limited-edition planters for them as we couldn’t find any interesting pots to buy.
What does a typical day look like for you?
On a typical weekend, we usually wake up early, have a quick breakfast and get a coffee at our favorite local cafe. Then it’s off to the nursery to water and care for all our little green babies (translation: plants). We’ll usually pack a lunch and eat there. After hours of propagating, potting, pruning, weeding, and fertilising, its back to the house for a cat nap. Our evenings are usually spent on designing and setting up the pots to print overnight – our 3D printer is constantly humming away!
What do you draw inspiration from?
Besides nature and being surrounded by greenery, one of my biggest inspirations is my grandmother (who just turned 99!). She has an amazing eye for colour, texture and materials and I’m constantly referencing the art works she collected both here and overseas. She definitely helped me to form my creative sensibilities, and still inspires me today.
Dana brings a totally different set of influences to our work – he is a bona fide pop culture geek, growing up on comic books, Japanese monster movies, and 80s cartoon shows. It’s no accident that some of our pots end up looking like little creatures. He also moved around growing up, so travel and experiencing new cultures is something that inspires him quite a lot.
What are your top tips for keeping indoor plants healthy and happy?
All plants have different needs, but the single best thing you can do for any plant is get to know it. By that I mean, observe the plant and note when it’s looking healthy, and notice when it looks less happy; signs of ‘unhappiness’ might include drooping, poor colour and dry leaves. Once you notice any issues, you can alter the amount of light, air-movement, temperature, nutrients and moisture levels depending on the symptoms to address the problem.
If you could do anything tomorrow what would you do?
Trek the Inca Trail in Peru.
If you could teach your kids one thing, what would it be?
Failing and learning from whatever life throws at you is better than being comfortable and not trying at all.
What are you reading at the moment?
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (book club choice!)
If we rummaged through your grocery bag, what would we find?
Yoghurt, kangaroo, parsley, chocolate
Can you tell us the first thing that pops into your mind when we mention the word …
Breakfast … Grapefruit
Weekends … Eat Sleep Plant Repeat
People … Complex
Pause … Dramatic
Sound … Magpie warbles
Smell … Mint
Place … Tokyo
Texture … Lamb’s ears, the plant variety
Ritual … Wattle pancakes on the first day of spring!
Colour … Grrreeeeen
What’s one thing you can’t live without at the moment?
What are your words of wisdom?