ARTIST SPOTLIGHT | Rosalie Villanueva

1. In your own words – who is Rosalie Villanueva and what is your ‘mission’ in this current season of your life?

My name is Rosalie Villanueva (she/her). My studio and creative practice are better known as RZY (pronounced “Rosie”) and I’m a floral designer and image-based artist who graduated with a Fine Arts degree from OCAD. I have a background in photography and art history, and my floral design work is often informed by sculpture, architecture, and the seasons.

In this current season of my life, my priorities are to deepen my connection to art and nature by examining how the two are interconnected. I'm also conducting explorations of self and my place in the world (in a physical and spiritual sense) as a Filipina woman in the diaspora, while prioritizing healing and reflection. Put simply, my mission is to heal through the creation of art, and flowers are pretty much always involved.

2. Briefly describe your path as a floral designer

I’ve always been an artist and a creator. After graduating from OCAD, I exhibited my photography in galleries while working various jobs (retail, museums, a not-for-profit organization), then finally for a media production company that did a lot of work for advertising agencies. Since my role was more on the operations side of things rather than the creative side, eventually I found myself in desperate need of a creative outlet.

I took a lot of workshops on floral design and in 2016 I left that job to work at a retail flower shop. Since then I freelanced for some of my favourite floral studios in the city and now work for my own brand. Going forward, I’d love to transition from doing weddings/events to strictly editorial work. Creating floral sculptures for more branding photoshoots and then doing some set styling for film and television would be something I’d really enjoy.

3. During this unconventional time, what does a day in your life look like?

None of my days look the same anymore. Life during the pandemic has made it abundantly clear that I had to surrender my strict schedule. It hasn’t been an easy lesson for me, as someone who likes to feel in control at all times. I set deadlines for my tasks but I’m less rigid about when exactly I’ll do them. I just know what needs to be done and I allow myself the flexibility to do it when it feels right. There are certain days that I like to go to the flower market (later in the week, when it’s a bit quieter) but other than that, anything goes. I’m a lot kinder to myself and more attentive to how my body is feeling. Some days I will wake up feeling energized and get right to work and answer emails, other days I’ll need to take things slower and dote on my orchids for a little bit, or meditate, or prolong breakfast. Sometimes I’ll stay up really late when I have a burst of creativity and sketch ideas in my notebook for future projects and when I look at the clock it’s 4 a.m.

4. How has the pandemic impacted your creative pursuits?

This is probably the most creative I have been in a very long time. Pre-pandemic, the bulk of my work was event based, so with all the lockdown restrictions and uncertainty of the past year, that came to an abrupt halt. Once I learned how to quiet the persistent need to “be productive”, I was able to reconnect with my sense of play and curiosity. At first, it was just a little bit at a time, but once I gave myself the freedom to just be, a lot of dormant ideas inside of me were slowly waking up. I picked up my camera and started taking photographs again, which I haven’t done in a while. It feels really good to create for myself, without pressure or any sense of obligation.

5. Where are you finding inspiration at the moment?

I’ve always been and continue to be inspired by ikebana. The art of Japanese flower arranging showcases the shapes and forms of the materials being used, which I appreciate because I tend to have a sculptural approach to designing. It amazes me how ikebana arrangements always look like they would be right at home in an art gallery- or on a spaceship.

And of course, the flowers themselves. It’s a beautiful thing to be inspired by the material you’re working with. I love how flowers remind me a lot of people- ever changing, slowly revealing themselves, bending and curving, reacting to their environment in different ways. Some last longer than others, and what might be ideal growing conditions for one may not be for another.  It’s fascinating.

6. Name one thing upcoming that you're excited for

There are so many things I’m looking forward to but two immediately come to mind. A dear friend of mine is getting married soon, and the wedding is going to be intimate and colourful. She requested a bouquet that is different from any other bridal bouquet I’ve ever made, so I’m really looking forward to making it for her. I also can’t wait for it to be safe to travel again. I love visiting different places, especially if there’s a botanical garden.  A group of my friends are all planning to have a reunion when one couple is set to have a vow renewal for their tenth anniversary next year. It’s going to be a fun little road trip and everyone will be coming from a different city.

7. What rituals or activities are keeping you grounded and clear-minded right now?

Going for walks with my dog Daisy helps me feel grounded, and I really feel my mood being lifted now that the days are getting warmer. I also enjoy giving myself small readings with my tarot cards, as well as listening to guided sound meditations.

8. A book, podcast, show or film that has really resonated with you recently?

Song Exploder is great. It’s a podcast that interviews musicians and deconstructs one of their famous songs as they share the story behind it. It was picked up by Netflix last year so there are some episodes that can be viewed, which adds a whole other dimension to the storytelling. Few things interest me more than hearing artists speak about their processes.

I also enjoy revisiting episodes of Long Distance, a podcast that highlights stories from the Filipino diaspora and focuses on the immigrant experience. Having moved to Canada at a very young age, I’ve often felt like I was floating somewhere in between two very different cultures. Hearing these stories makes me feel a little less alone in a way, and in the midst of a pandemic, having that sense of connection is really important.