Gisborne duo Runa + Holly’s floral artworks are our new interior obsession

Gisborne photography duo Runa + Holly collaborate to create mesmerising floral artworks that you’ll want to hang in every room in your home

Gisborne duo Runa + Holly’s floral artworks are our new interior obsession

What happens when a talented Gisborne florist meets an artistic Icelandic photographer? In the case of Runa Kuru Kristjónsdóttir and Holly Tong, pure magic. The pair’s moody floral photographs, sold as limited-edition artworks, have a growing fan base, a loyal social media following, and have even taken the Gisborne-based pair to Venice where they were finalists in a prestigious art competition. We chatted to the friends about their creative process and their passion for working together.

How did you two meet?
We met in 2002. Runa was 21 and had moved to New Zealand from Iceland with her Kiwi husband. Holly was 16 – we both worked together at a local restaurant and quickly became friends. Fast-forward to 2013 – by then we’d lived in a few different countries but both ended up in Gisborne with three kids each, all of similar ages. We hit it off again like no time had passed.

How did your collaboration come about?
We had been talking for a few years about doing something creative together. We didn’t have a clear idea of what it would be, but we’re both big dreamers. We love each others’ individual style and always thought how amazing it would be to collaborate. In March last year, when Holly was in the thick of wedding season, the idea came about for Runa to capture the bouquets before the wedding. We were super happy with the results and the project just grew from there.

What inspires you?
So much! Firstly, we are inspired by the flowers and foliage we use, their subtle tones and textures, and capturing a sense of movement. Secondly, we love the idea of preserving the fleeting freshness of the bouquets with photography. We also love the Dutch flower paintings of the 15th and 16th centuries; they have such a luxury about them. The quality and texture of the Hahnemühle Photo Rag paper we use is very inspiring, too. We both love interiors – we have differences in our individual styles but are very much inspired by each other.

You recently went to Venice as finalists for the Arte Laguna Prize. How was your trip?
Amazing. It was such a privilege to be part of an international award and exhibition like Arte Laguna. We were immediately humbled by the calibre of work there. It was so inspiring to be among a crowd of passionate artists and gallery owners who live and breathe the art world. People were very complimentary. It was so nice to be encouraged in our work; we were really blown away. We didn’t win our section, but this in no way dampened our experience.

Do you have any plans for the coming year?
We recently released our second collection, which includes ‘Volucris’, the image that was selected for the Arte Laguna exhibition. We have been encouraged and energised by how well this collection has been received so far. We are excited to continue what we have started. We are both heading to Europe again during the New Zealand winter and hope to make the most of that time and the connections we made through Arte Laguna.

What flowers are you loving at the moment?
While on our Italian trip, we spent a few days in Rome and made the most of their beautiful local markets. We bought fresh flowers and had fun with the spring flora available there. We used beautiful tulips, ranunculus, hyacinths and even a selection of artichokes bought from local vegetable growers. We love using fruit and vegetables as it brings a feeling of abundance and richness to an arrangement.

What do you enjoy about creating art?
We love the process, the excitement of not knowing what we will end up with and the thrill of finding something that makes us both say, “That one!” It started as a creative outlet for both of us and it was really rewarding to have others see what we could see in the work and to hear the different emotions described by people. There is always self-doubt when putting something personal out there, and we know we would have never come this far alone. We feel really lucky to be doing this as a pair.

Follow: @runaandholly

Interview by: Fiona Ralph. Photography by: Runa + Holly and Zara Staples.

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