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A metaphorical garden where gift-giving is the art

With the holidays approaching, it becomes ever more pressing to purchase gifts, and under social pressure, we can easily forget the true meaning and joy of the gesture. L’Artboretum is an imaginary garden that can help you reconnect with the intimate art of gift-giving, regardless of the season. Natural ingredients, handmade objects, a refined aesthetic with a pinch of French charm and an unconventional brand narrative. The gardener of L’Artboretum, Zsuzsanna K. Kovács, told us.

How would you define the mission of L’Artboretum?

I would like to be a treasure trove of unique gifts that go beyond themselves, that can connect with the defining moments and add to our everyday lives in their own honest way. I am looking for those things that I can see as forgivable by-products of our human life, which are impossible to accumulate without reason by their very nature. I interpret seasonality and the occasion of gift-giving in general quite loosely, which helps us enjoy every piece of the collection in the long term. In the spirit of naturalness and quality, traditional techniques are also my priority. I think it is important to help them find their place in today’s world, keeping them alive.

Which mood or feel do you want to convey?

Gift-giving, and the moment when I finally find the perfect souvenir, is one of my dearest things. Even that word is now a cliché, and so is the product range. But then, unexpectedly, there it is, and the kind that is local and particularly valuable because of the way it is made. At L’Artboretum, moments come alive, made complete by our own story. I have received several messages that say they are very happy to “just go” to the Garden during the day because the time they spend there is recharging. This is perhaps what pleases me most: it has become an existing place of imagination that people like to visit. And the joy of giving is something I wish we would not regret from ourselves either.

Why a Garden?

I had a childhood that was fairly close to nature for a city girl. My grandparents had a big garden, not so big now, but it seemed endless to me, and back then, time was also quite relative. The creative vein runs in the family, even if few people lived or could live with it by profession. More of us can draw than can’t, sewing is also a basic skill, and fortunately, I was also involved in the installation and DIY work. Thanks to this, I have become quite a practical dreamer. The mentioned garden is no longer there, as unfortunately neither are the grandparents who owned it. But for me, the Garden will always be a place of moments of freedom and creation. I would like to share this collection with others.

In the world of L’Artboretum, you present yourself as a gardener. What profession do you actually come from? Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a graphic designer and as I write this down, it already feels a bit narrow. I’ve always been inspired by brainstorming, I’ve been thinking myself into a dream since I was a kid. There is a book called The Papalagi. It’s about us city people through the eyes of a Polynesian chieftain. Among many bitterly humorous criticisms, I read there about how unnatural it is to cultivate ourselves in only one field. I had the idea that I wanted to make a more complex vision a reality. With the Garden, those boundaries have dissolved, so my scope of duties is currently a short list (laughs). I do the planning, everything is written down in my notebook, and then I look up the materials that meet the set requirements. I also wanted to have a go at sewing, but at the beginning, this seemed like a too big undertaking, and the Pinkponilo girls have taken such good care of it, I admit, I would miss them. I have subtasks: in the evenings, I cut bears and sew hands, make tassels and bows. Meanwhile, I manage the website, and at night I’m my own employed graphic designer, writing text and taking pictures.

Do you have help with all this or just collaborations?

There is only one busy gardener here. I have regular partners for the production, like Pinkponilo or Inkredible Letterpress. In fact, there is only one inhabitant of the Garden who is not my own design, the picture frames of Sebestyén Benkő (Sebō Wood), which allow my postcards to show a whole new face. The possibility of collaborations only arises if we work independently around shared values too. Everything in the Garden is connected to moments and experiences. When I approached Zsófi Martinovszky from Hey Darling Bridal, she said yes immediately. I drew the dove for the Memory Bag, she embroidered it. The handmade details have a real added value, as the same hands make unforgettable dresses for the big days. I have several ideas for upcoming collaborations that are too early to talk about, but I would like to offer a new alternative in gift-giving, both in value and meaning.

Who is responsible for the unique graphics and how would you define the aesthetics of the Garden?

Now I’m trying not to blush (too much). It’s quite an unexpected phenomenon for me to receive so much encouraging and appreciative feedback from the professional side. There is a strange duality in every aspect of the visual concept. It’s a personal characteristic of mine; that’s when I feel the balance. That’s how it can be both characterful and soft, timeless yet fresh. Adél Bárdics (LÉDU Creative Studio) helped me apply the opposites down to the cellular level, and this hidden space was born out of our joint work. I am a distant and yet close acquaintance in it, the gardener. And the collection is an authentic part of the brand, drawing inspiration from nature, travel and everyday moments alike. The classical influence is inspired by European gardens and architecture, as well as our cultural traditions. The teddy bear garland, for example, is inspired by a 1909 Steiff bear, while the iris on the inside of the baby card has Art Nouveau touches. And the flowers are based on living plants. The Garden has a kind of vivid nostalgia that seeks to capture the present moments rather than the evanescence.

How do you plan to expand the product range and what are your plans for the Garden in the near future?

For now, I would like those who would enjoy my collection to be able to visit the Garden. It’s still very fresh, I’ve only been out in public for a month, and I have quite an organic gardening method because I believe in time and perseverance. I’m not in a hurry to do something new, that approach makes me slower and more deliberate, but I have ideas that I’m working on. I would be very happy to continue Botanique postcards as a series next year. And in the spring, I plan to come up with a new piece of handmade material. It’s mostly a matter of time because I have a one-and-a-half-year-old boy running around in the Garden during the day (laughs).

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Photos: Fanni Sutus

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