The Plant Whisperer - Elisabeth Bukanova

Words by Lulu Harrison.

Photos by Julian Mährlein

Art director and image maker Elisabeth Bukanova has got an absolute love for all things green. She likes to get the outside inside, and connect with plants and their emotions through drawings and illustrations. After a visit to her green gaff in Clapton, East London, I felt truly inspired by her amazing work ethos, gorgeous studio FULL of houseplants, and all round positively babe vibes.

You said you feel like your work isn’t really art, or you don’t like to be defined as an artist?

I always had lots of negative associations with the word ‘artist’, and probably what it means to be an artist. Like what is it really? But I would always come home after my regular work and continue on my own personal work. Nobody needed it, it was just something I had to do. And I think if you prioritise this art, no matter what medium it is, so much above everything else - then that is probably when you are an artist.

How did you start your career in the creative world?

I was always drawing since I was small. Knowing I wanted to do something creative, I decided to study fashion design. I enjoyed it but I felt like something was missing. I got really intrigued by these people who make the entire image of a brand. Because why are we interested in brands? It’s not the jumper from Calvin Klein you want, it’s the image and lifestyle associated with it. So I started working with photography, coming up with ideas and visuals - which I completely fell in love with it and knew I had to pursue.

Does the creative side of things run in your family?

Oh, yes, very much. I randomly put my name into Tumblr the other day, to see what horrors are out there, and I saw this captivating picture by my cousin. We are not really in touch, she lives in Russia, but I had no idea she was such a great photographer. My dad originally studied fine art, and I think he wasn’t allowed to finish it because he had to do a proper job. We have a lot of suppressed creatives in our family. My mum always wanted to be a dancer but life got in the way - there was always lots of very creative passion but also a lot of sadness because it didn’t work out. I’m just the one that’s probably living it.

How do you like to connect with nature?

Going down the road to the River Lea in Clapton - just looking at it inspires me! And, of course, house plants and natural materials. Getting the outside inside. Growing up with a geologist (my dad) we had all these fossils and stones and wood and amber. I think I am a very tactile person.

What is your proudest piece of work you have done to date?

It would have to be my magazine (Muff Magazine). We tried to change how gay people were represented in mainstream media and make a magazine about positive, interesting individuals, instead of focussing solely on their sexuality. It was very very well received and two issues were sold worldwide, in stores like Barnes & Noble and Selfridges.

Do you have many plants in your house?

Too many.

What is your favourite house plant?

Favourite would be mean because then the other ones would get upset. And then they will all die on me and I would be horrified.

Most inspiring place you have ever visited?

I would have to say Ischia. It is a tiny island in Italy, just at the bottom of Naples. I went by myself, it was amazing.

What inspired your work with plants?

I am really interested in how we use plants - for example, is it to decorate a room, cleanse air, say sorry, or show somebody that you like them. Through my illustration, I have also started to explore how they come into our lives and project personalities onto them. 

Why do you love Grace and Thorn?

The first thing I ever noticed and loved was the giant terrarium! I have a massive obsession with things that are transparent and with plants, obviously, so it combined my two favourite things.

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