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How did you get into floristry and what do you love about the industry?

It’s a career change for me. I was previously working as a Director of Research in a Health Science department of a university. When my parents became ill almost at the same time, I took time out to look after them. When they passed away, it was time for me to go back to work. I was quite reflective at that time in my life and just wondered whether to go back into academia. I decided to have a change. I wanted to do something different with my life – something out of my comfort zone, perhaps something artistic, but definitely it needed to be meaningful to me.

During their illness both my parents experienced progressive memory problems and as they lost connection with the world about them, in contrast, I became much more sensitized to my own environment. The smell of lilies in a vase in my mum’s bedroom, the smell of freshly cut grass, the sound of rain on windows, and of course childhood memories were equally apparent.  It was one of these memories that proved inspirational.  As a small child, I used to visit my great aunt. I recalled she was working from home at a workbench surrounded by stub wire, moss, and beautiful, scented flowers. Men would come in sombre suits and take the flowers away. She was, of course, a funeral florist and they were undertakers! It is a strong, vivid memory that triggered me to think about working with flowers. 

I started my floral journey by going to an agricultural college for taster sessions, but I felt like the odd one out. Everyone else was either doing it as a hobby or they were very young people and I felt like their grandmother! I googled other courses and came across the Academy purely by accident. I phoned up and had a conversation with Julie , who instantly understood where I was coming from. She understood my motivations. And she didn’t laugh at me, which I had thought she might. I felt quite vulnerable at the time. She was very supportive and I registered with the Academy for Level 2, then Level 3 and now Level 4.

I took time out in between to work at McQueen’s and worked in their workshop for 3 months. It was a very real experience for me and  I was exposed to the brutality of floristry – working from 7 am in the morning to 7 pm in the evening, I was stood up all day, and I used buckets of hand cream! But I met some amazing, very creative people. It was great fun: sourcing flowers from Covent Garden, decorating high-end hotels,  weddings at Claridges. Decorating West End and Mayfair restaurants at 2 am was a real eye-opener!

I went back to the Academy and did Level 3. I really enjoyed all the extracurricular opportunities. If they give you an opportunity, my advice is to take it! I worked on the Exeter Floral Trail, the installation at Leeds Castle, RHS Malvern Show, the Poltimore Flower Festival, large-scale design work at Bridwell Park, and filming opportunities. Studying at the Academy has given me the confidence to do competitions. I entered BFA FleurEx last year and won the 3rd place in the Epaulettes competition. I entered the Chelsea heats and although I didn’t get through this year, I decided to try again. Each competition is a challenge and it has its own intrinsic rewards – you have to be disciplined, and focused for a brief that you wouldn’t usually design. You grow and learn from shaping the design and trying things out.

Tell us about your flower business

I do have a business – Bond Floral Designs – Other than an Instagram (bond_flowers)  I don’t generally advertise. It’s all been word of mouth for the odd wedding and funeral work. I am keeping it small scale deliberately because I feel that this is the time to invest in my development. I am lucky because I don’t have to earn at this stage. This is my time. My immediate goal is to have my own design studio – to have the physical space and mental space to be creative. I do a bit of freelance and help out colleagues with weddings where they need extra help. I feel it’s being part of the community of floristry. I help them out now and they will help when I need it.

What are you currently studying and why do you think it’s important to study floristry further?

When you’re doing something the second time around, you’re hungry for opportunities. Much more than the first time. You realize that a new career’s quite precious.

An education is an investment and worth every single penny. I’m developing my skill set for the future. I want to be the best I can be and I think my clients deserve excellence. I can only develop through practice, rehearsal and guided by experts who’ve been there. And you can’t get more expert than Tina and Julie. They are so willing to share their experience; it’s a delight. When you’re being inspired by teachers who constantly strive for perfection themselves, the environment is infectious. I cherish the opportunities.

How have you found studying for City & Guilds Level 4 with the Academy

In every group I’ve studied at the Academy there’s been lots of humour, and a real sense of community and support that other student give each other. There is an over-arching theme of incredibly supportive teaching and guidance.

The assignment pieces aren’t that bad in fact they are quite practical. But my academic background probably helps with the paperwork. The subject matter can be challenging, but I am thoroughly enjoying the research. In fact, you need to stop and really reflect on the theories that underpin what you’re doing. If you don’t do it, you’re missing out. It is quite a commitment – which some people can’t make for time or financial reasons – but if you can its extremely worthwhile. Anything that’s hard work is rewarding, though!

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