I have loved flowers for most of my life.
Do you choose your path, or is it chosen for you?
I never thought in a million years that I would ever take up the art of floristry but it happened. After my daughter was born, I saw an advert in the local newspaper advertising, through Adult Education, a ten week taster course in floristry. With a small child, only two years old and a part-time job already in the caring profession, I turned the page and thought it was not an option that could be considered. But my husband cut the ad out and showed it to me. It was only for ten weeks, in the daytime, one half-day a week and our girl had just started nursery. I worked evening shifts with a toddler at home: a way was found and I enrolled.
I am very grateful for my husband for cutting the advert and keeping it for me. On maternity leave, I had managed to do some flower arranging lessons. As an inspiration to my students, who I have since had the privilege of teaching as an Adult Education tutor in flower arranging, I always give encouragement by telling them about my first lesson. It was an symmetrical design and it was absolutely awful.
That was over 10 yrs ago and a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. The taster course was wonderful and I met a lovely close friend, whom I still know to this day. After the ten weeks I was hooked, with the whole creative thing about floral design. I was passionate and dedicated; this couldn’t end after 10 weeks. This was going to become part of my life for real. Two years later, and an awful lot of work I passed NVQ qualifications in the subject. I still had to work, at the same time on the evening shift of 20 hrs a week, to help put bread on the table at home but I loved it. The busyness of shop life on Mother’s Day and the wonder and magic of Christmas- just smell Norwegian spruce used in wreaths and you will know what I mean. Part of my training was spent in a florist shop in Swaffham, Norfolk. The kind and friendly staff were great and we used to smile when the regular shop staff gave me customers who took the time up- because my communication, in my chosen professional paid job, gave me the skills and grace to deal with the sometimes “difficult ones.”
I was encouraged to take part in competitions, because that is how one learnt to do better and see other people’s excellence in action. Eventually, I did most job activities in this subject, including retail paid work in another shop-which I hated because I was treated like a pleb. That was a real eye opener. I was seen as a nobody in another person’s business eyes. Someone who just cut the flowers and did the bidding. It was a real shock, not because I am too proud, I will do anything, but in my other profession I was treated with respect and felt important. I left after 3 months.
My greatest strength is working with colour, creating funeral pieces with care and wiring small floral pieces, for example, corsages created for weddings because my small light hands enable me to construct tiny pieces of work and I have the patience required. My greatest disaster was to be too ambitious with a friends wedding bouquet. I needed to bring in help on that one because the feat I had set myself was too great- a large wired bouquet which did not work, and I ended up going to her wedding upset because I thought I had failed her. It was otherwise so perfect: but their in lies the problem with me. I never do things by half. A hundred wired napkins rings of silk snowdrops- real ones would have perished. Wired candle stick decorations and the town hall to decorate on my own. Fresh snowdrop posies picked from Walsingham. Wired circles of headdresses and combs A hundred hours of unpaid love for my friend, as a wedding gift, only for the last thing to go wrong, as I worked half way through the night.
I was bonkers, most shops would have had the whole staff work on such a feat. I had me and the willing help of the bride’s mother, who learnt quickly with my teaching. I should have just hand tied the bride’s floral bouquet-the most gorgeous red, grand pri valentines roses: this was a valentine wedding and the brides dress was a beautiful red velvet gown I have ever seen. I just tried so hard, too hard. I cried and was depressed for 8 weeks for having nearly pulled it off but not quite.
There are many amatuers out there who are superb in their design approach and use of material. Certainly better than me. Where my own talents lie, is the inspiration I give to others in imparting well what I do know. I have been told my greatest skill is teaching and should have a career in this field. I have been fortunate to use the ability in both a care setting and in the world of flowers. My first class was a one off session, to see if people would join for a term. Within two days, my own taster class was enrolled to full house of 16 students, many of whom stayed with me the two years I taught professionally. I was approached by our local college to run classes too, but I had to turn this down, for loyalty to my new Adult Education employers and time. I did not regret that decision it would have been too much.
On saying that, I could have tried to switch careers completely but when push came to shove, I couldn’t give up my career in care after all the hard work there; the devotion and energy given and the skills built up over many years. Besides, people need care, so I just have the two worlds in my life. I now mainly judge, however, that may all change again. Since Christmas, I have been attending church and church flowers beckon, also I can feel the odd demo coming on again, but I would need to practice to get my level of skill back up to speed. My Nursing has taken me away from flowers with now working nearly full time and returning to higher education. Writing this makes me feel itchy to not let it go.
The arrangement you see is not one of mine but from the Chelsea flower show last year. Infact, I have never shown anything of what I can do on here or on flicker. Perhaps, I should one day. To be honest, I was a bit stuck for a blog tonight until I thought of this subject. Now, I am going to carry on with this, as a mini series, to say why I like photography and why I enjoy writing.