I’ve become a bit of a loner in how I work. When I teach cello the only people I see are my pupils and occasionally one or other of their parents. I don’t teach at home (a roaming two year old is not conducive to focussed, intentional working!) but the hall I use is quiet – just the way I like it! And for floristry I have found my perfect work-cave; a small wooden shed tucked behind a Parish Hall with no windows. I have frightened a good few people who have no idea there is someone inside the shed, or who didn’t even realise the shed was there! I really love working by myself, and I’ve adapted and changed where and how I work fairly often in the hunt for better, more ideal working conditions. Particularly with floristry, I am at my best when I can shut myself away and get lost in the design I’m working on. I don’t particularly want to be chatting with anyone, and if I do need some humanity around there’s always Adam Buxton or Russell Brand on tap through my iPhone.
This secrecy and loner-ism has developed through many positives, and just a few negatives. My first love really was the cello. Followed closely by Jacqueline du Pré. As a child I lived in my head and here could romanticise my future life as a troubled but exquisitely talented musician. I think I can count on one hand how many times I played for my Grandparents, despite their encouragement I always found it almost painful to sit down in front of someone – anyone, even close family – and just play. I’m not absolutely sure why, probably just shyness and fear of playing it wrong (if there’s one thing studying classical music is very good at it’s making you aware of your mistakes – perfection only!). Over time, as I studied further and pushed myself, I found I just could never achieve what I wanted, musically. I can play the cello but I am way down the talent leagues when it comes to meeting the demands of classical music! A fear of failure and an acute awareness that I was never going to fit into the world I wanted washed me up on the shores of teaching, where I have stayed ever since.
Teaching is wonderful. I am immensely privileged to have been able to watch some of my long standing pupils grow up. I have enjoyed talking about politics (school based and international, though sometimes I’m not sure what the difference is between the two) with my 12/13 year old pupils – children who are excited, passionate, and already dismayed at the state of some of our affairs. I’ve been able to help celebrate birthdays, and watched shy, nervous children and teens (and adults!) bloom with pride after months of preparing a piece for an exam or a performance. I know I can teach and think I’m probably a better teacher than player. But how often have I felt vaguely embarrassed to admit to pupils or parents that I don’t actually play that much. I’m too much of a snob to play with any of the amateur orchestras around, and I’m too out of practice to join any of the more serious ones. As it turns out, daydreaming about the life you know so little about but think you want doesn’t actually get you anywhere! Who knew??!!
And then something changes (after like, 12 years). I’ve started to work on projects with someone who’s become a good friend. Initially, I didn’t take them seriously, I mean, there’s Classical Music up in the stars, and then Everything Else scraping around about sea level. And maybe Jazz is in one of those under water caves that only the brave (a.k.a. crazy) have ever explored. But now I sometimes seem to be playing jazz! And I LOVE IT. Can I improvise? Nope. I am reading everything from a score because the thought of making something up makes me freeze physically and mentally. But I am playing with other actual people! I am collaborating and this is waking me up! I am learning that isolating yourself through perfectionism and fear keeps you from others and the many wonderful, unimaginable interactions, notes, sounds, and experiences that are possible at the drop of a hat. (Also, it turns out playing jazz is HARD and not for the faint hearted!!)
Other people are great.
So this is a flower blog so here’s another collaboration that has given me SO MUCH and made me realise that sometimes, I need other people. Having worked so hard to find the perfect woman-cave (sexy) where I can work undisturbed, I was kind of taken aback at how WONDERFUL it was to work with other industry people.
Last summer I started to think that I could really do with getting on the photo shoot bandwagon. Many other florists have collaborated on photo shoots and aside from potentially catching the eye of future couples, it’s a really good way to work with complete creative control. When I began to think seriously about this I knew my number one priority (aside from buying lots of lovely flowers I wanted to design with) was to work with Jo Brown. I can’t remember when I first started following Jo on Instagram, but I have loved her photography for quite a while now. She is a master at using light and dark in her shots, and she often works with film, which I think can add such a huge amount of atmosphere to an image. As it turns out, Jo really knows what she’s talking about (surprise!!!!! NOT!) and it was a privilege to watch her work and try and see what she was seeing as she set up shots and adjusted angles. The photos from that day are seeped in the cold, damp, and dull October weather we worked in and this is all Jo’s work. Jo makes real life look so much better! I keep looking at the soggy, rotten leaves that we scattered under the arrangements. In reality they were just a bit of texture, but in the photos, it looks like Jo has painted these so beautifully and precisely exactly where she wants them. The collaboration was so much more than what I had expected it to be.
We had a team of women for the shoot. Alongside Jo, we needed clothes, a model, make up and hair. I am quite a fan of sending emails that punch way above my weight, which was the case when I got in touch with Lucy Meyer. When I searched for make up artists in Eastbourne and came across her website, I could not believe that someone of her calibre with the experience she has was working and living in the sleepiest of south coast towns. And then she also agreed to help out on the shoot and provide her salon for hair and make up – this was a dream coming true!
Clothes were provided by Hannah and Abby of House of Ollichon. I really wanted a “bride” in trousers and struggled for a while to find anything that wasn’t just a man’s suit tailored to a woman’s body. HoO generously lent me some beautiful garments, including the drop back jumpsuit that we all wanted to take home.
And our model? My dear old University pal, all-round crazy bean, and hugely talented Vanessa stepped up. What a beaut she is. Inside and out. And she put up with that damp, creeping cold in very little clothing – or at least clothing insufficient for maintaining a comfortable body temperature.
So, the summary? Collaboration is KEY. (I shouldn’t have given that away with the title). As much as I enjoy my controlled, quiet environments for creating and working in peace, I have been more fulfilled musically and with floristry with other people around than I have by myself.
Other people are great.
N.B. The photo shoot we collaborated on is featured on Love My Dress. Have a look!