Six months ago I visited Sheffield to work on a couple of weddings with the glorious florists at Swallows and Damsons. For those of you who don’t know, this is a teeny tiny flower shop and the home of events florist and all-round floristry-glory-beast, Anna Potter. Swallows and Damsons’ Instagram feed is full of images saturated with rich colour and arresting palettes, with some photos seeming to have been taken in a previous century; her floral “look” definitely has a timeless quality about it. It’s mesmerising. Anna has said she is obsessed with colour, and you can see this immediately you start looking at her work.
So, for context to my story, by about this time last year I had really run out of energy, floristry-wise. I was tired, jaded, and panicked by the vast number of new florists popping up across the country. I was fed up and had run out of steam. Money was tight, so paying for a floristry class, masterclass or workshop was out of the question (though a one-to-one floristry and in depth life discussion with Sarah Ryhanen is still one of my all time life goals). Work experience was the most logical step, and Swallows and Damsons are one of the (maybe THE) leading florists in the country, so I sent them an email. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And they got back to me!! So, in May I ambled up the M1 in the baking heat, settled into my AirBnB room and had a very special few days working in the shop and creating some beautiful flowers for a couple of weddings. It was a dream!! When you work by yourself your world becomes very familiar and isolated. You can become stagnant and frustrated at your own limitations and, basically, fed up with your own company. So to work within a team, to chat and to collaborate, was full of joy!
I learnt so much whilst in Sheffield. Firstly, I was nurtured. I rested in someone else’s decision making and had no stresses leading up the weddings. I soaked in the vases, colours, textures, leaves and flowers that made that little shop so special. I saw in one hand the seemingly effortless magical beauty of art, and in the other hand, the guts, grit and wit that actually make those things work and come together. I was reminded again of the great benefit it is to be organised and to make a list (sometimes I feel like being organised and of tidy mind is poo-pooed within creative industries. But I have found the more organised I am, the less there is to distract and confuse my own creative output). I learnt the simple placement of a colander in the sink stops the plug hole being blocked up with manky flower scraps – why haven’t I thought of this before??! And I also learnt a little bit about negative space, or taking away.
I was so impressed (though I shouldn’t have been surprised) at Anna’s attention to detail. For the table centres, all of the bright green buds on the Lisianthus were cut away. Removing these buds not only affected the shape of the arrangements, but left the palette saturated with dark, dusky tones which the points of bright green would have distracted and brightened. The buds wouldn’t have ruined the arrangements, but removing them elevated the whole piece. Twice she left the shop to collect Bugloss weeds from goodness knows where, because that tiny cobalt blue was just enough to truly finish the arrangements and make the colour combinations something a little more special.
That visit to Sheffield was an eye opener. It reinvigorated my floristry by helping me to understand that I can make some beautiful things, if I take myself seriously enough to allow myself to create them. And sometimes removing something from an arrangement isn’t wasteful but can be the finishing touch of the piece.
When I started writing this post (in July), I had some other trails of thought that I might not go into now, though there were some beautiful patterns that seemed to emerge all around the same time. The idea of space, rest/silence in music, in mystery and not knowing (or not understanding). These can bring so much more than just a lack of something. They can give life to the piece and finish it to perfection with just a snip, or a stop, or a shrug of the shoulders.
PS – kudos to Justine for carting me about in her car across Sheffield and sharing her thoughts and ideas with me. And to Vicky for insisting on pizza and drinks on the evening of my birthday. Yorkshire women R.U.L.E.