The floral design industry is in such a transitional phase at the moment. This transition is welcomed by me. I have been in design and floral design for 14 years and the arts industry for longer and have seen many trends come and go, the one trend that keeps its integrity is originality. This floral shift is different, this time the change stems (pun intended) from more than just styles and methods, this shift is for the artist!
The floral boom has happened! I believe the true increase in floral designers happened about 5 years ago. I was in London and couldn’t quite believe how many cats were being swung and hitting florists! I wasn’t interested in becoming part of it as I was an auditioning actor but I was always working within the industry. I’m absolutely interested now.
Benefits to the industry have come about from this boom but also negatives. I’m going to talk about these changes and what I believe about the industry in this post.
Firstly I want to say that only a small section of the industry is an artistic instagrammy pursuit. I think that’s important to clarify and perhaps quantify. The Instagram culture of florists has created an unfair view of the industry. Most people working hard within the industry are not instagrammy at all (I was that sector until starting my own company). They are the local shops, the shops focusing on passing trade, funerals and weddings, working hard to earn a crust.
When discussing the industry it’s important to not forget these florists. They are the backbone and they keep most wholesalers and suppliers in business meaning we all benefit hugely from their existence. It’s too easy to forget them when preaching from (beautifully decorated) ivory towers. The wheels are turning because of these florists. Our suppliers wouldn’t be there with out them. Most modern florists don’t realise that they can only exist because of the “old school” floral grafter!
I have worked in a shed next to a bus stop and worked on a vogue shoot. Consultations, brides, funerals, wreath making until your fingers bleed, garlanding, gallery openings, making a bouquet from a craspedia and a huge delphinium because the customer insists, Mayfair homes, flower crown workshops, through the night installs, (spilling my coffee over myself because I collapsed in a coffee shop once I’d finished 72 hours straight), dealing with people from primrose hill ( 🤢 ), celeb perfume mail outs (the worst) I could go on .... and will ..... de greasing stands, chainsawing for foliage, being yelled at from brides, making a whole wedding in the back of a van, having my work challenged by angry brides/grooms .... I will stop going on now. Main point is I have been in every section of the industry and this is rare in a modern floral designer. I’ve seen and made it all!
E.T floral foam home
Let’s get the floral foam issue out of the way! Wow wow wow! What talking point this is at the moment. It’s a slight bone of contention for me. I try not to use it as much as possible and I have come up with methods and structures that mean I do not use it often anymore (almost not at all). I cant however align myself with the anti floral foam cavalry as of yet (I will get there). They really are trying to do a great thing but it’s become populist and very much a style over substance issue. As with most things on social media, it becomes more about what you say being popular and the preach is nothing to do with the practise. I know that a lot of these “#nofloralfoam” companies use it when the jobs price is right, hypocrisy when tagging #nofloralfoan. If you use it ever you should not be profiting from a false representation of your business. I’ve recently had to use foam for a large job and until I’m totally free of foam you won’t see that extremely popular # on my posts, even if I haven’t used it on that particular design. Frankly it’s marketing BS!
I know brilliant florists where all their jobs are floral foam free (@stormandgraceflowers) I commend these guys! My (floral) hat comes off to you! The funeral florist next to the cemetery trying to make a living and pay staff will never be judged by me until there is a viable, cost affective alternative. This leads me on to my next point perfectly. There is a lot of talk about being floral foam free and almost all of this talk comes from some high end successful and brilliant floral company. So much chatter and finger pointing yet no sharing of their methods or investment in research and development. They have the money to put directly in to their mouths. This judging with no answer is a slight back hand, no?? If you feel passionately about it then surely you should be helping the little guys out and not keeping your floral foam free methods a secret, greater good?
Trying to carve out a niche is fine but that doesn’t help finish the use of floral foam it just means that you aren’t using it which is a drop in the (plastic filled) ocean. The change has to come from the top down, the money for R&D isn’t there for most. Put your money and your floral foam free methods where your mouth is. If you care you’ll share. If you want to carve a secret niche then that’s fine but don’t share posts that judge others. I’m happy to say I won’t share a lot of my techniques because I want to own them, if I come up with an answer to floral foam you’ll all be educated (I’m no scientist unfortunately 😩)
Floral foam free tip from
PHIL JOHN PERRY FLORAL
- use contorted hazel below the water line. Make a tight ball and submerge in the vessel. It gives you real control and can be used again and again and again and again!
Industry leader - @stormandgraceflowers
This girl defies all odds including gravity. Gaia does the most exciting work with no floral foam.
TO FARM OR TO HARM
The environment is being negatively impacted by the floral industry in so many more ways than just floral foam. Water supplies in poor communities are being contaminated, water in general is in short supply because of farms and carbon footprint to name but a few. If we stand up on floral foam all the other issues should be addressed to the same extent. Especially when your floral “foam free” arrangement is full of poison dipped chemicals that are harming communities but making your roses pop.
The environment is such a huge problem for the floral industry but I will always put human/animal ethics above all else and I feel the human issues are being ignored and for reasons that can only relate to profit. I’ve been a veggie for as long as I’ve been involved with flowers and the farming of meat is much more of a problem then anything else.
Flower farms in Africa and South America are not being held accountable for the impact they are having on both a human level and environmental level. Some are owned by western companies and others not. But, large UK based suppliers are dealing with them and are the farms main client. Therefore it is their duty to make conditions fair and pay fair. Most of the branding of these british wholesalers exudes “English cottage” vibes. Pushing David Austin roses and the meadow look when in reality the beautiful rose that is sent to you has taken 7 gallons of water to create one bloom. 7 gallons of water taken from places that have to pay for clean water (this issue is also caused by western corporations). I will add links to further reading below as there are some great articles on the benefits these farms have to the local communities and some great farms.
I asked a rep for one of these british wholesale brands about the impacts of these farms and got a big uneducated “tut” from her and my old employers.
Ignore marketing, if the Rose looks perfect it ain’t been grown in grandmas garden and it is up to the big wigs with money to make this fair not the small design company trying to get by.
Seeing things from a consumers point of view is paramount for change. We cannot see things with any real scope for change if we are not separating being a floral designer from being a member of the public who has no knowledge on flowers or the industry. The duty is ours to educate and not the publics to assume (or learn for that matter).
We need to make that bunch of flowers or table centre as commercially viable and ethically sourced without placing blame on the client. Of course they want the most beautiful thing for the best cost. I have found that 9 times out of 10 the client will go for what I offer. It’s difficult to not go for the easy option when pitching and due to personal financial pressure I have had to on occasion. When I do, my staff are paid correctly and the job has been taken for the right reasons.
If it’s a peony dome they want in the wrong season, come up with alternative and wow them with something they would never of thought of. Each client wants to break the mould, they simply need to know the mould can be broken and that’s up to us.
After going it alone I got a big wedding and every petal of it was ethical. This was to prove that I could do it. The bride didn’t want it, I did. I wanted to see if I could and I did. It put huge financial pressure on me, made me make almost no money and kill myself physically. I did it but also learned that it’s not financially viable. If I charged for what I did I would never have got the job.
My mum will look at a bunch of flowers and like them/buy them or not. Do you know where your baked beans are coming from? Doubt it. We ask questions on flowers because they are natural. Flowers open doors due to their obvious link to the natural world, this means ethical issues are raised with more fire then the industry actually deserves. We should be asking questions in general about where all of our stuff comes from. It’s too easy to lean on morals when selling flowers. Flowers are being sold just like T-shirt’s are. There isn’t any difference.
“People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” (again ... pun intended)
WILD DOESN'T MEAN BRITISH
British flowers are BRILLIANT! I love the magic of the Northern European seasons. We shouldn’t lie though, blooms (commercially) are not there in the winter. Sooo many companies are profiting from the “wild” look and not being truthful. A wild style doesn’t mean British or ethical. The punter doesn’t know that their wild bunch bought hasn’t been picked from a meadow by blonde virgins that morning (ok they don’t have to be blonde 😂, I expect virginity from my pickers though 😂😂).
Your wild bunch of british flowers are simply not british. I can say this as someone who has worked for several companies who claim this to be a reality. I have been told “oh so long as it looks british put it in”. Since learning more and being an honest business owner I realise how negatively this impacts the industry. I hope my honesty in this very article proves my point.
Give me a garden in winter and I will make something beautiful and that’s what we all should be doing. If all we offer is what we can do artistically at that point in the season it will become sellable. If we all claim “british flowers” when they aren’t the public will never learn what we can do with winter flowers in Northern Europe.
Don’t see “wild British flowers” and think for one second that those flowers are british. They aren’t, they are just using marketing to make you buy (I’ve had to put African roses in your British grown bunch ..... I apologise..... they made me do it).
CREDIT OR SHRED IT
To be credited for your work is paramount for me. I have had to work for large companies (as an artist, actor and florist) and not been given the right to my own work. I do however understand business, if it’s under them then its owned by them, right? Errrrrr well this all depends on the company. If it’s for a publication you don’t own anything, they do.
After years of slaving away for others I now have my own business and it’s taught me so much about artists being credited. Every job I get comes from me, from the email, concept and design, it’s from my head. So this means I’m yet to have an issue with crediting someone I hire. Here lies the point!! The moment I have a job where it has come from another brain I will credit that artist and I wouldn’t even think twice about it. I would be sooooo happy to get my name and theirs pushed forward. With my brand it’s different as I don’t look to freelancers to come up with ideas and, to be painfully honest the minute I do is the minute I should stop. I have never had to look outward for ideas and never want to. If a wonder talent comes in and saves the day for me I’ll champion them fully and try to employ them to be honest. I wouldn’t steal their work from them just because it is under my businesses name. It’s vulgar and shows a real lack of integrity and intelligence, if you can’t do it then tell the world who can with your back up and brands power. Recently I got acclaim from a publication without me asking for it, they told me that they couldn’t not credit me due to me being “so obviously” the sole creator and maker of the work. How proud I am of another artist supporting not only the artist but also the crafts person. Thank you to them. Honesty is really the best policy.
The employing company should have their name on it of course but the artist should be credited. If you’re not a talent and state that fact then reference the truth, reference the artist you have employed to make your company money (the larger company get the cash and numerous jobs from the acclaim, the artist does not).
As I’ve blatantly stated before “my shit is my shit” and congrats on having the money to buy the flowers (Bravo). With credible artistic companies (like mine) it isn’t an issue but with money hungry brands it is, they aren’t talented in any field other than making money. These companies are everything I stand against and unfortunately have had to work for. I have been actively discredited and my former colleagues been told to not tell me. I’m very happy to let my artistry speak for itself, it’s plain to see authenticity when you simply look at the work.
If I employ someone to help me make my creation/concept I would still reference them but I own the idea. These companies who don’t have the idea or ability should be honest and realise their brand is built on the talent they employ. My work comes from me from beginning to end, if you can’t say that then get over yourself and credit the artist and yourself.
I have had to open up dialogue with my work being re posted or inspiring other work and each time my honesty has led to a healthy relationship with them and also collaborations (wait and see). We all get mood boards for a job and don’t think about where the images have come from. It’s an mistake to make. Claiming work of someone else’s as your own on social or in the press is not ever a mistake. It’s a calculated decision.
Having been a creative in so many different fields has taught me so much about how important it is to be honest with the ownership of the creation. If it’s from a persons brain and hands it’s theirs. Whether people lie in the press or not. Truth is truth and all true talents agree with that fact. Disagreeing to this is a confessional act.
“My shit is my shit” (see my prior post “creative mind the gap”)
When a piece of art created by an amazing artist is sold at auction the person who bought it doesn’t become the artist!!
Sorry for the lack of punnery and snappiness in the above sub title but the quotation marks stand for themselves. This is something that gives me FEELINGS!! Not happy floral ones, it makes me militant!
If I was to go in to this industry now I wouldn’t have been able to. The free labour society is alive and well in florals. It really does sicken me. This shift makes me so angry. It’s viral in so many industries, law, psychology to name but a few (important ones). The viral growth of free labour within this industry equals my growing distain for it. If you genuinely teach them then I don’t judge.
I understand letting someone watch the professionals work but I don’t agree on having people come in and be the back bone of the work. To watch a rich company panic when an unpaid work experience doesn’t turn up has taught me all I need to know about how these companies became prosperous. These companies (who always Identify as liberal.... pffft!, torie florists anyone?) provide no education or teaching, they simply need people to empty the bins for entitled seniors. I empty my own bins along with the people I employ. We are all in it together. You get work ethos from actually having to work for your own upkeep, food and rent.
My beginners get paid and get offered my time to teach them the real ways to make a living in this lucrative business because I believe in that method, because I’m not a champagne socialist. I’d rather work for a Torie than a plastic progressionist. When working for companies I’ve had their work experience offer to pay me to teach them when all along they should have been given some “work experience” whilst doing “work experience”. Of course conditioning and bins being emptied is part of that but so is a lot more. Even if you do just empty bins you should be paid for it!! If you work you should get paid, isn’t it awful that that is even a question! It’s now harder then ever for people from normal backgrounds to get by so it’s our duty to pay people who work!
I was once mistaken for a work experience by an awful militant senior florist (a senior with much less rounded experience then me). I actually played along to learn how this girl treated the nervous and vulnerable (and often foreigners who are new to the English language) beginners. I learned that she was nothing more than mean (an bland isn’t the word for her work). When I told her I had been in the industry for 10 years at that point her face fuelled my fight for the floral underdog! Now I can say I’ve proven my point with my own company ethos.
If you believe in liberal values pay or teach but in all honestly do both! The expectations I have seen put on our learners has shocked me. Genuine tellings off for lateness, on social media posts, being refused lunch and staff discount.
The truth of this comes when you see a beginner who is no longer a beginner being cast aside as soon as they ask to be paid. These folk have been making contracts alone worth thousands of pounds a week and yet as soon as they have the courage to call themselves valuable their confidence has been broken due to being refused payment and/or being told they are no longer needed (free or not). This is all wrong and I have fought that corner whilst witnessing it always.
My business is new and it’s not been easy to get off the ground (100% not off the ground now) I have had lots of people offer me their time for free but I won’t do it. I did a wedding recently that should’ve had at least four florists and a driver. I did it alone because I wasn’t in a position to even buy them a proper lunch let alone pay them. I’m happy to say that on my most recent job I have employed people and it has made me extremely happy to have done so.
I CAME TO PAY, B”@&H!
This segment is really simple. Don’t pay minimum wage no matter what industry you are in. In Britain we have something called “the living wage” and we also have something called the “London living wage” and the ridiculous excuse of “minimum wage”.
“LIVING” the actual word used! The bare minimum to live on!! Don’t pay people any less, THEY HAVE TO LIVE!
The Living wage in Britain is
£8.75 an hour
The London living wage is
Even when these people eventually get paid they aren’t getting paid properly! I have known people to be paid less than the minimum wage. What an abuse ‘ of power (it’s also illegal).
This keeps so many people/talents out of the industry. It’s very sad to say goodbye to a talented person who has to leave because a factory pays more than an extremely lucrative floral design companies do. They will simply wait for someone who can work for longer for free.
My advice to all beginners is to practise at home, on YouTube and learn learn learn! It’s all there. Work in a shop and when you are ready send your portfolio out as a junior florist. If your work stands up you will be offered paid work of it doesn’t stand up work harder on your florals and images. If you are good you will get paid.
Courses are great too but very expensive, lots of local colleges have courses that have government subsidies and actually teach you what you need to know and not what is merely fashionable. I learned the old ways and now because of floral foam being banned and the styles changing I’m back at the technical top. The days of making an easy AF loose cylinder arrangement or floral foam Constance Spry are over.
Beginners I LOVE YOU!! If you ever need help or a free class email me! Don’t go to glossy companies that won’t pay. It really isn’t worth it, we all know how to empty a bin. Some of the beginners I have (secretly) taught when they are work experience can now teach me a thing or two or three or four! Many are much better florists then I will ever be!
You really have to have an eye for design and composition the rest can be quickly acquired. The truth is the technical stuff really isn’t that hard. What’s hard is the artistry matched with technique. There are lots of factory freelancers (see above) they’re great but if you’re already an artist you jump ahead instantly.
Also, I have had “work experience” whilst employed, and I have instantly known they can’t do it. I can see that after a few hours. That is ok, I can’t be a lawyer (something I really want to be) and have been told the truth. I’m happy to say when it’s time to throw the towel in for someone.
FINAL FLORAL THOUGHTS
The main thing I want to preach is that there are two types of florist, the artist and the florist. Being an artist is attractive to (as previously stated) the populist. If you want a career in this industry you can be both. A money job is a money job and you/I have to do it with integrity and for the correct reasons but you should do the right jobs to make money. This is all a choice though. If the “The Spectator” magazine ask me to work for them for amazing money they can ..... F£&k off! (I have had to do events for them whilst working for other people, I can only apologise. Take the correct work for the correct reasons. The things i make might not be my style but the events ethos will always stand up to my values.
My history within the industry hasn’t been one of born passion but it has grown in to something more beautiful than the perfect Passion flower. I’m very proud to be part of a wonderful creative community. Honesty about your practise is extremely important in life and this industry. It’s ok to rock the boat from the correct place. Your work stands for itself.
Floral designers I LOVE
Floral foam free and the most stunning dried arrangements
Combats the age old problem of photographing flowers. She ignores the old styles of “edgy” urban back dropped photos and stuns me me with thought provoking imagery that always inspires a narrative.
Surprises me with shape and composition every time. I adore her unapologetic breaking of the rules.
Her work instils cinematography. The depth of the florals and photography is stunning. Sumptuous and visceral.
Thank you for reading. Email me with any comments you may have.