We were lucky enough to step into the Design By Nature studio and see life in the eyes of local florist, Emily Ayres. DT first got chatting to Emily when she was running a plant stall at Tottenham Green Market. For the interview, she welcomed us into her studio a few days before Valentine’s Day and she was preparing for a busy few days with lots of bespoke orders.
You had a design background before you started in the flower business. How did that come about?
I quit my job a year and a half ago. Before I became a florist I worked in product design working for quite high profile artists and designers. I did communications, events, studio management and looked after clients and that sort of thing. I also studied fine art at university which I loved.
Were you in a supporting role rather than designing?
Yeah much more supporting than making although I was very much involved in creative decisions. I’d been thinking about floristry for a while and thought do you know what, I’m just going to do it.
I wrote to some florists and became an intern at the age of 31 and learnt from some really great florists. I interned for a couple of months, then I got a job working at a florists, left there, and went away for six weeks to Central America. I thought you know what, ‘I’m going to give it a go and start my business when I get back.’
It was always let’s see if it happens. Let’s see if it works. Quickly those questions were answered. It’s been amazing this last year.
It sounds like you’ve really been enjoying it.
Yes, I love it. It’s incredibly hard work and I’m sure all florists will say the same. It’s physically demanding. It’s really tiring as you’re up really early.
Where do you buy your flowers?
I go to New Covent Garden which is the biggest flower market in London and some are delivered from Holland. I want to work with British flower growers as well, depending on the seasons, which is important. It’s also really important to me to have fresh flowers. Flowers are expensive and for someone to buy them and they don’t last is the saddest thing.
What drew you to floristry in the first place?
I’ve always been really creative and I studied sculpture at university. I’ve always painted, I’ve always sculpted and I’ve always had that part of me. It’s one of those things I remember thinking about when I was younger, if I didn’t go to university I would have become a florist. I remember my cousin doing a floristry course and being quite jealous.
Floristry’s had quite a big fashionable revival in recent years. Having thought about that I really wanted to be creative and make things. I thought that was such a nice way to do it and express that creativity. It’s fantastic working with a natural product.
Are you happiest when you’re creating?
I’ve definitely felt a lot more fulfilled. Thinking about the client and the project… and having the opportunity to make that your own, to do something that’s coming from you, has been really great. I went in from the side that it has to be a profitable business. It’s so important be a business women as well as a creative. I definitely like both of them but if I had to pick one I’d always go for the creative side.
What’s your process? How do you come up with your arrangements?
I’m very drawn to colour – colour palettes, combinations of colours and the shapes of flowers. I hate flowers that have been [grown and look the same]. It’s like straight carrots. Supermarkets have straight carrots but actually it’s the wonky ones that are the natural ones and the ones that I think have the best shapes. Each flower has it’s own shape. That’s how I start. I really think about the shape of the flowers that I’m using.
There’s certain flowers that are the bold statements and there’s other flowers that compliment those. I think the colour palate is one of the most important elements and is something that I really take a lot of time to consider. You can’t just throw any old colour together. Two shades of pink might work perfectly but then another two shades of pink would look awful.
We commented on how vibrant all the flowers are in her studio and she explains that she’d come up with a new bouquet for Valentine’s Day which is called Roses Are Not All Red. ‘There’s no roses or red in it and it’s incredibly colourful.’
Does it depend on seasons or what people have requested?
I’d normally go for bright but off bright. Ever so much toned down. They’re my dream colours. It really depends on the project or client and what’s happening at that time.
Do you draw on your training from art school?
That’s definitely a huge part of what brings it together. I know in my mind where I want people to look and where the most dominant part of the bouquet is and that’s where the style comes from.
You have quite a modern, fresh look.
I always tell people I don’t do traditional style flowers. Nothing is ever the same, everything is different, which I think is really personal and adds that hand made element. I try not to get any two flowers that are exactly the same. Using how the flowers fall and the shape of them is a big part too.
Can you explain a bit about the workshops that you do?
I teach workshops depending on the time of year. There’s hand tied bouquets which I always thought was the risky one but I’ve had people tell me that’s more difficult than vase arrangements. Planning to spiral the flowers and putting it together in a certain way. Teaching them the element of the style and colours and showing people how to move those around.
When I teach workshops it’s a specific way of doing it and a lot of it is about the shape of it. I pull flowers up and out, the flowers never sit in one shape… it looks quite wild and natural. It’s quite important with colours, a lot of them are dotted about the place so you want someone’s eye to fall in certain ways across the bouquet.
The vase arrangement workshop is very similar it’s just using a glass vase. I think it can be a lot more creative as you can create a lot of crazy shapes and it’s my personal favourite.
Do you enjoy working on a bigger scale as well?
Yeah I love it. At events and weddings you get the opportunity to do installations which are the most fun.
What is your favourite flower?
Hellebores are my ultimate favourite flower which is very much a British flower grown in the garden and you get these incredible muted purples and slightly off greens.
What has been your biggest challenge in the last year?
I think dealing with a business that’s been growing quite quickly and deciding what are the right steps to make and the timings of those steps. Understanding flowers as well. I’m still learning so much. Each flower has it’s own care need and has it’s own way in which it likes to be treated. That’s one the aspects I learnt very quickly, how to maintain flowers in the right way and look after them properly. I think until I got into floristry something I hadn’t really thought of before was how much of that goes into it.
What do you most enjoy about your job?
Working with an amazing product, if you see flowers in that sense. It’s like a paint or piece of equipment. It’s something that can be built in to something more. Every time I go to the market there’s a new flower I’ve never seen before. Learning a new career all over again has been amazing, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.
What are your plans for this year?
This year, I have weddings all summer. I’m going to be setting up a new space which is going to be really exciting and will have the capacity to hold workshops. I think it’s taking the business that next step now and having permanent staff that work with me. People that I trust being able to do the flowers. What’s been really amazing is the clients that I had last year are back again and we’re working on projects this year. And I hope to return to Tottenham Green Market.
Are there any other elements you are working on?
The ethical side of things is quite important to me so I want to work with more British growers, but also reduce plastic use.