In conversation with Naomi the talented eco and sustainable floral designer behind our festive window display in our Bath store.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR WORK?
I’m a floral designer but working in an environmentally conscious and sustainable way. Reduce, repair, reuse. I work with the seasons and with what the local environment provides and I’ve started growing my own flowers to use fresh in the summer and to dry to use through the rest of the year. Otherwise, I buy as locally as possible but never outside of the UK. I use no plastics at all. I strongly believe the floristry industry needs to change. For an industry that is based on the gifts of Mother Nature, we need to have more respect and care for the natural world. We do not need to import from far-flung countries, use vast greenhouses or plastics to enjoy flowers in our lives, whether at home, for events or gifting to others.
HOW DID YOU LEARN YOUR CRAFT?
I’m self-taught! From a very young age I’ve always loved collecting flowers from the garden or the hedgerows and putting arrangements together. I dreamt for a long time of being a florist but could never see it as a viable option as a single mother of two young children. The early morning deliveries, weekends doing weddings and the financial outlay of having a shop and having to keep the fresh flowers cool… it was never going to happen! But after treating myself to a dried flower course, everything changed overnight. That day, I felt in my element. It reminds me of Ken Robinson’s book ‘Element: How finding your passion changes everything’. I had longed for this. I had searched high and low and then that day, it was like I had an epiphany. It felt so intuitive to me. I felt so at peace, so present. From that day, I just kept playing and practising. I come from an artistic background and I’ve studied art and design at different levels. I’ve always found working in 3D very intuitive. A lot easier than painting.
WHAT DREW YOU TO PLANTS?
I have always loved flowers and foliage. As a young child I was very excited to have my own part of the garden to grow whatever I decided to grow. And my family have always let me take cuttings from their gardens. I have the most wonderful memories as a child of wandering around my aunt and uncle’s beautiful gardens. There would be flowers he grew from seed from all over the world. He took me on his journeys across the globe when he would tell me with such enthusiasm about each plant. He made me look closely at the intricate detail on each petal and would say it with such love and admiration. He is a real botanist. Not out of academic study but from love and admiration of the natural world.
WHY DRY FLOWERS?
I have been very interested in and yearned for a career in floristry for years. I treated myself to a dry flower day course at The Newt in Somerset. I went there with no other intention other than to enjoy myself but came out realising, ‘this is it!’
I loved the sustainable side of it and I knew it was something that I could manage as a single mum. I didn’t need to be in a shop for fresh flower deliveries. That’s the practical side. Alongside that, I also love the fact that I’m giving flowers a second life! When dried, they transform into something else. There’s a real beauty in their lightness and delicacy that I love to work with.
WHAT IS THE PROCESS TO CONVERT A FRESH FLOWER INTO A DRIED FLOWER?
It’s actually very simple. The flowers need to be picked at their peak, or just before. When they’re nice and open and before any of the petals start to turn. Harvesting in the morning is best and ideally when it’s not wet but as we know here in the UK, that is not always possible! If I do have to harvest in the wet, then I place them in my airing cupboard (flower heads placed upright and stems through the slotted wood) so the moisture can evaporate more quickly.
You need to remove the excess foliage from the stems. Put the flowers into bunches. Not too big and make sure that the flowers are not squashing each other. For bigger blooms such as dahlias, it’s best to hang these separately. Half unfolded paper clips work a treat. Pierce the clip through the stem and the other end hang over a coat hanger, or twine if you can run it from one side of a room to another, or use a clothes airer. Be imaginative… anything goes as long as the flowers are not squashed and there’s good air flow around them. The flower stems will snap when fully dried. That’s the sign to look for.
WHERE DO YOU SOURCE AND FORAGE YOUR MATERIALS FROM?
I grow at home and on my allotment as well as gathering from family gardens. To add to that, I buy from British flower farms and forage wherever possible!
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF BRINGING THE OUTSIDE INSIDE?
In my experience, it can only help lift the spirits. It has been proven that having a connection to the natural world, whether out walking, having plants or flowers in the house, or being creative with natural products can help with emotional wellness. This is so powerful and something that I love to encourage others to experience. The natural world in its many forms is incredibly healing.
WHAT TYPES OF FLOWERS ARE BEST FOR DRYING?
Lavender, larkspur, achillea, roses, cornflower, strawflower, nigella, hydrangea and most foliage. Grasses are obviously a good choice too and very easy to dry. There are many, many others too but these are the easiest to start with. To be honest, it’s all trial and error. You must be accepting that it may go wrong. Do not let that put you off though… you will have more success than not!
HOW DO YOU KEEP NATURALLY DRIED PLANTS LOOKING CLEAN AND FRESH?
Your dried flowers will look ‘fresher’ for longer if you keep them out of direct sunlight, in dry conditions (so not best in a small steamy kitchen or bathroom!) and to get any dust off them I use my hairdryer on a cool and gentle setting.
Dried flowers, if kept well, can last a lifetime. Colours and shapes will fade and change, but I love this about them. They are on their own changing journey.
WHAT MOST INSPIRES YOU, BOTH IN YOUR WORK AND LIFE IN GENERAL?
Nature, nature, nature! It’s almost impossible for me to be out in nature and not be inspired. Even if I go out in a foul mood. Mother nature lifts me out of myself and makes me see beyond myself and what beauty there is all around, even in the foggy, cold of winter. I find it so powerful.
I’m also a ‘people person’. I love meeting people. I love human connection. Sharing a smile with a stranger or wishing someone a wonderful day not only gives the receiver a gift of human connection, but it gifts the giver a spark of joy too. It is important for me to have my own time too, to be alone. I live a busy and rather hectic life with my two children and two dogs in tow, so I really value time to be completely by myself.
WHY DID YOU DECIDED TO COLLABORATE WITH BIBICO?
When I first found BIBICO, I knew that they were my ideal client to work with. BIBICO’s values and ethos are so in line with my own. A local business, one based around good design yet consciously working WITH nature. A partnership with nature. A respectful relationship.
WHICH FLOWERS YOU HAVE USED FOR OUR SHOP DISPLAY?
I filled the wire frame with foraged bracken, old man’s beard, dried hogweed, beech branches as well as some gorgeous lichen covered twigs and branches and some glorious weeds I know not the name of! Found those a couple of days before doing the window whilst out walking. Added to this are my home grown nigella, statice and hydrangea heads. All parts of the wintery floral cloud are British grown whether foraged or grown.
ALONGSIDE DOING BIG SHOP DISPLAYS WHAT OTHER PROJECTS DO YOU WORK ON?
I have enjoyed working with some local restaurants. One of which is my favourite, Mother & Wild, in Corsham… a great local business with incredible food! As well as businesses I also do private commissions. Big fireplace installations, wreaths, table decorations and floral wall art to name but a few. You can see some examples on my Instagram and website. Through my shop (which is soon to launch) customers will be able to order varying size bouquets and designs.
You may also find me at local markets selling floral displays of all shapes and sizes. This Christmas period I have been doing miniature flower scenes in ‘open-sided’ glass baubles. Each completely unique. I also run floral workshops. At this time of year, it is of course wreath making, but I have a different slant from the traditional. I love to teach people the art and joy of using ‘everlasting’ flowers and foliage to make a wreath, using only home grown, locally sourced or foraged materials and no plastics or metals. A wreath that can be enjoyed for years to come and one that can be ‘refreshed’ when needed. At the end of its long life, it can be fully composted.
The next events coming up are floral workshops for women on Valentine’s evening and a workshop for Mother’s Day. After that, flower crown workshops, which are a lot of fun!
Thanks Naomi for all the effort and time putting together our Christmas installation. You are an inspiration and a joy to work with.