2Wedding Wednesday: Interview with cake designer Amy Swann

Amy-Swann-Cakes-Flowerona

Every so often, I’m sent images that really take my breath away…and I had one of those moments when I first clapped eyes on Amy Swann’s incredible wedding cakes! As you’ll see when you read further, they are like works of art!  It gives me great pleasure to feature an interview with Amy today, for this week’s Wedding Wednesday blog post…

Could you tell us what prompted you to become a cake designer?

My interest in cake design started when I was asked to decorate cakes for friends’ weddings and family celebrations. Over time, by word of mouth, my business grew.  But things really took off when I was selected as one of six finalists in the Country Homes and Interiors magazine ‘Country Business of the Year’ competition in 2012. This marked a major turning point and gave me the confidence to build my own brand, with its own strong creative identity.

Amy-Swann-Cakes-Flowerona

Amy-Swann-Cakes-Flowerona

When did you start your business and where are you based?

I’m based in Wales in a little village on the Cheshire border, but I take on commissions across the whole of the UK.  My business started over 6 years ago, although I’ve been decorating cakes for years…the process has been very organic and always very exciting!

Amy-Swann-Cakes-Flowerona

Amy-Swann-Cakes-Flowerona

What kind of cakes do you make?

Most of my commissions are wedding cakes. People are getting more and more creative and they want the cake as a main focal point to tie in with their vision. I love being a part of this special process. I also adore working on creative pieces for magazine room sets. I’m often commissioned to follow a design brief that ties in with the other products featured. I love to see my work in lifestyle magazine photo shoots.

Amy-Swann-Cakes-Flowerona

Amy-Swann-Cakes-Flowerona

Could you tell us about the design process for creating your cakes?

I just love flowers and the beauty of nature…the colour combinations, textures, delicacy and sensitivity of a single flower is so exquisite. I thrive on the challenge of interpreting their beauty in my own way.  I approach a subject by sourcing as much information on the flowers as possible by drawing and photographing them. I refer to many flowers that grow in our garden or in our local florist, who specialise in wild flowers. 

Colour is a really important part of what I do. I love trawling through blogs such as Flowerona and Pinterest to gather a range of source material to put together a unique colour scheme for each cake I’m working on to perfect the right colour combination. They often have a vintage/country garden feel…I seem to escape to a fantasy secret garden in my imagination.

I sketch the layout of each cake after discussing my ideas with the client, and then develop the final outcome freely and organically until I’m happy with the balance of the composition. I don’t tend to obsess about the formalities of sugarcraft as I see icing as a modelling medium which should be used experimentally. I work from a real flower and find my own way of representing it. I also incorporate techniques such as piercing and embossing the icing. Food colourings are used as I paint and delicately add detail to each one, like a miniature sculpture. The same goes for my illustrations.  They’re very free and experimental, and clients get an illustration alongside the cake as a keepsake.

Amy-Swann-Cakes-Flowerona

Amy-Swann-Cakes-Flowerona

Amy-Swann-Cakes-Flowerona

Where do you get the inspiration for the floral decorations on your cakes?

I’m inspired by interiors, vintage fabrics, botanical illustrations and ceramic patterns…anything beautiful. I love muted and faded colours. My illustrative background comes from my training in textile design. I specialised in surface pattern with a very strong focus on drawing, colour and texture.  Painting flowers featured strongly in my work.

Amy-Swann-Cakes-Flowerona

Amy-Swann-Cakes-Flowerona

Amy-Swann-Cakes-Flowerona

What are your plans for 2014?

2014 will be a busy year for me with a few very exciting projects in the pipeline, which at the moment I am unable to discuss. Watch this space! You can see my most recent commission in Country Homes and Interiors magazine in their April issue. ‘Violet Walk’ is reminiscent of beautiful secret places where I used to play as a child.  I remember wild violets and primroses carpeted around the trees and fields in Wales where I grew up.

Thank you so much to Amy for contacting me and for all her help in compiling today’s blog post. To see more of her phenomenal cake designs, do pop over to the Amy Swann Cakes website.

Social Media

To keep up-to-date with Amy’s news, here’s where you can find her on social media:

Facebook: Amy Swann Cakes
Twitter: Amy Swann
Pinterest: Amy Swann
Blog: Amy Swann Cakes

(Images : Amy Swann)

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1Social Media Workshop…Grow your flowery business using Social Media – March 31st, 2014

Flowers-from-the-Farm-Logo

You may remember that last month, I took part in a Social Media Workshop in collaboration with Flowers from the Farm?  We had a wonderful day and the attendees included flower growers, florists and garden designers. Well, I’m delighted to say, that due to popular demand, the workshop will be taking place again at the end of this month! Here are the details:

Date: Monday, 31st March
Time: 9.30am-3.30pm/5.30pm
Location: Horsley Park, East Horsley, Surrey
Cost: £69.  For Flowers from the Farm members, the price is £49.

Photographer Emma Davies Social Media Workshop

Agenda
9.30-10.00 Arrival & coffee
10.00-10.30 Intro to social media
10.30-11.00 The art of conversation
11.00-11.30 Coffee break
11.30-12.30 What voice do you want to talk with?
12.30-1.30 Buffet lunch & meeting everyone
1.30-3.30 How to use photos to promote your flowery business
3.30 End of formal session & afternoon tea
3.45-5.00 Bring your laptops and tablets and put into practice what you’ve learnt

Claire Brown from PlantPassion will be leading the morning session and then I’ll be teaching the 1.30-3.30 session, ‘How to use photos to promote your flowery business’, where I’ll cover:

  • Basic photography equipment overview
  • What to consider when shooting
  • Styling and props
  • Editing your images
  • Using your images on social media

Here’s what last month’s attendees said…
‘The course is excellent value for money and useful information conveyed in a user-friendly way!’ 
‘Fab day, learnt lots of bits and am inspired to dig out soopadoopa camera & get shooting.’

For more details, please contact Claire at PlantPassion.  Her email address is claire@plantpassion.co.uk. Perhaps I’ll see you there…?

(Images : 1. Flowers from the Farm, 2. Emma Davies)

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0New floristry classes by Robbie Honey taking place next month in London

Robbie-Honey-Flower-School-New-York

Very early on in my Flowerona days, I had the pleasure of meeting florist Robbie Honey, having initially connected via Twitter (the amazing power of social media!) Lately, he’s been teaching floristry in New York and Beijing, but next month, he has two brand new courses in London.  Here are the details below…

An Introductory Class in Floristry

Date: April 2nd, 10am-4pm
Location: New Covent Garden Flower Market, London
Cost: £350, all materials and flowers included

Robbie will teach the mechanics of construction and design, and help you engage in your own personal style. The day will provide invaluable experience and insight into the industry, as well as some essential floristry skills such as mastering the art of spiralling stems.  The class will cover the principles of making a beautiful hand-tied bouquet, a classic table centre and a contemporary design. Students will learn how to condition flowers, use the tools of the trade and will receive an insight into colour consideration and design.  The day will begin at 10am and finish approximately at 4pm, with an hour for lunch (there are many options locally). Tea and coffee will be served throughout the day.

Advanced Wedding Flower Workshop 

Date: April 29th & 30th, 10am-4pm
Location: New Covent Garden Flower Market, London
Cost: £750, all materials and flowers included

Day 1
- A wired circlet
- Buttonholes
- Large scale urn arrangement

Day 2
- Wired cascading bouquet
- Constructing an arch

This is an advanced two day course for the florist who would like to develop and broaden their skill set or gain further inspiration. Students will learn fine wiring techniques and skills to create large scale designs. They will make a glorious wired cascading bouquet, as well as a wired circlet. Whilst teaching, Robbie will share his design ethos on weddings and students will explore large scale and dynamic designs, learning how to construct a flower arch and to create a large urn arrangement. The course will provide invaluable experience and insight into the industry. Robbie’s wealth of knowledge and love of flowers will make for a truly memorable two days. Each day will begin at 10am and finish approximately at 4pm, with an hour for lunch (there are many options locally).  Tea and coffee will be served throughout each day.

Further information & to book

Simply email miriam@robbiehoney.com for more information and to make a booking. Or alternatively, you can book the courses online :

Below are some examples of Robbie’s stunning work, for both weddings and events…

Robbie-Honey-Flowerona

Robbie-Honey-Flowerona

Robbie-Honey-Flowerona

Robbie-Honey-Flowerona

Robbie-Honey-Flowerona

P.S. You may like to read this interview with Robbie, which I featured on Flowerona in 2012.

(Image : 1. Calvert Crary, All others – Robbie Honey)

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4Interview with Leslie Shewring, co-author of the inspirational new book ‘Decorate with Flowers’

Leslie-Shewring-Flowerona

I hope you enjoyed my blog post earlier today featuring an interview with Holly Becker. It’s now the turn of freelance stylist and photographer Leslie Shewring, the co-author of the new book ‘Decorate with Flowers’.

What an amazing and very beautiful first book! Please could you describe to us how it came about, from initial concept to reality?

Thank you! Holly Becker and I were brainstorming some book ideas together and we were both drawn to the idea of doing an approachable flower décor book. We wanted to share our love of simple and casual ways of bringing flowers into our homes. Since we both enjoy crafting, we wanted to include that in the book as well with various projects we thought people may enjoy doing. We spent a few months going over our ideas and then presented our project to Jacqui Small Publishing. When we were given the ok, that’s when all the real fun began! Loads of flowers and photos! And of course lots of writing!

Decorate-with-Flowers-Holly-Becker-Leslie-Shewring-Flowerona

What are your first recollections of flowers when you were growing up?

I grew up with an enormous garden in a rural area on Vancouver Island. I remember growing flowers with my mother and creating bouquets from a really early age. My grandfather lived with us when I was little and he and my mother tended the massive garden every day. After he passed away, my mother continued gardening on the same land and does to this day. Our family love of gardening has stayed with me as I always enjoy working in the garden and I always love growing flowers.

Decorate-with-Flowers-Holly-Becker-Leslie-Shewring-Flowerona

I’ve loved your floral designs and photographs since taking my first Blogging Your Way course. How have you developed your flower arranging skills?

Thank you Rona! I’ve been doing flower arranging on and off for over 20 years. While in university, I would do custom floral designs for people and I actually taught floral arranging at a local interior design shop in the evenings and on weekends to earn extra money to help with my university costs. I also used to do all the flowers for my friends’ weddings, from the bridal party flowers to the table bouquets. I have learned through doing it over a long period of time.

Decorate-with-Flowers-Holly-Becker-Leslie-Shewring-Flowerona

Decorate-with-Flowers-Holly-Becker-Leslie-Shewring-Flowerona

Which flower story in the book is your very favourite and why?

I think I’m a combination of all the stories.  It’s really too hard for me to choose a favourite. I love them all.

What kinds of potential readers did you have in mind when you and Holly wrote the book?

I think this book is really approachable for most people who are interested in design and want to be inspired with some fresh ways of bringing flowers into your home.

Decorate-with-Flowers-Holly-Becker-Leslie-Shewring-Flowerona

Where do you find inspiration for styling flowers?

My inspiration for styling always comes from what is available for me to use at any given time for an arrangement. What is growing in the garden, what may be for sale at the farm stands or possibly what is affordable at the wholesale market. Usually, it’s what is in season.

What would be your desert island flower?

A garden rose, like David Austin’s Duchesse de Montebello.

Just for fun

  • Peony or ranunculus? Peony
  • Formal or informal? Informal
  • Scented or unscented? Scented
  • Pastel or zesty? Pastel
  • Seasonal or all year round availability? Seasonal
  • Bought or a gift? Gift from the garden!

Thank you SO much to Leslie for all her help in compiling today’s blog post. If you’d like to find out more about Leslie, she has a beautiful blog called A Creative Mint.  And here’s where you can find her on social media.

Social Media

Facebook: Leslie Shewring
Twitter:   Leslie Shewring
Instagram: Leslie Shewring
Pinterest: Leslie Shewring

Many congratulations to both Leslie and Holly for creating such a wonderful book! ’Decorate with Flowers‘ is published by Jacqui Small and it will be available in the UK from March 21st, when it will also be distributed to English book stores across Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand.  A German version will be released this month and you’ll be able to find the book in stores and online in both Canada and the United States from April 8th.

P.S. I’ll be featuring my review of the book on Flowerona later this month.

(Images : Decorate with Flowers)

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2Interview with Holly Becker, co-author of the inspirational new book ‘Decorate with Flowers’

Holly-Becker-Flowerona

I hope you had a lovely weekend. I can’t tell you how excited I am about the two blog posts which I’m featuring on Flowerona today! I’ll be sharing interviews with the authors of an inspirational new book called ‘Decorate with Flowers’…Holly Becker and Leslie Shewring.

I’ve admired both ladies for several years now…ever since I first got to meet them ‘virtually’ online on one of Holly’s blogging courses, where Leslie was teaching photography. And I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting them in person at book launch events in London. When Holly announced the topic of her third book last year, I was thrilled to hear that it was to be based on flowers! And I couldn’t wait for it to be published!  Well, the waiting is almost over as it’ll be available in the UK from March 21st. In the meantime, together with Holly’s interview in this post, you’ll be able to take a peek at some of the pages from this fabulous book.

Decorate-with-Flowers-Holly-Becker-Leslie-Shewring-Flowerona

Over to Holly…

Having written two best-selling interiors books in the past, what prompted you to focus on flowers for your third book? 

I noticed a trend in flower books hitting the market that focused on showing how to create professional looking arrangements at home and I felt inspired by them.  Yet when I tried recreating some, I realized most of the flowers had to be specially ordered, the arrangements were quite expensive once I purchased the needed blooms, and I ended up editing the arrangements so much that they looked nothing like those shown in my beautiful books — so I felt a bit deflated!

Then I thought about how inspired I always was by my mother’s arrangements (she was trained as a floral designer) and also how the more natural, simpler arrangements that I make for the homes I style appeal to me, and also how much I love the floral arrangements that my friend, stylist Leslie Shewring, creates. This made me realize that how I arrange flowers makes me happy and that I don’t need to make my arrangements look more professional or perfect – that they are lovely as they are – and also that maybe lots of my friends and readers could use that encouragement too and to be told that simple, looser arrangements are perfectly fine and need not be perfect to create a gorgeous bouquet at home.

Leslie, of course, felt exactly the same way and because we’re close friends, we discussed our ideas to create a book and Decorate With Flowers was born. In the book, we marry our love of decorating with our passion for fresh flowers and crafting.  And we want to reach those who are, like us, way too busy to create perfect arrangements and to instead, show a fresh approach to styling with flowers that makes floral arranging fun, affordable and quick!

Decorate-with-Flowers-Holly-Becker-Leslie-Shewring-Flowerona

Have flowers always played an important part in your life?

Yes, definitely. My mother was obsessed with flowers, gardening, plants and landscaping. We practically lived at Brookgreen Gardens growing up.  She took me there constantly to observe the flowers and plants along with the wildlife… It was always such a peaceful and inspiring spot for me where we’d roam for hours.

She was trained as a floral designer before I was born and continued making arrangements years later – she even did the flowers for my wedding! She loved working with fresh flowers, but also dabbled with high quality silks and she loved making flowers using crepe and tissue paper, too. She also loved to paint, so we had several oil paintings around the house of her floral still life works. When it comes to flowers as a motif, she used them on sofas, cushions, drapes, wallpaper and even her wardrobe reflected her love of flowers. How could this not influence a young girl?!

Decorate-with-Flowers-Holly-Becker-Leslie-Shewring-Flowerona

In ‘Decorate with Flowers’, there are eight beautiful flower stories. Which one resonates most with you and why?

I truly love them all, though if I had to choose I really loved Girly Glam and Market Style because Girly Glam was shot in LA and I loved the homes we feature and the DIY project.  And I also connected to Market Style since it’s all about exploring outdoor city markets and we were able to inject some Liberty prints, so it’s very feminine and pretty.

With Leslie being based in Canada and you being based in Germany, did you notice any particular differences in flower availability in each country, when you were writing the book?

Not really, as both are northern climates and she had nearly the same flowers available as those I had access to with some exceptions of course…a few were native to northern Europe. The funny part was that I couldn’t always identify the flowers we used in Germany on our shoot days here because I only had the list in German and when translated, they weren’t always the same in US English and in UK English.  And so figuring out the proper name for the correct language edition was a riot!

Decorate-with-Flowers-Holly-Becker-Leslie-Shewring-Flowerona

As well as step-by-steps showing how to make arrangements, you’ve also featured customised containers. Where did you get inspiration for the container DIYs?

We brainstormed a lot – we thought of what we use already at home, ideas we’ve used before that we imagined would be easy and fun for others to try.  It was mostly two grown women at play! :-)

Decorate-with-Flowers-Holly-Becker-Leslie-Shewring-Flowerona

The bottle chandelier is my very favourite design in the book (P60-61). Do you have an overall favourite?

I loved that one too – we tested that in Hannover before Leslie made it in her studio and both agreed that it was a nice project and much easier than it appeared. The great thing is that you can use test tubes, mini vases, anything really and then play around with how you hang them, from length to the type of wire that you use – copper, silver, gold, colored, etc. One design that I really liked is the flower wall cone (set of 3) that we show in the Market Style section.  In Germany, when a child enters first grade, they receive a schultüte from their parents and most are handmade. Children are always photographed holding their schultüte and it’s a source of real pride here. It’s usually half the size of the child (not kidding!) and decorated in a creative way and filled with candy, toys school supplies, etc. and meant to give the child something to ease the anxiety of first day jitters. I thought the flower cones could be a mini version of those that you can use to decorate your walls, a wedding, etc. but instead, fill with flowers. Leslie and I brainstormed and the wall flower cones were born.

Decorate-with-Flowers-Holly-Becker-Leslie-Shewring-Flowerona

Where do you find inspiration for styling flowers?

The room or event I’m working on inspires the arrangements that I make. That is always my starting point – I pick the colors and flower type after surveying the space and consider what would work.

What are your top three tips for decorating your home with flowers?

You’ll have to read the book for those… :-)

Decorate-with-Flowers-Holly-Becker-Leslie-Shewring-Flowerona

Do you have favourite flowers at certain times of the year? 

Yes, I love cherry blossom branches in the spring and later comes the peonies, poppies and sweet peas.  And then towards autumn, the dahlias in their rich tones. In the winter, I love hyacinths on my windowsills and snow berries mixed with pine and white amaryllis.

Just for fun

  • Peony or ranunculus? Peony
  • Formal or informal? Informal
  • Scented or unscented? Somewhere in the middle
  • Pastel or zesty? Mixed
  • Seasonal or all year round availability? Seasonal
  • Bought or a gift? Bought, because I love to shop for flowers!

Thank you SO much to Holly for all her help in compiling today’s blog post. Not only is she a best-selling author, but also a stylist, the founder/editor of decor8blog.com (a blog which I love!) and founder of decor8ecourses.com (many of which I’ve taken part in). If you’d like to hook up with Holly on social media, you can find her details below.

Social Media

Facebook: Decorate with Flowers
Twitter:   Holly Becker & #decoratewithflowers
Instagram: Holly Becker
Pinterest: Decorate with Flowers

I’m sure that ‘Decorate with Flowers‘, which is published by Jacqui Small, will be a huge success! Look out for my next blog post today that features an interview with Holly’s co-author, Leslie Shewring.

(Images : Decorate with Flowers)

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