You may know that I was very privileged to work for London-based florist Paula Pryke a few years ago. I’m absolutely delighted to feature an exclusive interview with Paula today:
What are you up to nowadays?
As you know, my weeks can be very varied. At the moment, I’m working on Christmas designs and quotes for installations around London.
I’ve also been working recently with Waitrose, predicting flower trends and colours, and creating ‘how to’ videos for their website.
I’ve recently created wedding flowers for a wedding at Sudeley Castle (see images below), plus I was recently in Walton-on-the-Naze doing a demonstration to a Flower Club.
We’ve had some wonderful clients this year and a couple of large events which have been very memorable. We’ve had a great diversity of weddings – from a huge Jewish wedding at The Savoy to a cute country wedding in a nightclub in Bury St Edmunds!
One of the joys of a career in flowers is the beautiful buildings that we’ve had the pleasure in decorating. Castles continue to be popular and I‘m certainly glued to Downton Abbey because we’ve had the pleasure of working at the venue so many times and it’s such a wonderful spot.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve been teaching and demonstrating on cruise ships, which has been very interesting and enjoyable. Crystal Cruises employed me as a consultant and I love working with a huge team in hospitality. We did the flowers for a film starring Colin Firth which was a new experience for me and will be especially fun to watch.
I’ve also been working on some super yachts, which again is something new for me!
I’m still travelling a lot to the US to demonstrate and this year I went back to San Diego for my third visit. It was the first US city to invite me to their Art Museum to demonstrate back in 1994! I was on the bill with Kenneth Turner then who had inspired me to be a florist, so it was a great honour.
In December, I’m flying to Pasadena to be a judge for the Rose Parade which I am terribly excited about! I can’t wait to see all those floats. It takes five days to get round them all to make our choices!
Then next February, my new book ‘Flowers every day’ is being published and I’m also taking part that month in the Chichester Festival of Flowers, doing some floristry demonstrations.
On a personal level, I hope to improve my new cutting garden borders at my home and plant 500 bulbs!
You have a very successful and inspirational Flower School in Islington. What kind of courses do you currently run there?
We still run one day, four day and eight day career courses. We also have some half day workshops and a big Christmas Exhibition planned.
It’s a good time to come and visit and also make a design in our style. We have courses planned up until January and then we are planning to change the format slightly and do more workshops and classes around the country and overseas.
How would you describe your style?
My style has evolved over the twenty three years I have been designing. My own taste is natural and simple and I think my best designs are modern classics.
Of course we are always stretched by our clients and the trends and fashions, but the simpler the arrangement, the better I feel about it.
I hope I take something that is intrinsically surprisingly beautiful and add to it, rather than overpower or contort. I marvel at contorted floristry but it is not my passion.
What is your favourite flower?
The ranunculus remains at the number one slot! There are about 500 flowers in my top league, but I adore those flowers.
What has been the highlight of your career?
I’ve had so many lovely highlights over the years that it is hard to name one.
One big highlight that changed my course was being asked to write a book, and now I have written fourteen.
I never in my wildest dreams thought that twenty years on I would still be writing them and that they would have been translated into some many different languages. Japanese, Hebrew and Russian are the most surprising!
I’ve also really enjoyed meeting amazing people and working for them, such as Terence Conran and Delia Smith.
What are your plans and hopes for the future?
The current difficulties in the economy make it even more precious to be earning a living doing something you enjoy.
In the last ten years, there’s been a huge shift in the flower business in London and working in the city has been more difficult and challenging.
Over the last 23 years, I’ve opened and closed nine shops and I think that retailing flowers is very challenging. At the moment, we’re working on the bespoke and also the seasonal.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to improve their flower arranging skills?
Big subject! If you want to work commercially, speed is of the essence and so work experience in a fast-paced environment is essential.
Reading books, watching DVDs, studying trend magazines and travelling to fairs all help to widen your experience. Plus working with the materials and experimenting with your ideas, if you want to hone your skills at home.
You could take a private flower lesson or join a flower club. If you want to know more, join a local college session. Flower arranging is interactive. It’s hard to do in isolation. I think it is good to feed off others.
I’d like to thank Paula for her wonderful insight into her floristry career to date. I can’t wait to see her new book, ‘Flowers every day’!
(Image : Paula Pryke)