This week, as part of my Florist Friday blog post series, I’m delighted to feature an interview with Emma Soulsby of Ladybird Flowers.
Could you tell us what prompted you to become a florist?
I left school at 16 hoping to become an artist, but on my first day at college, my nerve failed me and I walked straight out of the classroom into an office job. I soon started studying finance. And although I’ve always had great jobs, finance wasn’t an industry that ever held my heart. When I turned 30, I decided that I needed to stop complaining and make a positive change in my life to do something I actually wanted to do. After a lot of soul searching, I came back to something I’d loved even as a child: flowers. I walked straight into my local florist, Phillo Flowers, and asked if I could volunteer on Saturdays to see if this was something that (i) I wanted to do and (ii) whether I could actually do it.
Thankfully Cemal said yes, and he was a wonderful teacher! For my summer holiday that year, I attended an intense week-long course with the Tallulah Rose Flower School in Bath. Rachel delivered a course that was exactly what I needed to push me and give me the confidence that I needed to take the next step. It was one of the best weeks of my life. I actually cried when I left! I can safely say that my experiences with Cemal and Rachel are the foundation stones for the business I have today, and I’m very thankful to both of them.
Could you tell us how your floristry career has progressed?
When I first started at Phillo Flowers, I wanted to record my work via a blog so I created a Facebook page. Initially, the idea was to just have a creative outlet and to share the images of the work I had produced with friends and family. It didn’t take long before I started getting ‘likes’ from people that I didn’t know, which was so unexpected and which prompted me to create an Instagram account.
As my followers started to rise, it hit me that people really liked what I was creating and that this could become more than just a hobby. In fewer than 12 months, I’d gone from trying something as a hobby to building a website to showcase my work. In 2015, whilst I was still working full-time in finance, I decided to concentrate on weddings as I absolutely love the magic of a big event. And what is more magical than the most important day in a couple’s life?
I worked through a total of 15 weddings throughout the year, as thrilled as I was, it did almost kill me, especially in August when I had a wedding every weekend! I soon decided to go part-time, dropping one day in my finance job. I found I was still struggling to juggle my time. So, at the end of last year, just over two years on from when I first walked in to volunteer at Phillo, I left my finance job to concentrate on Ladybird Flowers full-time.
Taking that step was terrifying. And to be frank, it still scares me now. But it’s something I just had to do. Every now and then, particularly if I’m feeling a little overwhelmed, I take a step back and can see how far I’ve come… from posting images of my Saturday work to images of my flowers at weddings in amazing venues like Home House and Aynhoe Park. Reflecting on that is incredible and makes me very grateful!
When did you start your business and where are you based?
I started volunteering at Phillo Flowers nearly 4 years ago now and started operating as Ladybird in March 2015. I’m currently based in the south west of London. So naturally have a lot of bookings in and around the London area. But my weddings this year go as far as Wales, Leeds and County Durham! I love travelling around the country seeing new venues.
What kind of floristry services do you offer?
I specialise in weddings on any budget and I don’t have a minimum spend. I’m always thrilled to be part of the celebration, whatever the scale. I can supply bridal party flowers only or go all out to create breathtaking installations which fill a space with fragrance, to give the venue that extra special something to help create the perfect day for my bride and groom. I just love that I’m one of the suppliers that’s lucky enough to go through so many stages of the wedding process.
For me, it’s so important to know about the whole wedding, and to get to know the couple, their likes and dislikes, the style and feel they want for the overall day and if they have a particular theme – it’s not just about the flowers. This is one of the reasons why visiting the venue with the couple and working closely together throughout is so important. I feel so humbled when couples share their vision and (quite often) their wildest wedding dreams, and then trust me to bring them to life. It’s a real privilege. I can be working with couples from 1 month to 18 months before their big day. It doesn’t matter the length of time I have with them. I dedicate my time and energy to ensure they get their exact vision. I’ve been known to get quite emotional when giving the bride her bouquet, knowing that I have delivered above and beyond their expectations is such a beautiful thing.
Although weddings are my main focus, I also work on corporate events and parties, which is rewarding in an entirely different way. I love being able to change the look and feel of a space with flowers and showing how the same space can look so different with each event.
Where do you get inspiration for your floral designs?
Absolutely everywhere! Mother Nature, buildings, art, designers and florists that I think are wonderful. The fashion world is great for seasonal shifts. I love taking time out and going for walks. I’m a country girl at heart, so being outside in the fresh air works well for me. It always clears my head and generates fresh new ideas.
How would you describe your style?
I adore Mother Nature and her beauty and I would like to think that my style reflects that. I like to observe how the flowers are growing and facing, and I replicate that look and feel when I’m arranging them. I like flowers to feel natural together, to complement each other, not look as if they’ve been forced together or look ‘stiff’. My arrangements are full to the brim with seasonal flowers, plus lots of greenery, in a very natural, relaxed but elegant style. I often describe to my brides that their bouquet will look like they have skipped through the field while scooping up all the wild flowers. Of course it’s never as simple as that, but that’s the look we like to go for.
What are your plans for the remainder of 2016?
I’m thrilled to say I have a jam-packed year of weddings! I’m also working on some corporate events and building my clients up on that side of the business. As I said earlier, the magic of a big event is so amazing. I’m also very aware that it’s taken me a long time to find my dream job. So I’m keen to protect how much I love it by making sure I avoid putting too much pressure or stress on myself. I make sure I take time out. So I also have a few little breaks squeezed in where I can. Travelling is always brilliant for inspiration and I collect flowers and ideas wherever I go.
What is your favourite flower?
This does change with the seasons but I have to say my all-time favorite flower is the peony. I just love how this beautiful flower can start out tight as a bullet, like she’s holding her breath, then with the right conditions, love and attention she turns into a beautiful blousey flower. It’s almost like her petals sigh open. Beyond heavenly…
Thank you so much to Emma for all her help in compiling today’s blog post. If you’d like to see more of her wonderful floral designs, do pop over to the Ladybird Flowers website. Social media wise, you’ll find Emma on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat.
(Images : 1. McKinley-Rodgers Photography | 2-7. Belle and Beau Photography | 8. Internal Imaging | 9. Carey Sheffield | 10 & 11. Katie Nielen | 12. Rock Your Love Photography | 13 & 14. : Paola de Paola)