This week, as part of my Florist Friday blog post series, I’m delighted to feature an interview with Emma Whicher of Martha and the Meadow. I first discovered Emma and her beautiful work when she entered the #UnderTheFloralSpell competition on Instagram. I then asked her is she would like to take part in this series…and this is the result.
Could you tell us what prompted you to become a florist?
I’ve always been that girl who was happiest in the garden, trying to grow something, decorating the table for dinner with flowers from the garden and playing in the meadow. Not much has changed. If I’m honest, I should have had the courage to follow my instinct back when I was in my early twenties. I left university and worked for a short time in London for an events company, spending much of my time in the design department. I clearly remember the day when we were all decorating a house in Grosvenor Square and all I wanted to do was get stuck into the buckets of deep red roses, which were to adorn the stairs for a Venetian Ball. Life takes you through twists and turns and I ended up meeting Sabine Darrall when she first opened her shop in Castle Cary, then the ‘Gilded Lily’. I used to just watch her work and see her beautiful creations come to life. After that I was never really able to shake off the idea of working with flowers and it took another decade for me to have confidence in my own creativity. After returning ashore from a successful career working on private yachts, I finally jumped into the floristry world and have never looked back.
Could you tell us how your floristry career has progressed?
I moved back to the UK and within 48 hours I had already started my City & Guilds qualification. Despite being traditional in its teaching, I still believe it gives you a strong foundation of mechanics and principles to work with. From about week two, I was quickly becoming the student that wanted to break all the rules and create more natural looking flowers, rather than conforming to rigid shapes. As quickly as I started my course, I started working at Sprout & Flower a beautiful florist and traditional greengrocer. I learnt a great deal whilst working with Sarah and it is a very cherished time in my life. Though as time progressed, like many, I felt I needed more of a personal challenge and something that would give me focus through a time of my life when not everything was going to plan.
When did you start your business and where are you based?
I’m based in the heart of Dorset and my work room overlooks the stunning Hambledon Hill. I set up Martha and the Meadow in the spring of this year and am enjoying seeing it grow organically. We’re working on some really beautiful weddings this summer and autumn and are filling up nicely for 2017. I’m thrilled to have met and worked with some incredible wedding suppliers here in Dorset and the South West.
What kind of floristry services do you offer?
I offer flowers for weddings and events here in Dorset and the South West. I truly believe that for me to design beautiful flowers, that my clients will fall in love with, I have to get to know them, their style and taste. So, I offer a relaxed and personal service where the core of my business is about giving my clients the time they need to help them through the process of understanding flowers and their role in styling their event.
Where do you get inspiration for your floral designs?
I challenge anyone not to be inspired by the incredible Dorset countryside, its woods, water meadows and open rambling fields. I find myself like a wide eyed magpie on my dog walks to see what will inspire me for the next event or that jug on the kitchen table. Much of my personal style is a reflection from my time spent with my nanny as a child. Her house was pretty much untouched from the 1940s still with its Anderson shelter, war cupboard stocked and gas mask hanging in the garage and this was 1984! I even used to be washed in a tin bath with rain water. So a lot of the time I lean towards vintage vases and garden roses, which were abundant in her wild garden. Add in all of that and the fact that I’m a true romantic, I feel it all feeds into my own style of flowers and designs.
How would you describe your style?
My designs are free and natural, but with a good measure of romance thrown in. I love to use a rich combination of sumptuous blooms and always try to use what’s seasonal. I try to add that something unusual or unexpected to arrangements and bouquets giving my work a different feel. Where possible, I add locally grown and foraged stems to give my work its own organic shape and style.
What are your plans for the remainder of 2016?
The main goal is to concentrate on growing ‘Martha and the Meadow’ as a brand throughout Dorset and the surrounding counties, continuing to work with clients in creating bespoke flowers for their events. I have a couple of beautiful styled shoots coming up with some incredible Dorset companies this summer and autumn, which I’m so excited about. These are a real opportunity to showcase my style with no remit – which is always a complete pleasure. I’m holding a number of winter workshops in one of Dorset’s oldest medieval barns, which will undoubtedly be full of laughter, woolly hats and eggnog. Christmas is pretty much my favourite time of year, so I love to share that with other people. The big plan in the autumn is to set up a new studio in an old walled wildlife garden we’ve just purchased, which lies adjacent to our cottage. It will be home to a much larger studio, chickens and a small orchard with wildflowers. It has the most spectacular of views out over the hills and local church. I have a feeling once in, I may never want to leave.
What is your favourite flower?
If I had written this last week I would have said I don’t have one and I roll with the seasons. But at the moment the garden is in full bloom with numerous garden roses from shades of delicate pinks, burnt oranges and dark red, with scent filling the air. So, it has to be the rose. Maybe it’s a bit of a cliché, but for me it just about epitomises everything a British garden has to offer and in my eyes is romance on a plate.
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 fabulous floral designs, do pop over to the Martha and the Meadow website. Social media wise, you’ll find Martha and the Meadow on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
(Images : Emma Whicher | Martha and the Meadow)