Today, I’m delighted to feature an interview with the ladies at The Academy of Floral Art, a floristry school based in Devon. Pictured left to right are Amanda Randell, Julie Collins, Tina Parkes and Kathryn Delve.
Could you tell us about the team’s background in the world of floristry?
We have an amazing array of talent in our team, with years of floristry experience. Tina Parkes (one of the Directors of The Academy) started her floristry journey working in a busy flower shop in Exmouth at the age of 16. She worked her way up to be manager and ran the shop. When she was 27, she was given the opportunity to teach floristry at Bicton College and soon took over as Head of Department. After 3 years and qualifying as a teacher, she decided to have a sabbatical and further her own floristry development and moved to Holland to study her Dutch Masters, which was taught in Dutch, an amazing dedication. Since her return to teaching, she studied for her American Masters with the AIFD and has become a key member of the education panel for The British Florist Association. She’s also helping City and Guilds write the floristry qualifications and is studying to become an examiner.
Julie Collins, the other Director, had a different journey, as she started her career working in a bank in Jersey. Whilst on holiday, she had a light bulb moment and realised she wanted to be a florist. She went to an evening class on Flower Arranging and after 2 years gave up the bank and studied full-time at Bicton College. She was so keen on the course that her enthusiasm rubbed off on her mum and sister, who in turn trained and opened a florist shop. Julie went on to have a diverse floristry career, freelancing as a wedding and corporate business florist, helping in a shop and teaching at Bicton. After 16 years, Julie got together with Tina and set up The Academy, which combines her love of teaching, floristry and business.
Amanda Randell joined the teaching team after completing her City & Guilds Higher Diploma in Professional Floristry and her Master’s Diploma in Professional Floristry with Tina, discovering that her floral passion is to communicate and share her floral knowledge with other like-minded people. Amanda’s floral career began some 30 years ago when she trained at Moyses Stevens in London. She then moved to Paris and was one of the team who set up the floristry department for Disneyland Paris. Following this exciting adventure, Amanda returned home and opened a flower shop in Tavistock for eight years before seeking to develop her knowledge at The Academy.
Kathryn Delve runs the Bristol arm of The Academy at Country Baskets. Kathryn began her floral journey twelve years ago when she was on maternity leave. She attended a beginners floristry course at her local college. And then in 2012, after a 27 year career in banking chose redundancy when she discovered a professional floristry course ideal for career changers with a strong practical class ethic and joined The Academy as an advanced floristry student. She’s now studying her Higher Diploma in Professional Floristry and in 2016 will be going to America to complete the American Institute of Floral Designers qualification.
When did The Academy of Floral Art open?
The Academy of Floral Art opened in 2008, when Julie and Tina left Bicton and decided to open their own floristry school so that they could use their expertise to design a new range of floristry courses giving students more flexibility and choice.
Where is The Academy based?
It’s based in Dunchideock Barton, near Exeter in Devon. The Academy buildings are in a rural setting in an area of outstanding natural beauty on the edge of Haldon Forest Park. The Bristol classes are run at Country Baskets.
What type of courses and workshops do you offer?
We offer a wide range of courses including professional floristry courses from beginner to Master level (the Academy has produced over 40% of the Nations British Masters), business support workshops including Business Planning and Mentoring, Social Media and SEO Management, photography for portfolios, an intensive three day course called the Heart of Design and extensive flower arranging courses working closely with local NAFAS groups. We’re currently launching International Floristry Partnerships with AIFD and Gregor Lersch at IPM Essen. Every year the Academy invites an International Designer for a three day workshop and 2015 saw Francoise Weeks wow the delegates with her unique couture designs.
What’s unique about The Academy?
From beginners to the Masters, we encourage everyone to support their fellow Academicians, through the College Facebook Student Forum, social media and newsletters. This support ethic is a key component to the sense of our Academy ‘Family’.
What are The Academy’s plans for the remainder of 2015/2016?
We have two students who have reached the UK World Skills Final which is taking place this month at the NEC in Birmingham. In January 2016, we will have a stand at IPM Essen in Germany to launch our International British Floristry Masters Qualification. We’re supporting British students in taking the AIFD (American Institute of Floral Designers) exams and will be taking part in the AIFD Symposium in July 2016 in Anaheim, California, USA. We also have students taking part in the RHS Chelsea Flower Show heats. Both 2014 and 2015 saw students from the Academy named RHS Florist of the Year, namely Lisa Fowler (2014) and Charlotte Murrant (2015) and students regularly gain medals at this prestigious event.
What are your favourite flowers?
Julie: Dahlia and tulips as they represent two contrasting seasons and give great colour and impact to designs. Tina: Likes earthy textures and is very happy with seed heads, particularly wild clematis. Amanda: Can’t make up her mind, just loves it all but has a particular passion for flowers that are not usually found in day-to-day floristry. Her current love is the Cobaea Scandens for their shape and tendrils. Kathryn: Ornithogalums for their lasting qualities, their shape and the ability to take the flower apart and gluing techniques.
Thank you so much to the ladies at The Academy of Floral Art for all their help in compiling today’s blog post. If you’d like to find out more about their floristry school, do pop over to their website. Social media wise, you can find the school on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
(Images : The Academy of Floral Art)