The Healing Power of Flowers is the name of Claire Bowen from Honeysuckle & Hilda’s first book. And earlier this month, I interviewed Claire on my new podcast, My Small Business & Me. Just in case you’ve not had chance to hear Claire’s wonderful floral journey, I thought that this Sunday I would feature a transcript of our conversation.
CLAIRE’S SMALL BUSINESS JOURNEY
Could you share with the listeners your small business journey please?
My small business journey wasn’t at all conventional. It’s something that I’d always dreamt of, but I didn’t think it would ever happen. And it almost happened by accident. Originally I wanted to be a lawyer and I read Greek and Latin. Then decided, no, I wanted to be an art historian. I did a few more degrees and I used to lecture in art history a long time ago.
Working in marketing
Then things changed and I got a more conventional job in marketing, the kind of job that paid the bills. But for me, it wasn’t the job of my dreams. It was a means to an end. I absolutely love flowers and I also love writing. And so in my early thirties, I left Battersea and I moved to Hackney at a time when not that many people would have thought to make the move.
A love of flowers
It’s a very different place now. But I wanted to be near Columbia Road Flower Market. That was my aim. I used to go to flower classes at McQueens when they were in Victoria Park Village, which was a really long time ago. And I did classes at Rebel Rebel who had just opened when I moved to Hackney. I was doing classes there and I was buying flowers at the weekend, but it was something for me. I couldn’t have imagined how I would make that into an occupation. And I also went to the London School of Journalism and did some creative writing classes because I loved writing. But I didn’t think it would ever happen. I read blogs. I think the thing that really swung it for me was Miss Pickering‘s blog. And she really inspired me a lot actually.
But again, it was only when I had to give up work. I don’t know how many people know this. It’s something I talk about because I hope it inspires other people. But I don’t want to talk about it so much that the people think I feel sorry for myself because I absolutely don’t. It’s one of those things and it’s brought about some really amazing changes in my life, but I was very poorly. And when I was waiting for a prognosis, I had to face up to the reality that I hadn’t been doing the things I wanted to do. And I was like, oh that’s really annoying. I could have done all those things. I never did them. So I sort of promised myself if I got better, that I would do them.
So I was off work for a few years. And unsurprisingly, when I went back they made me redundant because someone else had been doing my job for three and a half years, which wasn’t a big surprise. But with the pay-off that I got, I invested that in flower classes. I thought, right, I’m really going to try and just see if I can do this.
So it may have looked strange on Instagram. Suddenly this person was doing, oh I’m going here, I’m going there. Now I’m going to do this. But I was kind of like, I was so alive again. Normal conventional me would have put that money in the bank for a rainy day, but I didn’t do that. I just went, let’s do this. And I did some classes. I didn’t know if it’s going to lead anywhere, but in some ways I saw it as part of my recovery, I suppose.
Starting to teach
Then people started writing to me on Instagram and asking me, did I do weddings? Did I teach? And I was like, don’t be silly. Why would I do that? And then more and more people started to write to me. I thought, well, okay. Then my husband said to me, just have a class in the kitchen, see who comes, see if you like it. And so I did that and lovely Jen Pinder came along to give me some feedback afterwards. And then I thought, okay, maybe.
As you know, I came on your class with Fiona to talk about branding and I had no idea what I wanted to do. I did know that I wanted it to be sustainable and environmentally-friendly, because of the nature of my illness and the fact that it was put down quite specifically to environmental factors and air pollution, which is the reason I left London. I had done a lot of campaigning against pesticides. And I was assisting a lady called Katharine Hamnett, who’s the fashion designer. And we had been walking our dogs together. I didn’t know that she was Katharine Hamnett. And then when the Hackney council started using pesticides on the pavements and actually on the parks and dogs started dying because of them.
Working with Katharine Hamnett
So she started a campaign and I ran her 38 Degrees campaign for her. And we went to government. We met with Zac Goldsmith and with Caroline Lucas. And the Pesticide Action Network came with us to try and see if we could find a way forward and how to stop councils effectively doing this. So I already had that sort of environmental mindset before I started flowers. And so to me at a time when Oasis was more widely used than thankfully it is now, I was already still looking into these things because I’d been told I had to avoid so many chemicals. So it was natural for me. If I hadn’t been, I probably wouldn’t have thought about it at that time. But because those things had happened, I came into it from that angle.
Moving out of London
So when I came to your class, I knew the thing that I really wanted was to be sustainable and not much beyond that. I guess after that I started renting village halls and teaching classes there. And lots of lovely people who are great friends now. The people that come to the first ones, I’m still in touch with them. They’re all people that you would know on Instagram. And they were lovely and supportive. And then we bought a house. We had been looking for a while because we had to leave London because of the air. We found one with an outbuilding that was a slightly run-down garage/workshop and a garden. So we set about turning that into a studio.
WORKING WITH DAYLESFORD
At the same time, Daylesford dropped me an email and said, would I like to teach there as a guest florist? And obviously that’s, for me…I love Daylesford. And, for me that was the dream. I was like, oh my goodness, you know. I’ve been asked to teach at Daylesford. I was very excited about that. And that kind of builds up. And then you get customers who come back to you. I did weddings as well. But I think I realised then that my great joy was teaching actually.
Being approached by a publisher
And then the book happened. I think a lot of, so much of it is luck because Daylesford happened to find me. And you have to make your own luck a little bit. You have to put yourself out there in the first place. But Daylesford getting in touch with me was a great thing. And then when I got an email from Penguin Random House, sort of out of the blue I suppose, it just came in as an inquiry on my website saying, would you like to write a book?
After all these years of thinking, how will I ever write a book? I got this email saying, would you like to write a book, which is kind of turning it on its head. I had visions of writing a book and having to go to publishers and pitching it. And they then came to me with an idea. So, it sort of had quite unusual beginnings, but it’s starting to fall into place, I suppose. And so I’m hopeful that once the pandemic is over, I will be writing and teaching at Daylesford and at home. So in some ways I’ve been very lucky, unlucky in other ways, but very lucky in some.
HER COMPANY NAME
So, your company is Honeysuckle & Hilda, and that’s the names of your dogs?
Yes. So Hilda (pictured above), I got her when I was poorly. I knew I needed to get up and get out. So I decided I wanted a puppy and then I got Hilda. We spent a lot of time out walking and going to Hackney Marshes and looking at nature. I got involved in, again, some campaigning against development at Hackney Marshes, that was quite destructive to nature. And it’s something that I care about. So again, that was a part of another environmental sort of strand coming through.
So Hilda was with us from the beginning and the name Honeysuckle began with an h and it sounded quite well with Hilda. I thought about Hellebores & Hilda, but I went for Honeysuckle & Hilda. Then when we adopted a rescue dog two years ago. She had no choice, but to be called Honeysuckle. It was was the only way it was going to work. It’s turned out she’s very photogenic. So that’s good. So yes, they’re a a big part of the team. I’m lucky to have them.
WRITING HER FIRST BOOK
Have you always wanted to write a book?
Yes, I didn’t always know what about. I was approached to write a book in my early thirties by a literary agent. But it was an exposé of a business I was working in. I didn’t feel comfortable with that so much. But I knew I really wanted to write. It was always in the back of my mind. Friends who used to get perhaps very long emails from me used to say, have you ever thought about writing properly? So yes, it’s been on my mind for a long time. It’s kind of like, it’s come out of the blue. But it was always also a long-held dream.
So the new book is called The Healing Power of Flowers. Can you tell us about what happened after that initial email that you received from Penguin Random House?
So after the email, we had a chat. They had a very specific idea in mind around the language of flowers. I think my instinct was that, the language of flowers has been written about by other people before and very well. And so I didn’t want to produce something that was exactly the same kind of thing again. Because why would I? And also they wouldn’t want that either, Penguin Random House. And so I spoke with my editor. My editor is so lovely. She’s called Sam. And she is specifically Ebury Press, which is a really lovely imprint. So I was pretty excited about that. And so I said to her, yes, I’d love to work with her, but was there a way in which we could make the book sort of mine, I suppose.
The part Claire’s blog played
So she had been inspired by my blog. She had found me just through one of those, somebody writes top 10 Florists, you know, for something and I was on one of those. And she looked them up and found my blog. I had written a blog about not having a big carbon footprint at Christmas and using independents. She had seen that as a starting point. So I thought, could we put it together? And what we wanted was talking about crafting something out of flowers that you could give as a low impact gift.
The language of flowers
And at that point, the language of flowers comes in because flowers have meaning. But on top of that, I wanted to add in other factors. So I looked a little bit at aromatherapy and homeopathy. And sometimes just the energy that something can bring in the garden because a lot of the flowers have quite negative meanings in Victorian times, for instance. So Hellebores represent falsehood and Foxgloves are associated with lies. But with Hellebores, I saw them, they come out in the deep winter and they’re really long-lasting. So I sort of translated that into longevity and constancy and applied it to friendships and relationships.
With Foxgloves, you know they’re tall and proud, and they’ve got all the bees buzzing around. And so I saw them as like a positive energy, if someone was going to go and start a new job or, you know. So the book is arranged in terms of flowers that you give for a specific event. They are joy, calm, love, success, consolation and also celebration. And so within those sections, I’ve made sure that all the flowers are arranged seasonally, so that people know when they’re available. I talk a little bit why each flower would fit that category. And sometimes if it crosses two categories, I mention that as well. So it was actually quite a challenge.
THE BOOK PROCESS
The headings were given to me and then I had to find the flowers to fit them. But obviously I didn’t want to shoehorn anything in. I wanted it to be natural. I didn’t want to take a flower and go, right, it must go in that category. How could I make it do that? So a lot of the book was thinking about where those things were going. A lot of the editing process was deciding. Then I’d write it up for one section. Then we’d think, actually it might be better in that section. And then we’d adjust it slightly, but in a sort of natural way so that we weren’t forcing anything.
But a lot of the book’s process was the thinking about what would go where. And then as we went on, I was asked if I could maybe think about bouquets that people could craft quite easily. So it’s not sort of something with like 55 ingredients that you would take down the aisle, you know, that’s going to take three hours. It’s literally if somebody had four or five ingredients. So I’d do a little bit of explanation about different types of flowers and how you would put them together. But then I’ve done bouquets for new parents, one for consolation and one for everlasting friendship using dried flowers for the winter. And it’s almost like the flower recipes. And again, trying to do it so that the flowers were available at the same time, but also a message that was natural. That was another challenge.
Of course all of this during lockdown when I had to shield, because of my lungs. So I wasn’t supposed to go out at all. I was very reliant on local growers. I’m very close to Green & Gorgeous. I’m a mile away. And they were immensely, immensely helpful. I mean, what a wonderful place to end up living. And Rachel and Ash, were very helpful with flowers. The Land Gardeners also helped me. And I went up there and they just made sure that they kept away and I got to take my buckets and go and pick there. Aesme helped as well. But I would like to have included more florists than I did. But in the lockdown, it’s a very, very difficult scenario.
Also because I wanted everything to be seasonal and we were shooting between March and August, some of the flowers had to be dried. And that was how we got round it. So I think there were 80 flowers. There were only like three or four that don’t have photographs. And the rest of them are either fresh or dried to make sure. Nothing in the book was imported or bought from anywhere where I couldn’t trace its provenance. Because that was sort of the message of the book. So I wanted to make sure that I practised what I preached.
WORKING WITH EVA NEMETH
Now, you touched on photographs there and Eva Nemeth, the incredible photographer. Can you tell me how you met Eva and how she came to be involved in the book?
So I met Eva. I don’t think my husband would mind me telling this story. I’m sure he won’t. When I first moved to a village not far from here, we would both got walking with Hilda. But Charles would go on quite long walks with her. And I followed Eva because she had taken some beautiful photographs at Green & Gorgeous. So we followed each other.
And she sent me a note saying, this is going to sound very strange, but I think I keep seeing your dog. I think I keep seeing Hilda go for a walk near this farm but it’s not in London and she’s with a man. And I wrote back and I said, is the man in his mid fifties and quite scruffy. And she said, yes. I said, well yes that’s my husband. And she said, I’d love to meet for a cup of tea.
Over a cup of tea
So we met for a cup of tea and we got on really well. She is one of the kindest people you could ever hope to meet. And she’s so busy now. And it was a few years ago. We were both at slightly earlier stages, but we became friends. And when I did one of my classes at the village hall, I invited her to do a photography slot in the afternoon to make it a full day. And she took some photos for me. We live 20 minutes away, so we meet up for tea. She bakes these amazing cakes. So we’d have tea and cake, and things like that.
Then when I got the email from Sam about the book and it said you need to be comfortable with your own photography or know a photographer you would work with, I sort of stipulated straightaway that it really needed to be Eva. And her style suits mine really well as well. I think that we sort of suit each other in that sense. So they said that’s fine.
They said they would really would like her to be a big part of the book, not just a photographer in the traditional sense because we would work together. It was so nice to have somebody to work with because there were times during the pandemic when things go wrong and there aren’t flowers. And then, to have someone to do the problem-solving with was amazing. I’m so glad that she agreed to do it with me because it would not have been the same book without her.
HEALING, THE OVERALL BOOK THEME
Going back to the actual structure of the book, what made you have healing as the overall arching theme of the messages that the flowers give?
It was partly driven by the publishers. But actually it fitted quite well in the sense that a lot of the flowers have healing properties, not just in the sense of aromatherapy or some of them have a very literal healing one, but some of them have sort of emotional healing powers. A lot of the flowers around consolation, like Marigolds and Snowdrops and things like that were traditionally given when somebody was grieving. So they have a healing property in that sense.
I suppose it was the adjective that sort of pulled together all of the properties that we were trying to cover. It’s not only physical healing properties which I think actually I’m glad you said that, because that’s quite an important point. It’s about emotionally how they affect people as well. So there are sections about joy, calm and love, success, consolation and celebration following by foliage and bouquets to share. Then there are three more sections about pressing, drying and sourcing your flowers.
PRESSING, DRYING & SOURCING
Why did you add pressing, drying and sourcing to the book?
So, the pressing and drying once we’d started going down the route, the book grew a lot as it went along. I think it was originally intended to be a bit shorter than it was. And I think perhaps unfortunately for the publishers, they set the price before they realised then said oh, we’d really like to add these things. And all the extra pages going in, as obviously colour books cost a lot of money to produce. But after we’d talked about the bouquets, the request came from them.
I know at the time, Bex at Botanical Tales who does amazing things and she was inspiring me a lot. And I had been doing some set-ups in my studio, trying out drying flowers. I love drying flowers anyway. It’s nothing like the depth that she goes into, but it was just again, it’s a way of gifting. It’s something creative to do; a way of gifting that’s low impact. It’s a way of getting flowers out of season as well, so that a bit like, Valentine’s Day is in February. So what kind of seasonal flowers can you find then? Or if you want to give someone a present in January, what do you do? The flowers that have been dried over the summer are perfect for using in the winter. So the pressed flowers and the dried flowers sort of fitted in with the gifting aspect of the book.
The sourcing was my request. I was very keen to talk about where to source one’s flowers. I think having arranged the book seasonally and telling people that ideally this is what they should be aiming to do, it made sense to give them some pointers about how to go about it. And also where to source those things. So, I talked a little bit about florists and markets and the right questions to ask. And also you can buy the flowers in supermarkets. They’re not always wrapped in plastic from abroad. And more and more like Sainsbury’s is committed to only wrapping flowers in paper now, which is amazing. And a lot of them are seasonal if you look for the right things.
I didn’t want to say, don’t do this. And don’t do that. I wanted to encourage to people to go to the right places. And also, I would loved to have listed all my favourite flower farms, but we couldn’t decide how to fit everybody in. So in the end we listed the stockists that I’d used for supplying flowers and ceramics, and a few of the props and things like that. But then we sort of used the umbrella terms of Flowers from the Farm and The British Flower Collective.
HITTING AMERICAN SHORES
Also because the book will be in the US in a few months’ time, a publisher has bulk bought the rights to, I think, the first 5,000 over there with the possibility of more hopefully if it sells well. So we’ve included directories for the US, Canada and globally. Obviously we mention people like Floret just so that people who perhaps aren’t in our Instagram sphere. I think the point of the book is not just to appeal to florists, but to appeal to people from a broader base as well. I hope it will still be useful to florists, particularly if you want to know the meaning or a property of a flower. Or you’re stuck for something to say on Instagram, you know, it’s all there.
But what I was really hoping with the book because of the way it’s being marketed and sold in so many places, places I would never thought of or had access to, I’m hoping it’s going to go to a broader base and be part of a bigger movement of explaining to people about flowers. So in the same way that so many people, like chefs explain to people about seasonal produce and farming and sustainability, we would hope that it’s going to go out to a wider audience as well. And so it seemed right to point them in the right direction and to explain the best ways that they could go about doing this. I’m hoping it’s not too bossy. I don’t think it’s too bossy. But it’s something I’m very passionate about. So I’m hoping it’s just sort of setting people on that path.
CLAIRE’S WRITING PROCESS
How did you research the book, what kind of software did you use, what was your writing process and did you have a spot that you always used to go and sit in to write?
My actual writing process. I had coronavirus early on in sort of around about February, well we both did and it hit us very hard. So I was quite tired and I did quite lost of the writing in bed on my laptop. And I had probably about 20 or 30 books as reference points. I also did a lot of the research on the internet. It was frustrating that I couldn’t go to libraries and find older books. When I was doing my degree, I was so used to sitting in the library in a corner and I loved that process. But this time around was unusual.
They were very unusual circumstances. I couldn’t go out and do that. I nearly today had my pink flowery wallpaper behind me and I thought that the world might not be ready for my pink flowery wallpaper for a podcast. But I have a little spot with an old wrought iron table table and chair. And I sort of hole up there. I have my bookshelves there. So I did quite a lot there as I got better. I did it very traditionally. I didn’t use a software package because I had lovely editors and copy editors and typesetters. The big advantage of working with somebody like you Ebury is that they had so many people to help with so many things.
Breaking it down
So I literally did it in Word. And I would research 10 flowers at a time, send them across, they would have a look, decide whether they liked the tone of the writing. And any pointers. Then I’d do another 10. And then there was with a bit of backwards and forwards. They were like, well you know what we’re looking for now. Then I sort of went away and I would do the other 60 on my own. And then the editor Sam went through it and then came back to me.
Then, because I thought my deadline was July, and I thought the middle of July, I submitted it the day before my birthday. I thought hurrah, it’s done. And of course it’s nothing like done. And so then Sam came back to me. I wrote things and then it went to the copy editor. The copy editor was someone who’d edited other books in the subject. They fact-check it and they ask lots of questions.
If there were things that they think aren’t clear to readers, they will say you need to explain this or this doesn’t join with that. So then I would put those things in. And then it would go back to the editor and she might not agree with everything that I or the copy editor thought. Then we’d have another discussion. But eventually we’d pull it together. So there were so many processes.
Learning about publishing
It’s been really interesting, great to learn about publishing and to know for future, if I did write another book all the processes that are involved. But I was lucky and everybody I worked with has been absolutely charming. And apart from telling us about the colour schemes for the colour palette for the book. So my studio for better or worse is quite pink. So some of it was pink. Eva had some backgrounds that were sort of grey and cream.
Then they introduced this bright green that they really liked, which I concede does work really well. They were like, would you like flat lays or uprights, but they sort of gave us some parameters, but they were very receptive to suggestions as well. Eva’s obviously very creative and she absolutely has an amazing eye for something. And she would be like, well, I think it should be this way. So yes, there were so many processes that go into a book. I had no idea. They’ve been amazing. It’s been a great way to spend a year.
FROM START TO FINISH
So it took you from, you started it last March, is that right?
It took til July. There were a couple of months of discussion about what it should be about. So when I started in March, we’d spent two months talking about the language of flowers versus sustainability. And how it would have to be to work for both of us. So we agreed all that before I signed a contract. It was a few months work pre-contract and then I started in March and yes, finished the copy in July. And the photography towards the end of August to give us some more time to shoot flowers that were coming in. So for instance, we wanted Dahlias. So we were desperately hoping that Dahlias would come out.
Because of the book is printed sustainably, and then it’s not flown back, it’s shipped back. And that takes a long time. So you have to allow extra time for all of these things. It takes longer to produce a book in a more sustainable way. So that’s why the deadline was quicker because they wanted this book to come out in advance of Mother’s Day to make it commercial for them. They saw it as something that would be a lovely Mother’s Day present. So in March last year, I knew that they wanted the 4th of March as the publication date. That was always there. And then you set deadlines working backwards from that, for everything.
What do you hope that your readers take away from the book?
What I’m hoping for is flowers, obviously, are a lovely gift to give and to receive. And I think rather than just the random act of giving flowers, people will understand that there can be a much greater depth of meaning. Even something as simple as a bunch of snowdrops. It’s not just a bunch of snowdrops. It’s the messages of hope and consolation, the history that they have behind them. And bringing together lots of different flowers, lots of different layers of meaning and the thoughtfulness that can go into that.
Rather than just quickly grabbing something off a stall and going, here’s some flowers for mum, they can really look at it and think about the message that they want to put across. And then see the flowers that are available to them and choose accordingly. And then it’s the difference between maybe preparing a meal for somebody from scratch, because you’ve thought really hard about the ingredients and ingredients that they like. Again, it’s that kind of thing. It’s not just quickly grabbing something off the shelf. It’s buying all the ingredients and putting it together yourself, I suppose, to be an analogy that might work.
FAVOURITE PART OF THE PROCESS
What did you love most about writing the book, Claire?
I think the excitement of fulfilling something I’d always wanted to do. I am writing a book. And yes the fact that somebody had the confidence. I don’t have a huge amount of confidence in myself. So for somebody to come along and say, we trust you to do this. And then the book becoming a reality. I think this morning was one of the mornings when I put a post on Instagram and it said 10 sleeps to go. And I thought, now I’m talking to Rona. Oh my goodness. It’s actually happened. And it’s one of those things.
Certainly 10 years ago when I was doing something that wasn’t fulfilling to me. I suppose the amount of time I spent wishing I could write a book, not necessarily about flowers, but just generally, and then the flowers coming into it. And just the fact that I’m doing it and it’s going to be out there. And yes, I enjoy writing and I’ve quite enjoyed people coming back to me with constructive criticism. Not everybody loves it. But I’m always quite interested to see what people have to say about my writing. And I said at the beginning to my editor, it’s probably going to be quite wordy. She said, it’s easier for me to cut things out than it is for me to say, where is it? So we’ll be fine.
Editing the copy
As in the same way, I’m quite chatty, I’m quite wordy as well. And she was right. She did, there was quite a lot of editing. And a couple of times I had to say, actually no that is important to me, and this is why it’s important. And, Sam was great. She’d go, okay. But equally I was good if she said, I don’t think we need that. If I didn’t feel strongly about it, I’d go, that’s fine. If you think we don’t need it, then we don’t need it.
So I found the process of it, the editing and the feedback really useful. Because hopefully when I start writing something else, I have that experience behind me as well. So it’s sort of a little bit like being paid to learn. I think the whole way through the process I’ve never not been aware. I’ve always been aware of how lucky I am to be doing it.
CLAIRE’S BOOK WRITING ADVICE
So what advice would you give to someone who is considering writing a book?
I think that good advice would be to, as you say, I wrote a blog and I haven’t written on it for gosh almost 11 months because I’ve been writing the book. But before that, I did try and put examples of writing out there. And a lot of the time I was doing it because I enjoyed it. But of course, there’s always the hope if publishers are looking for somebody or if you’re approaching publishers, it’s always good for them to have a point of reference where they can see stuff that you’ve done before.
So I think, yes, regular posting, which I haven’t been brilliant at in the last few months because it’s been wet and cold and pandemic-like. But I think in normal times, sort of putting yourself out there and also having a clear idea of what it is you want to do and what you can bring to the book. Because that was something, although Sam approached me to write the book, we then had to put something together for her to pitch to her team to get it approved.
A book proposal
So it wasn’t pre-approved by Ebury Press. It was an editor at Ebury saying, I have an idea. I think you’d be great to write it. Can we do the proposal together to pitch you to do it and see if we can get it through? So it wasn’t a done deal when she approached me. We had a few months of formulating the book and they wanted to know why I would be the right person. So you have to have an idea of why you should be the person to do it, even if it’s terrifying.
Because if I hadn’t already been writing about sustainability and if I hadn’t been working with, for instance, Daylesford, it would have been harder for me to say, I am the person who should be writing a book on sustainable gifts. So even though it’s terrifying to put yourself forward, I know how scary I find it. Even now I want to go, what me? Are you really sure? You know, you have to be able to go and say, you should choose me to write this because it’s something I’m known for.
What does 2021 have in store for Claire?
I’m hoping more teaching. The hope is, depending on when lockdown lifts, I think I’m allowed to say this, Daylesford are creating a lovely garden room at the moment. And they’ve asked me if I will go and do a book signing there, which would be wonderful or an event, which would be a great way to in person kickstart because obviously at the moment, there’s nothing happening online. And so, some more teaching there, I would think. But largely, my studio in 2019, we had the whole process of building the studio. And then of course the first thing that happened was a pandemic. So, not very much has happened in there.
Further writing & teaching
So I think my aim is to do more writing. I do have another book in mind, which I’m hoping somebody will look sympathetically on. But that’s another discussion to be had. More writing and more teaching. And also we have taken on a garden now, which having lived in London for so long, it’s about a third of an acre, but to me, you know, it looks like a vast forest. And it has its own little cutting garden. So I did a garden design class with The Land Gardeners last year, just before lockdown. And then we started replacing hedging and planting roses. But we didn’t get to fulfil all the things we wanted to do.
I’m hoping a lot of gardening as well. So what I’d like to do, although I’m so blessed with Green & Gorgeous, I’d also like to be growing a lot of the sort of twiddly bits that are hard to come by. So I’m hoping to do some more growing. But I’m very much not yet a grower. I see people on Instagram and think WOW.. How did you do that? So I need to pull my socks up and get out there. I got lots of gardening tools for Christmas. I think it was a hint from my husband.
You mentioned teaching, what kind of courses or workshops do you think you’ll be running? What can people learn from you?
Traditionally the three that I’ve done are bouquets, arrangements and wreath workshops. I think I particularly enjoy the arrangements. They’re my favourite. I also love teaching autumn wreaths and Christmas wreaths. And I do quite a lot of, 1-2-1s seems to be the things that I have the most of, which I really enjoy because it gives you the day to get to know somebody. And you can tailor it around things that they’re hoping to learn.
CLAIRE’S FLORISTRY STYLE
How would you describe your floristry style?
It’s quite wild, quite loose. If you want to learn to make very neat and contained bouquets or arrangements, I’m probably not the right person for you. It’s quite asymmetrical. It’s very naturalistic. I sort of like to be inspired by the garden and the shapes that come out of a garden and so translating that into a bouquet or an arrangement. And obviously lots of people have lots of questions about sustainability or about Instagram. I get asked lots of questions about Instagram, which are actually not as easy to answer as they used to be because Instagram has changed quite a lot.
So there’s sort of the general chat. People come with all sorts of questions, which I really love and I love talking. It’s something I really enjoy doing. So I hope I get to do more of both. I don’t do big classes anyway, because I like to make sure everyone has enough attention. So I wouldn’t really take on more than four or five in the studio, maybe six at Daylesford because they’ve got more space. But I don’t do big classes in that sense.
BUYING CLAIRE’S BOOK
Where can people buy your book in the UK?
Well, I think in lots of conventional places. It’s on lots of online bookstores*. I know it’s on Waterstones and Blackwells. And my favourite at the moment is bookshop.org because they support independent bookstores while they’re closed, which is wonderful. And I know there were talks about being, I’m not absolutely sure on all of them, but there were some sort of bigger stores outside of bookshops that were being approached.
So I think it’s obviously going to be at Daylesford. I think sort of hopefully the normal places where you would go to buy a book because it’s Ebury Press. And I think they have quite a far reach. So online, certainly, it should be very easy to get hold of. And in bookshops, when they’re open. Soon…
You mentioned the US as well. When do you think the book is going to be available in the US?
I would need to check with the publishers, but certainly in the summer. A publisher has taken on the rights to do that over there, which is really exciting.
FINDING CLAIRE ONLINE
Where can people find out more about you and your business?
I would say on my website, which is honeysuckleandhilda.com. I’m going to spend a few days, I think, between now and publication, adding some new photographs. Because everything we photographed last year was for the book, I haven’t been allowed to share all of that. Because obviously it’s specific to the book. So yes, doing some writing. I’ve got some writing in mind for that. But everything is on there. And I’ve got some lovely photos of the studio that should really be going up there as well. So, yes that’s the best place to look, I think at the moment. And I’m @honeysuckleandhilda on Instagram.
MY SMALL BUSINESS & ME
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my interview with Claire. If you would prefer to listen or watch the interview and discover Claire and Eva’s 3 Practical Tips, simply head over to the My Small Business & Me website.
(Images: Claire Bowen & Eva Nemeth)