As I walk down Blackfriars street in Hereford I’m actually glad of the small pip’s of rain dotting my shoulders. I have a bag of goodies loaded on my back that includes my camera, tripod and lights. It’s not a far walk for me today I’ve cheated and parked around the corner from The Great British Florist. Yes, I’m back to the wonderfully scented and optically delicious floral haberdashery for their Vintage Flower Workshop.
Today’s theme is one with a figurehead, the marvellous Constance Spry. Some of you might frown and ask who? Well, in a nutshell, Constance Spry was a woman who radicalised the florist world from the late 1920’s. What did she do that was profound? She created her own style of “flower decoration”. Going very much against the designs of the time she created arrangements by using unusual objects as containers, she popularised ‘offset’ flowers such as weeds and grasses. Even using hedgerow flowers. Her vision was by far and away original for her time.
Her inspirational legacy has brought many of the ladies within the group out in force today. A tentative gathering, they are quiet and mindful students. I observe many of the ladies touching and smelling the flowers as they take up their seats at their stations. A strong desire to rekindle memories and skills that they remember their mothers and their grandmothers performing that they feel is lost in today’s world.
I realise that all sounds a little bleak, but Kerry (our tutor for the day) adds sunshine into the proceedings. Here is someone who adores flowers. What they mean and what they can do for people. She is entertaining in her quick wit and imaginative teaching. I find myself smiling often as I watch her bounce from one student to the next. Spending as much time needed to suit the individual, each time a new wave of excitement and confidence gliding with her.
Kerry embodies a quality of Constance that the group warmed too immediately. “All designs are achievable.” she smiles “Nothing is too outlandish or wrong. It’s all about having fun with gorgeous flowers”
She revels in her tutoring, expressing passion for the lines, patterns, groupings and movement of the pieces. Her confidence brims with affection and motivation. The room feels brighter as laughter evaporates all nerves. As each stem is cut and bold blooms take centre stage in the cradles of longboat vases.
As the ladies grow bolder out of their concentration comes fearless expression. Skeletal structures begin to take place. Sprays of greenery begin to bedazzle the eye. The buckets still hold flowers of extraordinary texture and scent. But each is carefully selected for the next purpose. Roses, phlox, stocks, salvias, freesias, wheat, Lizzie anthis, carnations, statis, grass, larkspur and eucalyptus all audition to be the next active ingredient of the ladies imagination. Each too glorious to spare, all must find a place in the final construction.”Looking good!” It Kerry’s rallying cry that can be heard over the rain outside.
“Do what you please, follow your own star; be original if you want to be and don’t if you don’t want to be. Just be natural and light-hearted and pretty and simple and overflowing and general and baroque and bare and austere and stylized and wild and daring and conservative, and learn and learn and learn. Open your mind to every form of beauty.”
― Constance Spry
Before long, after delicious cake and warm refreshment, the creations are now coming together. The natural transition the ladies have made is wonderful. In fact when the proceedings come to a close a chorus of voices ask “Where did the time go?!” I have to wonder does it matter when everyone is now smiling so widely.
If you would like to come to one of the fabulous, fun workshops at The Great British Florists follow this link to their website and I’ll see you there!