These are the top questions I get on my Instagram, so I thought I’d answer them here in a little more detail. I hope these answers will help and maybe inspire you with your goals and dreams!
1. How did I get into floral design?
As a child I loved making things, crafting, baking and I have also always absolutely LOVED parties! I needed to throw a celebration whenever possible, and still do! My siblings and I would even put on “street parties” with some of the other kids in our street for our neighbours to come along (poor neighbours!). These would include (very bad) dance performances, magic tricks and we’d organise decorations, games and even raffle prizes - (oh my gosh, I’m embarrassed reliving this haha!).
There’s just something about bringing people together, enjoying time together and the space they are in that makes me so happy, even when I was 7! I mean my decorations were coloured paper chains back then, but I thought they were fab!
When I was a teenager I really wanted to be a florist or wedding planner (of course, like most people do, I thought it was all pretty and glamorous… that is not the case) - At the time, I lived on the Tweed Coast/Southern Gold Coast and when I got old enough to work, I would apply to all the florist shops within about an hours bus ride to for work experience on weekends and after school. No one would let me sweep the floors or wash buckets for free!
I kind of gave up on the idea but you know what I think kept me physically connected to design and events? Pinterest! I think I was one of the youngest users back then pinning floral arrangements, decoration ideas, photoshoots and all the parties I would have in the future (HAHA!).
Fast forward about 4 years, I came to Sydney for about 2 months over the Summer to live with my Nan/I was having a bit of a early 20’s crisis cos I knew I wanted to do big things in this life (still do) and I didn’t know what they were yet (still don’t). During this time, I met Matteo by the most chance on chance on chance situation (fate, fate, fate as I believe) and we started dating, so of course I never went home! (And now, almost 6 years later, we are married and both working towards all the things we want together - oh god I’m about to cry).
Anyway, back to the floristry thing…
He encouraged me SO MUCH when I told him I was interested in floristry, he was the only person I’d ever told that treated the idea it like it could be a “real career”. Because of his encouragement mixed with my life long passion, I went to TAFE (other parts of the world read “community college”) part time and completed cert II & III in Floristry while I was a full time nanny.
While still at TAFE, I (sort of) started Oh Flora - I picked the name, made an Instagram and registered the business name + registered for an ABN. I was emailing restaurants, event spaces, markets etc to get as many opportunities and make as many contacts that I could. I offered SO MANY free flowers for events, photo shoots etc. At the time, I was excited about growing and ‘investing’ in my new business - we are taking about making mostly posy jars here girlfriends -
but I was also spending my own money for these flowers + then my time. A small amount of these ‘investments’ really paid off and sometimes I felt really taken advantage of or that it led absolutely no where, but I really grew and learnt in this time.
From there, I had my “business” if you could call it that, I then and told EVERYONE I knew, which wasn’t many people at the time cos I had only lived here for about 1.5 years. I did a local market stall for a few months + picked up a couple of smaller wedding (which felt HUGE at the time) and a friend of mine got married so I did her flowers. She had an amazing photographer (as she is a photographer herself) and I got lots of great photos from that.
I also did some work experience and casual work in retails stores + quickly learnt that wasn’t my thing.
And the rest of this story, I think will be answered by the next questions.
Side Note: So many people ask me ‘would I recommend TAFE’? My answer is an annoying one because it’s yes and no. I would, but I don’t know I’d recommend all of what I did + it really depends on what kind of floral career path you want to walk down. I go into more detail about this during workshops & consulting.
2. Do you have a studio or retail space?
We live in a small two bedroom house with a small back yard. I have taken over the old “sitting room” in the front of the house and this is my studio. It’s only about 3.5m x 4m but it works most of the time! Sometimes we spill into the rest of the house or into the yard, but honestly its not that often, and when it does, we just deal with it.
I used to be embarrassed I didn’t have a “proper” studio space or somewhere more “professional” but after a while that wears off. I think of course, if you want to run a retail style florist, you’ll probably need a shop.
3. How did you learn your whimsy, unstructured style of floral design?
Practice, practice, PRACTICE! Honestly, I think this is really what it comes down to. I have poured so much money and time into buying flowers, arranging, pulling apart, arranging again, playing around, styling, taking photos and doing this over and over again.
I would seriously spend hundreds on flowers monthly and practice at home and take photos for my website, portfolio and Instagram.
I’ve also invested in travelling and attending a few workshops, visiting farms and markets and learning from so many talented people - again all this comes under practice (and experience). I’m not at all saying that you need to spend money like I did travelling and buying heaps of flowers, but I do think you need to use all the resources you can get your hands on, even if that your phone camera, finding the best light in the house and arranging clippings from your garden, foraged branches and supermarket flowers.
You can’t look at this money and time spent as a waste, its truly investing in yourself! I think I would have spent the equivalent on my way of education as someone would on a uni degree. Some people might think that’s crazy and when I first started I think I would have too, but from where I’m sitting now, it seems like the only way I would have got here.
Side note: try to find inspiration outside the floral design and wedding world, for me this is textiles, fashion, music & beautiful landscapes and places - the way these things make you feel, try to put that into your designs.
Another Side note! Airy, dancey, textural elements add to almost everything and complete that dreamy look.
4. What’s your favourite flower(s)?
This changes with the seasons or if I see something new and interesting but the ones that are ALWAYS favourites: ranunculus, garden roses & bougainvillea!
5. How did you transition into having a business floral design full time?
In 2015, I had just finished Tafe and I was working a couple of different jobs + trying to get Oh Flora to become a real thing much as much as possible in my spare time. I was getting a few jobs here and there but I definitely still needed to hang onto another job. I saw a casual retail florist position advertised, I went for it and got it! I was honest with the lady about my business and that it was important to be. So, most “competitors” would not be happy with this and in turn not hire another florist trying to have their own business for a whole bunch of reasons. I totally respect, understand and appreciate this. However… yes, we were both florists but we had entirely different markets and we were in totally different locations. I wanted to do weddings and events, she had a retail florist arranging bunches for the home & deliveries and didn’t necessarily want to do events. She was so lovely about it and if I told her with enough notice that I had an event come up, she would even let my swap days!
So this helped me with a bit of money each week while still allowing me to put everything into reaching clients, practising, making contacts and working on the back end of my business.
In the winter of the same year, Matteo & I went to the USA & Canada for a holiday and as part of this I had the incredible opportunity of attending a Floret floral design intensive workshop in Washington State (there a post I did forever ago about this experience here). It was a very big investment me me, but honestly, it was one of the best things I've ever done! I’m so grateful I was able to attend this amazing time, it really did change my life, not just through learning more about design and techniques but I also met the most inspiring and talented people. A lot of these people are still close friends of mine, one even being my bridesmaid at our wedding this year!
This trip gave the me the confidence I needed to just JUMP! I came home and quit my part time job to focus solely on Oh Flora. The owner of the florist totally understood and was very supportive (I REALLY got lucky meeting her!).
I will never say this transition was easy at all… for a long time I was, to be honest, absolutely FREAKING OUT! I had hardly any money and I was constantly thinking about getting another job. But not having anything else to commit to, I spent all my time growing my brand and business & after a year or so, I finally felt I was doing okay. And I sometimes still have times where I question everything I’m doing!
Gosh things change within only a a few years, its crazy!
Oh Flora is now a well known floral and event design business with a following all over the world on social media. We now design for full service weddings and events, PR events and corporate functions + any fun and challenging projects that come our way and fit our brand. We have created some truely unique and impactful designs for leading brands including VOGUE, American Express, Revlon, Cosmopolitan, and our work has been on the cover of Cosmopolitan Bride numerous times. We have even created floral garlands for the Royals, Prince Harry & Meghan Markle to wear on our Iconic Bondi Beach!
Oh Flora has also been featured as one of the top floral designers in Sydney by Harpers Bazaar.