On one of those crazy busy days at the station many moons ago, Andrea, having been persuaded by several ceramic tiles, introduced herself and said to give her a call if she could help in any way. She said ‘she knew...' and without wishing to dive across the shop and grapple her down there and then, I called her swiftly after and she wasn’t exaggerating, she most certainly does ‘know’. (One day I will write a book about the front and back of floristry...)
Her resilience, loyalty and dedication know no bounds, coupled with an incredibly astute eye for detail and her encyclopaedic knowledge of flower varieties makes it hard for any florist to compete. Andrea creates inspired designs that are fitting so closely to the clients vision, while also taking them that little step further by adding her insight and creativity. I am eternally grateful to her, as a colleague, friend and mentor, so we thought it would be lovely to hear, in her own words, about life in floristry and her role as Catkin & Pussywillow's Events Manager.
Tell us a bit about how you got in to floristry?
I got into floristry via a very long route! I had been a pianist for years and had resorted to working in finance to pay for my studies in London. As time went on, I lost my nerve for performance and ended up working in finance full time, eventually working for a large commercial floral producer. After about nine months in the finance department there, I decided it was time to quit as I wanted to go back to my creative roots. The same day I handed in my notice, they offered me a Co-ordinator role in the New Product Development department which meant I still needed the financial background but would need to learn floristry super quickly. I did the trial and interview that afternoon and that was it! I’ve learnt most of everything I know on the job but did an evening course to get a qualification whilst I was there.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
There have been so many! Working with some amazingly talented people from all sectors of the industry on brilliant and intuitive projects, and I’ve honestly made some life-long friends in the process. I definitely loved seeing all the new varieties coming out when they were being trialled, and dealing with all the growers and suppliers I used to speak to around the world.
Tell us about your role at Catkin & Pussywillow?
I'm the Events Manager at Catkin & Pussywillow, and have been for almost seven years in-between children. The role involves organising, designing and costing all of the bigger events, so weddings in particular. Plus I run the Flower School and teach the floristry workshops that we host.
I’ve learnt a huge amount being at Catkin & Pussywillow. It’s given me confidence in what I produce and design and I think you only get that when you work with inspiring people. It’s also given me the opportunity to find my niche in life which is mainly the design and teaching side of the shop. I never thought I would be teaching and doing what I do now twelve years ago when I started, and it’s a hugely rewarding part of the job to be able to pass your knowledge on to others that think it’s impossible to create a floral arrangement. Then you see them at the end of the class brimming with happiness and pride, and it feels great.
What is your favourite part of the job?
Making people happy. Whether it’s the saddest or happiest time of someone’s life, being a florist is a complete privilege as you are involved in those momentous days that form a huge memory and are part of someone else’s life. They will always remember you for that which makes it so important to do a good job.
Do you have a favourite flower to work with?
Probably peonies or lilacs. I love scent and flowers that tumble out of arrangements.
Which is your favourite season in floristry?
Late spring / early summer. I love this time of the year because of the pastels, the scent and the whole 'English country garden' look, I’m a bit old fashioned really!
What lessons have you learned and would pass on to aspiring florists?
Just to be compassionate and understanding as much as possible. The job is 50% being a good listener and 50% having a good eye for detail and colour. Most people who have a creative eye can be a florist, but it’s your temperament with people that will set you apart. Work hard and never forget to condition your flowers well and clean up afterwards!