Visiting Lyndfield Park- An Amaryllis Nursery

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The other weekend I had a wonderful visit to an amaryllis farm in Gunning, about 50 minutes away from Canberra. I found it quite strange that the farm exists, because amaryllis are known as a warm climate plants. I’ve seen them in Indonesia, where it’s hot and humid, so it’s weird that amaryllis can grow in Gunning—but they do!

The farm is owned by John and Jan Weatherstone, who I met at the Crookwell Garden Festival earlier this month. They’d brought some of their potted amaryllis to sell, and I was drawn to them instantly (both the flowers and the people!). I shamelessly invited myself to their place, and they graciously accepted.

So one Sunday afternoon, I went for a drive to their farm. John and Jan showed me around and I had the best time. The amaryllis flowering season is very short, around two months from October to December, and it was amazing to witness the peak season of the flowers.

The plants were grown in garden beds that John made, and his care for them was evident from the quality of the beds, pathways and the watering system that he’s built. His inspiration for growing amaryllis came from his father, who used to grow them. But back then, there weren’t many varieties. Then at a trip to the Melbourne Flower Festival a few years ago, John saw types of amaryllis he’d never seen before, with beautiful vivid colours and patterns. Seeing these flowers was what inspired him to start farming amaryllis. While the plants are grown for sale, they’re clearly more than that—they’re a passion of John’s.

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After visiting the amaryllis tents, John and Jan showed me their private garden, which was a lovely surprise. Their garden is literally breathtakingly beautiful—I gasped everywhere I looked, and couldn’t help but take a ton of photos. I was amazed at how neat and healthy everything looked. John and Jan have been very busy with the upkeep for Canberra garden club visits, and it really shows.

They also told me that while they sell at events like the Crookwell Garden Festival, amaryllis are difficult to transport, as the flower stems are quite delicate. The best way to buy them is to pick them up from the farm, and John and Jan said there were a few Canberra garden clubs that regularly came to view their private garden and buy plants directly.

After our walk around the farm and garden we continued our conversation over a cuppa in their dining room, which overlooked their gorgeous garden. Jan told me she loves sitting there and watching the birds that visit the garden. It was so comfortable and beautiful I was very much in danger of overstaying my welcome! But I eventually had to leave, especially as I was playing piano at church that night and hadn’t even looked at the music!

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If you’re interested in visiting the farm and buying an amaryllis plant for yourself, John is happy for people to call him to organise a visit. You can contact him on 0438 451 282.

Market Season in Spring

Aaah… spring. My favourite time of the year. It’s no secret that each year Canberrans look forward to the warmth as the blossom buds turn slowly pink white and burst into bloom. And as wedding bells ring, it also means that people are also spending more time out of their homes. Every year I aim to stock up my wares in winter to get ready for this. And yet, as winter passes, there are still SO many things I wish I had time to make and I never feel quite ready for the rush. But then again, it doesn’t matter how much time I have, I don’t think I will ever feel quite ready. I’ll be doing a few markets this coming spring, selling my wares of jewellery, floral accessories and airplants. I’m lucky to be part of amazingly well-organised markets that I really love, in particular Night Market Canberra and the Handmade Market—which happen to be held in the same week this spring. I’ve had my share of being on the outside looking in, wishing that I could be part of the picture, and I’m so grateful that nowadays I get to be one of who lives in the picture.

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flyer for Spring Night Marlet 

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Flyer for Spring handmade market 

Apart from markets, I’ll be stocking my silk floral accessories at Tulip Top Gardens. They were very well-received last year so I’m looking forward to supplying the Gardens again, and it means I can use ‘work’ as an excuse to go to there. If you haven’t been to the Gardens before, they are a must visit.

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Tulip Top Garden

I’m also going to take part in a relatively new market—the Garden Lover’s Market at the Crookwell Garden Festival. The Festival was held for the first time last year, and they won an award for the ‘Best event in the Upper Lachlan Shire’, presented by well-known gardening author and TV presenter Graham Ross. The event is made up of residents in the township of Crookwell and in the nearby countryside opening up their gardens to the public. Looking at gardens when I walk around my own neighbourhood is one of my favourite things to do, so I’m glad that someone’s been able to create an event out of that kind of idea. I can think of a lot of Canberrans who are keen gardeners and who would really enjoy the Festival.

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One example of an open garden at Crookwell Garden Festival 

Here are the markets you can find me (and/or my wares) at this spring:

 9 September – Night Market Canberra

 10-11 September – Handmade Market

 17 September-16 October – Tulip Top Gardens

 5 November – Garden Lover’s Market, Crookwell Garden Festival (Note: While the market is

only on 5 November, the Festival runs from 5-6 November)

Interconnected: an Australian floral art convention

Have you ever heard of the Australian Floral Art Association? Or simpler than that, have you ever heard of the concept of ‘floral art’? If you’ve ever studied floristry you probably have. But if not, then you probably haven’t. This is because it’s not a commercial activity and it can be expensive to do, which is why most professional florists don’t do it. Floral art has turned more into a hobby than something florists provide as a service, though that’s something I’d like to see change.

I see floral art as an important necessity, because it tests the boundaries of creativity in flower arranging. Like a painting or drawing an artist has created to be hung on a wall, floral art is also created to be enjoyed in a similar way. The problem is that it is fleeting. If the arrangement is not in water it will die after a short time, but if it is in water it will continue to develop and change shape, so it can be hard to control.

But the result of this is that floral art opens up the imagination and pushes the possibilities of what can be done in arranging flowers. Keen floral artists are forced to think outside the box and utilise other elements besides flowers, such as roots, bark, leaves, and even processed natural materials like rice or charcoal. Floral artists can manipulate flowers and these other elements into amazing works of art, and by pushing these boundaries keep the world’s floral industry inspired, alive, and new.

Earlier this month I went to Interconnected – A Floral Extravaganza, the Australian Floral Art Association’s national convention. The convention is a pretty big deal, with guests and participants coming over from all over Australia to attend. It’s held in a different state every year (last year’s was in Adelaide and next year’s is in Queensland) and I was lucky enough that this year’s convention was within my reach. It’s five full-on days of back-to- back competitions, floral demonstrations, and workshops.

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Meeting up with old floral friends through the convention. Geetha from "GG's Flowers" (famously known for her work in helping kids with down syndrome), Ngaire the president of Canberra's floral art association from "Canberra I do" and me. 

Attending the convention isn’t something I normally do (because of the costs), but I decided I had to go this year not only because it was close enough, but because Andy Djati Utomo from Indonesia was this year’s international guest speaker. Andy is one of the world’s best floral artists, but he was also my first floristry teacher. Eight years on, we now learn from each other, and he’s one of the only people I’ve kept in contact with from when I lived in Jakarta. I could go on and on talking about how much I admire him—his ability, technique and creativity is off the charts, but none of that would matter to me if he wasn’t also a great communicator, a generous teacher, humble, and incredibly funny.

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Andy & me 

I attended two days of the convention and the highlight for me was Andy’s gala demonstration on the Friday night. His style of floristry has almost nothing to do with flowers and everything to do with technique, which I believe is influenced by his background of growing up in Java. The weather in Java is warm all year round, so most of the flower supply is imported and flowers don’t last long.

Andy’s demonstration was based on techniques which, when demonstrated on their own, didn’t look that interesting: plaiting, weaving, coiling and folding. But after a demonstration of each technique, he’d go out the back and return with something he prepared earlier as an example of what could be done with that technique. Every time he did that, the whole room gasped at the result. Each one was magnificent and so unconventional. It was like magic to me, pure magic.

Andy demonstrated five different techniques and showed examples of two variations of each technique, the first being a floral art piece on a board and the next a kind of bouquet or hanging piece.

First picture: The main technique was plaiting with four different threads, using straws. The first variation was a ‘Twister sculpture’ with Phalaenopsis orchid, calla lily and anthurium.

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Second: Weaving with metallic wire. This arrangement is a ‘floating’ garden. When put against a white background the fishing wire becomes ‘invisible’, giving the impression that the garden is floating in mid-air.

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Third: A demonstration of threading Christmas baubles together and covering polystyrene balls in threads. Andy joked about how if you own a shop and don’t sell enough Christmas baubles, then at least you can re-use them for Valentine’s Day. Clever! This was my favourite piece of the lot.

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Fourth: What you can do by coiling wire. Yup, this picture speaks for itself…I’ve got nothing to say.

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Fifth: Using chicken wire covered in coloured thread so when you twist them, the colours spiral.

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On the Saturday I attended two workshops with Andy, which were quite full-on. That night there was a ‘friendship’ dinner where all participants were required to wear a piece of floral art jewellery. I made a succulent necklace and headband which proved to be quite popular (the necklace won the best accessories award on the night—my prize was a huge box of chocolates!). I had ladies crowding around me geeking out on succulents and asking how I made the necklace and headband. Well, I was at a floral art convention after all!

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Andy, me and Suryo with our fresh floral accessories.

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The floral association president from each state cutting a 'friendship cake' at the end of dinner time. 

It was such a memorable night as I got to sit with a table full of old friends, and there was even a non-serious floral arranging game, which was lots of fun. I struggled running around in my dress and then laughing uncontrollably at some of the funny things people were doing.

The convention filled my creative mind to the brim, and it’s now overflowing with possibilities. I felt (and still feel) satisfied and very happy. It was great to see Andy again and mingle with like-minded people, both old connections and new. I’m so glad I went!

Caroline and Johnathan

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Caroline and Johnathan were married in early autumn this year at Poacher’s Pantry, under the shade of a huge tree. During that time of year, the weather can get terribly hot during the day, but the warm nights and a lovely breeze are perfect for a garden wedding and marquee reception.

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I spent the day of the wedding setting up a floral chandelier and other floral arrangements to be ready in time for the reception. I was busy, but managed to sneak a peek at the goings-on after the ceremony (and to see how the other flower decorations I’d made were holding up). The guests were playing vintage lawn games to the sound of a live string quartet, and the flower garlands I’d made were blowing in the trees as children played around them. I felt like I was in the middle of a wedding set in a Jane Austen film.

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Caroline and Johnathan chose a baby pink and navy blue colour scheme, which worked out brilliantly. I have to admit, before their wedding I hadn’t done a combination of these colours and I had to do a bit of research to figure out the best way for them to work together. Navy blue is such a masculine, yet elegant and posh colour. It was represented in the groom’s jacket, the bridesmaids’ dresses, and the tablecloths at the reception. The baby pink was used as accents, through the flowers—which is where I came in. I made a conscious decision to use as light a pink as possible to make it less ‘serious’, and used Poeme and Bianca Candy roses. I loved the feminine innocence of the pinks against the masculine navy, and it made me think of the old saying,“Opposites attract.”

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I love the set of photos here by Thorson Photography, which really evoke the festive mood and wonderful summer feeling of the day.

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Winter in Canberra

I usually go away for a holiday during the Canberra winter, but not this year. And I’m actually loving it. It SNOWED in Canberra this week and that made me very happy. I woke up at 5am to see the soft snow blowing around in the wind and falling on my garden. And as the morning light appeared, I stared, mesmerised by this rare event—like a cat on a window sill—until the snow was all gone. Canberra is so beautiful at this time of year. There’s outdoor ice skating in the centre of town, food festivals, markets, and lots of open spaces to run around and catch Pokémon.

Though I miss the absence of flowers, as there aren’t too many weddings and markets this time of year, it’s nice to be able to live a normal life for a change. It’s taken me a while, but I think I’ve finally worked out how to have a work-life balance. I’ve been resting, catching up with friends for coffees, playing my piano, cooking new recipes, and shopping for clothes! All things I never usually have time for.

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Snow in my back yard 

One particular shopping score I’m particularly happy with is a blue bag with a hydrangea print I bought from the National Museum of Australia (NMA) shop. I was at the NMA for a casual meeting, and it ended up becoming an unplanned shopping spree—the shop had 20 per cent off everything, so that was a good incentive! Soon after, I bought a dress from Review, not necessarily to match the bag but that also happened to also have a hydrangea pattern on it. I plan to wear this dress to a Floral Art Association event in August.

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I’ve also taken the opportunity during this quiet period to do a lot of paperwork. I love playing with flowers and gems, but having a business means that I also have to keep on top of my tax and other paperwork, sigh. My lovely accountant has tasked me with doing a stocktake of my beads and silk flowers. I’ve been collecting beads since I was a teenager so the task has been very daunting, but I’m getting there!

I’ve also decided to build an online shop on my website for my jewellery, which is taking a lot longer than I thought it would, and is also a bit stressful. I’m not a fan of being cooped up at home in front of the computer, so to make things more bearable I’ve been taking my laptop to the National Arboretum Canberra so I can enjoy the views while I work.

Once I get on top of my paperwork and the online shop I’ll be able to start creating again—I can’t wait! I’ve got boxes of new silk flowers, and have ordered new gems. They’re all just sitting there waiting for me. This down time has helped give me some perspective, and I’m grateful for that.

Thank you to the brides out there who have been contacting me for consultations for their weddings during this quieter time. It’s nice to have one flower-related thing I can work on during this cold period.

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Kali and Ed’s wedding

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Kali was not your typical bride. Rather than following mainstream trends, her decisions were based on practicality that made sense for her—and I absolutely loved that. For example, she decided to have a pomander instead of a bridal bouquet so her hands would be free if she needed to hold a parasol at the ceremony, which was held outdoors in late summer. Having a pomander was a unique choice that reflected her fun and quirky personality.

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Finished buttonholes in the studio. Photo  by me 

This wedding also pushed me outside of my comfort zone, as I had to do things I’d never done before. Firstly, it was quite a big wedding so I had to call on a few extra pairs of hands to help me finish everything on time. I also had to take the team with me (four of us in total) to set up the venue on the day, another first for me. Kali also trusted me with things that I’d never done for a real wedding before: the pomanders, a flower arch, and styling a statement table and the bridal table.

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Photo by Petit Fleur 

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Photo by Petit Fleur

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One particularly intense moment for me was when we planned to move the arch from the back of the venue (the National Gallery of Australia) to the reception area. As the arch was such a statement piece I suggested we move it to the hall so that guests could continue to take photos under it. The problem was that we only had 30 minutes to do so between the ceremony and the reception. I had to ask my brother-in- law to come in for the half an hour to move the arch, which he graciously did.

Planning Kali’s wedding was quite a journey for her and I, and we bonded so much over it that when she had a few people pull out from the reception, Kali generously invited me to come as a guest. It was a wonderful night and I got a bit teary during the speeches. I will always cherish Kali and Ed’s wedding as one of my most memorable experiences as a florist!

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Photography: Ben Thomas Photos (unless mentioned otherwise)

Ceremony Venue: The sculpture Garden

Reception Venue: Gandell Hall at the National Gallery of Australia.

Tips for Editorials

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A photoshoot I was involved in earlier this year was published last week in UK blog, Rock My Wedding. Seeing the results of the photoshoot was so awesome that it inspired me to write about my experience working on this editorial with a great team of other creatives. I’ve been doing photoshoots for two years now and found it’s a bit of a risk as a florist, as you have to invest both your time as well as a significant amount of fresh flowers. I’m not an expert on editorials but I wanted to share my experiences so far. I hope that my insights will help others, whether you’re a florist or wish to collaborate on a photoshoot in another way.

Creative vs Business

I sometimes struggle to balance my desire to be creative with the necessities of running a business. For example, I would much rather work on an imaginative project than update my online shop. If a fellow creative has an idea, or asks if I want to collaborate on a project, I often jump at the opportunity without considering how it might benefit my business. If you’re looking at producing pretty pictures to add to a non-existent portfolio, it’s probably not a bad thing, as we all have to start somewhere. But as a business owner, these opportunities need to be balanced with considering what you’ll achieve from the project, how much it’s going to cost, and whether you’ll get a return on investment (both time and money).

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Clear communication is very important

I’m really lucky to live in Canberra where there are so many talented creatives who are really supportive of each other. We have a system here called time for photography (TFP), where everyone contributes in-kind to a photoshoot (for example flowers, fashion, styling, photography). When the shoot is complete, we share the images and promise to promote each other’s work/business whenever the images are used. It’s a simple concept, but can sometimes be hard to honour (often unintentionally) when expectations and agreements haven’t been communicated properly.

For example, if you and the others are aiming for the images to be published in a blog or magazine, everyone needs to be clear and agree that the photographs can’t be shared on social media until after publication. This may take months and will require everyone to be patient, but it’s worth the wait—publishing a photograph that hasn’t been seen before on a platform that has a much wider audience reach can have a far great impact than one that’s already been shared through your own social media channels.

Every photographer is different

When I first needed to organise photoshoots to develop a portfolio of my work, I just asked anyone that did photography without thinking much about what I was looking for. Now I understand that knowing the style and skill of a photographer you’re working with is crucial. Just because someone knows how to use a camera, it doesn’t mean that they can achieve the style of photography you have in mind. Photographers are like painters—they have their own individual skill set, tendencies, strength, and speciality. And it affects everything. The way they see colour, capture moments, and frame a picture are all different, so it’s important to know what you want from the photoshoot and to choose a photographer who can help you achieve this aim.

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Having the right team

When I first met Garry from GC Photography, he said to me, “When you have a team of passionate people you can't fail, you can only succeed.” He was actually quoting Benjamin Von Wong, but Garry really believes in that saying too so it could just as well have been his quote. I’ve learnt that it also helps when this team of passionate people shares a creative view and direction. The recent photoshoot in Rock my Wedding was a perfect example of this. As a florist, I couldn’t really help to ‘run the shoot’ as arranging and styling the flowers was a huge task that required a lot of preparation both before and during the shoot. I was also the main point of contact between the venue and the creative team, so I didn’t have a lot of time to spare. But my main partners on this shoot were Miss Gen Photography and Vicky from Rockstars and Royalty. I’d worked with them both before and knew I could rely on them to produce an end result of amazing quality. Vicky did a wonderful job recruiting the rest of the crew, all experts in their field (styling, stationery, models, hair, make-up), as well as being the firm voice to ensure that we stayed focused on the look that we wanted (it can often be easy to get swayed into trying new ideas).

With photographers, I sometimes need to ask them to take particular shots of flowers for me, but this wasn’t the case with Miss Gen. As she’s an extremely experienced photographer, I trusted her to showcase my work in the best way possible. I was therefore able to relax and continue working in the background on a last minute flower crown for the second look. The hair and make-up team did an amazing job matching everything. For example, in the picture below, Ashlea’s lipstick is the exact same colour as the deep red dahlia. Angelina’s hair was teased like crazy so it looked amazing with the massive flower crown I made. The gold sequinned dress matched the glittering props, cakes, and stationery on the table. Every choice was planned and deliberate, and to me that makes a world of difference in the quality of a shoot.

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The big day 

I don’t know how everyone else found the day of the photoshoot, for me it was stressful but fun. The day was tightly scheduled and we all made sure we knew what was coming next and what our end goal was. This turned out to be very important, as the weather wasn’t what we had hoped. But we knew what things couldn’t be changed and where we had room to improvise to achieve our aims.

Believe it or not, these photos are only half the shoot. We shot another set of photos in a different theme later on that afternoon, so it was a huge day to say the least. Vicky had three costume changes with five models and I was still arranging flowers and keeping a close eye on the weather while everything else was going on. I’m really proud of what we did as a team on this editorial. A good photoshoot really is never just a fluke, it’s a result of hard work and a great team with the same vision. I’d love to hear what others think about what I’ve shared, and to hear about your own experiences with photoshoots as well.

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Credits:

Photography: Miss Gen Photography

Dresses / Creative Director: Rockstars & Royalty

Flowers: Peony N Pearl

Venue & Food: Pialligo Estate

Styling & Dessert table : Swish Vintage Canberra

Stationary: Invitations by Melita

Hair: Dilkara Essence of Australia

Make up: Jacqui Scott MUA

Suit: Braddon Tailors

Models: Ashlea Perry, Matthew Gambrill and Angelina Leljak from Devojka Models 

The Botanical Jewellery Series

Every year, I always try to do something new. This often ends up being something that requires me to learn a little something, and invest a lot! For example, in 2014, my first year running my business, it was making paper flowers. I learnt how to construct them, and bought lots and lots of tissue paper, bottles of bleach, and even a paper cutting machine. Last year I had the amazing opportunity to be involved in Fashfest, which led to me learning how to handle silk flowers and create fashion pieces with them, including buying and using new tools, and a LOT of silk flowers. This year, I’ve decided to focus on further developing my jewellery making skills and using higher value materials. I work a lot with artistic wire, and I absolutely love it with all my heart. But as I’ve improved my techniques, I’ve become more interested in making jewellery that my clients will be able to keep and cherish forever because of their higher level of workmanship, value and beauty.

I’ve invested in buying amazingly beautiful gems and learning how to work with sterling silver wire. Making the change from working with artistic wire to silver wire feels like learning to walk on a tightrope. I have to try and keep the wastage of wire to an absolute minimum because of the value of sterling silver. It’s difficult, so I have to carefully watch what I’m doing to try and avoid making silly mistakes.

This year I’ve also been very inspired by a book that my husband gave me at Christmas, Flora: The Art of Plant Exploration, by Sandra Knapp. It’s a beautiful book that explores the history of plants and flowers through botanical illustrations and essays. At Christmastime, our family friend Meg noticed that I couldn’t put the book down and said I needed to do something with the pictures in it. At the time, I couldn’t think of what to do, but now that I’m moving to making precious jewellery, they fit together perfectly.

My idea is to take the ‘essence’ of the floral pictures and translate them to jewellery, primarily in the colour and arrangement of gemstones. Botanical illustrations are a perfect medium to gather inspiration from because they tend to show off subtle features of plants quite bluntly.

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I’ve been enjoying this jewellery making process immensely. One of the first pieces I made in this series is a necklace based on an image of a stem of a white magnolia flower. Magnolia leaves are unique in that they have a strong shiny dark green top that faces the sun, with an underside that’s a softer velvety brown texture. Translating this into jewellery, I found that the dark green of the leaves matched perfectly with rutilated moss gemstone and dark green tourmaline, and the brown underside with beer quartz. I represented the amazing grandeur of the pure white magnolia with a moonstone. And finally, because the magnolia flower is quite fleshy, almost lustrous in a way, I decided to include a freshwater pearl.

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The metal component for this piece, and this whole series of jewellery, is predominantly oxidised sterling silver. I was excited to learn how to oxidise silver. After oxidising the silver, I also polished it slightly to give it a touch of silvery shine against the dark grey. At this stage I think this is the best colour to highlight the colours of the gemstone, and it looks great against paler skin.

When I finished this necklace, I felt like I could almost smell the fragrance of the magnolia. That’s when I knew I was satisfied with the end product. I then showed it to some friends and asked for their opinions. One of them commented that it was like a metaphor for a flower that lasts forever, which I think is just beautiful.

I’ve now made a few jewellery pieces in this series in preparation for the Handmade Market this weekend. More often than not, I’ve found that the colour of the gemstones and the illustrations match perfectly. I find it so amazing that nature can find a way to repeat itself in the most wonderful form. It’s filled me with so much happiness to be able combine flowers and jewellery—two of the things I love most—together. I have a feeling that this project may never end.

I’ll be showing (and selling) my new series of jewellery at this weekend’s Handmade Market. I'm aiming to have jewellery made based on 10 different flower illustrations before the weekend! I can’t wait to see what you all think of it, and I hope you love it as much as I do.

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Stefanies Flower Dress

In the midst of Valentine’s Day week and wedding excitements this month, I also patiently worked on a custom dress for a very unique bride, Stefanie, with Rachel from One of a Kind. Rachel made the dress ‘base’ while I created a flower skirt to go over it. Rachel also very kindly made me the peplum base for the skirt. The silk flower-covered skirt is detachable so the bride can put it on and take it off the dress as she pleases! Stefanie decided on a flower dress because she felt the dresses she saw in shops or online just didn’t feel right for her. She said she wanted to feel like she had fallen asleep in a meadow and woken up covered in flowers. That type of imagery certainly sparked my imagination!

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Rachel and I designed the skirt so the peplum sat above Stefanie’s hips and the flowers were in different shades of white. My strategy in the placement of flowers revolved around their volume. Because the flowers would start above the hips, it was important for the flowers at the top to be as small as possible, with the size of the flowers gradually getting bigger as they moved down to the bottom of the skirt.

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I made the base layer of the floral detail by cutting out individual hydrangea petals and attaching each one on the peplum base to create a flat, yet soft and feathery look. It was repetitive work, but needed to be done with precision, which meant concentration. I felt like this must be a tiny window into what it’s like to create a couture piece for Dior.

Next, I arranged the main flowers on the skirt, from smallest at the top, with the volume rising towards the bottom. After these were in place, I covered any blank spaces with more hydrangea florets until the skirt was nice and full. Finally, I embellished the skirt with smaller flowers, placed randomly around the skirt to break up the rhythm and add a more organic look and feel.

It took me about seven working days to make the skirt and I honestly couldn’t be happier with the result! Every time I caught a glimpse of it I found myself wanting to look at it for longer.

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I can’t wait to see Stefanie in her flower dress—combined with her heels and veil, she’s going to look amazing! Thank you Stefanie for asking me to create this special piece for you, and huge congratulations on tying the knot today!

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Post Valentines Day Awesomeness

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I’m so excited to tell you about how my Valentine’s Day plan went! So after my husband and I finished delivering flowers on Valentine’s Day, I spent the rest of the day in my workshop, making the posies for the Canberra Hospital. It was a very hot day and I struggled to keep the flowers perked up, and had to throw out some of the ones that wilted. Thankfully, I had enough flowers remaining to make 24.5 posies of my target of 25 (yay!) .

One unexpected thing that happened during the ordering period up to Valentine’s Day was that I had orders from people who wanted to donate flowers to the patients in aged care without ordering a Valentine’s Day bouquet for someone else. I also received an order from an anonymous person who bought a large bunch of flowers to be directed to the oncology patient with the least visitors. These gestures were really beautiful.

On the big day, I was happy to see a white cloudy sky when I woke up, because it meant it would be cooler and the posies would be ok. Accompanying me to the hospital to help me distribute the flowers were some volunteers from church—Amy, her mum Judy, and 10 year old Nate.Before we delivered the flowers, we sat in the café to write messages on the cards to go with the posies. We sat there thinking for a while about what to write, and looking up possible Valentine’s Day quotes to use. We finally realised that a simple message was best, and went with “Dear…, wishing you much love and joy this Valentine’s Day, from us”.

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Flowers are all packed ready to go!

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Amy, Nate and Judy- writing cards together in the cafeteria.

Once we were done writing the cards, the Canberra Hospital Foundation (CHF) representative, Caitlin, led us to the ward. She introduced us to Marie, one of the staff, who would help us distribute the flowers. We split into two groups to give out the posies; I went with Marie and Caitlin while Amy, Judy, and Nate went with another staff member.

The aged care ward was very different to what I imagined it would be. There was a very busy office/admin area in the heart of the ward, surrounded by rooms containing about four beds separated by curtains. The first person we went to was a man sitting on a chair next to his bed. Marie politely said, “We’ve got something special for you today!” His response was, “Flowers? What for? I don’t need any flowers. Give them to someone else.” Though I’d mentally prepared myself for the possibility of such a reaction, my heart sank a little at his words. Nevertheless, we left his posy on the table next to him.

We continued giving flowers to the other patients in the room (where they were well-received). Just as we were about to leave, the first man called out to us. “Can I say something?” Marie, Caitlin and I turned around, surprised. He continued, “These flowers, they remind me of my wife who passed away one month ago. She loved flowers.” His face and attitude changed after he said that, and we had a nice chat with him. Caitlin convinced him to take a photo with me, and he even told us a joke before we moved on.

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The rest of the patients we gave posies to were happy to receive them. One woman was so pleased that she couldn’t stop smiling and staring at her flowers, repeating, “Beautiful” as she looked at them. She told me that she used to be a pianist and a ballet dancer and only retired four years ago. I’m glad I made an effort to make proper mixed flower posies for the patients, as I noticed a number of them reciting the names of the flowers when they looked at their posies: roses, lilies, carnations, chrysanthemum.

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Another patient that made an impression on me was a woman who was in a room of her own. Her son was there visiting and he was wearing a yellow disposable shirt over his own. Caitlin told me that it was to prevent infections from spreading to his clothes. Marie put on one of the yellow shirts and gave the flowers to the patient. When the woman saw the flowers and was told they were from me, she looked at me from her bed with her hand raised, but she couldn’t sit up or say anything. I started chatting with her son and Caitlin, but she made an effort to draw my attention, so I decided to put on a yellow shirt and spent a little time with her. While we couldn’t really have much of a conversation as she had difficulty hearing and talking, I could tell she was really taken by the red roses in her posy by the way she reacted to them.

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I feel like flowers spread a universal feeling of happiness from their beauty, and this visit to the hospital really showed that. Towards the end of my time there, Marie said that the patients’ faces were really ‘lit up’ by the flowers. Surprised, I said, “Really?” Marie’s response was, “Well, they certainly don’t look like that when I come in the room! Some of those patients will look at those flowers the whole day.” I also noticed that when I gave each patient the personalised card with the flowers, they were really appreciative of the personal touch, even though the message was very simple. Little Nate also provided some entertainment for the patients by showing off his juggling skills. He’s been learning from his dad and YouTube, and is very good at it!

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It was a wonderful experience and I came out of it thinking that this is what Valentine’s Day should be like every year: sharing love with people who need love.

I have so many people to thank for making this happen. Thank you to everyone who helped me promote my idea on social media by sharing my posts, and to everyone who bought or donated flowers. Thanks to Lauren from Indigo Rose Design who helped me put some of the posies together while. Thank you to Amy, Judy, and Nate who helped give out the flowers and spent time with the patients. Thanks to Caitlin for my being contact person at CHF and taking these amazing behind the scene pictures. Thanks to my mum for being the financial safety net. And finally, thanks to my husband Greg for reassuring me that I was making the right decision, especially when I was feeling nervous about it, and of course to the CHF for the opportunity to make my idea into reality.

Countdown to Valentine's Day

Hi everyone, only three and a bit weeks until Valentine’s Day! I am now nervously counting down the days as I’ve had to make some changes to the website and think a bit more about how to make my plan work. The change to the website is that I’ve added a shop so people can conveniently buy their Valentine’s Day bouquets online. And because I’m a ‘less is more’ type of girl, I’ve made the flower selection and check out system as simple as possible. I’m so excited about getting my first orders through the website!

As for how my plan is going to work, I’ve now met with with two lovely ladies from the Canberra Hospital Foundation (CHF). We’ve decided it would be good to donate the flowers to the patients at the primary aged care ward, so approximately 26 people. The flowers will be delivered the day after Valentine’s Day (Monday 15 February).

At our meeting, the CHF ladies invited me to stay for morning tea with some of the patients after I’ve delivered the flowers. At that moment, I realised that spending time with the patients is actually more important than the flowers. While the flowers are a really important gesture, I feel that if I don’t spend time with the people receiving them, the donation will be meaningless.

I also thought, why not see if other people would like to help out? I’ve asked the hospital, and they’ve said I can bring three people with me. So if you’d like to help me deliver the flowers, spend time with some of the patients, and join me for morning tea, please get in touch! First in, best dressed!

Finally, I’ve also been pondering about the cards that will be attached to the donated flowers, which are quite important to me. Why? Because I think it would be nice if they were a bit more personal, so the recipient feels loved. So if you decide to buy a Valentine’s Day bouquet from me, you’ll be asked to write a short message to the patient. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be War and Peace. Something as simple as ‘Dear … Wishing you a very happy Valentine’s Day , from <your first name>’ will suffice. I’ll then fill in the recipients’ names when I receive the list from the hospital.

It’s all slowly coming together, and I’m really excited. Remember, I’m looking for volunteers to come along with me on the day, so if you’re interested, I’d love to hear from you!

My new work space

I’m embarrassed to admit that even though my business has been running for almost two years, I haven’t had a proper work space. I’ve made do with a section of the garage, the rest of which has been chaos, tools, and machinery belonging to my husband. When I first started, I didn’t really need a proper work space; half the garage was big enough for me to make the few bouquets and table canters. But as time has progressed, my business—and my projects!—have grown bigger and more adventurous. First there were some floral chandeliers and installations. And silk flowers for dresses and accessories for my FashFest collaboration with Rockstars ‘n’ Royalty. So the flowers crept from the garage, to the lounge room, and the spare bedroom. Surrounded by flowers and floristry tools, we finally decided enough was enough, and I needed a proper workshop. My husband agreed to give me the rest of the garage on the condition that I move all the flowers out of the house (well, the silk ones at least, which had taken over the spare room)!

While visiting my in-laws for Christmas, my husband asked his dad how to build a wall. And as soon as we got back to Canberra, we got to work. We emptied the garage, swept out one and half decade’s worth of dust, and built an insulated wall behind the roller door. And when my brand new space was ready, we moved all my flowers and tools in.

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(I know it looks like Greg did all the work, but hey, these photos don't take themselves! )

And here is the result!

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Since I’m going to be spending a lot of time in there, I decided that I wanted the workshop to be visually pleasing. We’ve painted the walls, three white and one pink, to go with Peony N’ Pearl’s theme and to make the room feel a bit more spacious. I’ve hung up some of my favourite floral art by local artists Cheryl Hodges and Carmen Hui.

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I’ve put in extra storage for vases, silk flowers, and tools, and my husband has built me a rack to display ribbons. Before this, all my ribbons had been hidden inside a crate, so it’s really nice to be able to see what I have in stock at a glance. We’ve put in a separate bench for silk flowers (which we had to trim to fit in!), and I’ve moved as many of those flowers as I can out of the house and into the workshop (though there are still some in my bedroom).

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My new workshop is a huge upgrade—I’m amazed that I managed to accomplish what I did in 2015 in the little area I had before. It’s a great way to start 2016, and I can’t wait to spend time in my new space!

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My 2016 Valentine's Day Plan

Happy 2016 everyone! After a few long months of not any writing blog posts, it may seem odd that my first one for 2016 is about Valentine’s Day. I suppose it’s especially odd to me since I loathe Valentine’s Day—it’s not because of the crazy work pressure and long hours I’ve had in past years while working in other shops. I simply don’t like the concept of it. Valentine’s Day just doesn’t make sense to me. In the florist shop I used to work in, a line would form from inside the shop, all the way outside. The phone would ring non-stop. The more last minute, the more desperate people were for flowers—not as a true declaration of love, but just to get out of trouble. I personally think Valentine’s Day should be an excuse to show love for all the people who matter in one’s life, not just partners. I like the idea of sending love messages to my single friends, and friends I haven’t seen in a while.

I was thinking about this, and an idea came to me.

If Peony N’ Pearl is going to sell flowers for Valentine’s Day, it has to be about people who matter in one’s life and not be exclusive to love between significant others. My original idea was that every time I sell one bouquet for Valentine’s Day, the sender would get to send another posy for free to another person of their choice; hopefully someone important to them, such as a friend they haven’t seen in a while, someone in hospital, their grandmother.

But the more I thought about it, the more problems I came up with. What if the sender didn’t know what to do with the second posy? What if it was wasted on someone who didn’t deserve it? How would I manage to do 50 per cent of my deliveries for free in one day? There was no way it was going to work.

So I simplified the idea. And here it is: with every bunch of flowers purchased for Valentine’s Day from Peony N’ Pearl, I will donate a little posy to someone in hospital. This satisfied two of my criteria:

  • one type of recipient who will truly appreciate flowers on Valentine’s Day, tick.
  • one delivery destination for the donated flowers, tick.

Perfect!

But then it was time to call Canberra Hospital and see if my idea would work. It took some courage for me to call and ask. Through a friend, I managed to find the right person to talk to. And thankfully, that person is enthusiastic about the idea and thinks that it is realistic. To be honest, I’ve had this idea about giving flowers to a hospital for months and months, and up until that point it seemed more like a dream. A dream that is now no longer out of reach, and is tangible!

There will have to be a lot of organisation to make this happen, and I’m still working out the details about how I can support the Canberra Hospital. At this point the hospital has asked for the flowers to be directed to aged care. Being a hospital, it’s not surprising to hear that they often receive donations of all sorts, but aged care tends to be an area that is forgotten. Which makes them the perfect recipient for the flowers and the dream I’ve been longing to fulfil.

I’ll post updates and ‘how to order’ details next week as the plan comes together.

Fionna

Canberra Hospital Foundation
Canberra Hospital Foundation

Shower in Blooms Photoshoot

thought I know what it means to have passion in something, and then I met Garry Chiu of GC photography- and now I don't know what that word means anymore.Garry somehow found me and contacted me via facebook back in December to see if I was interested for a shoot. I replied straight away saying yes! We somehow got chatting away about 2 photographers that we happen to both know and love (Kirsty Mitchell and Von Wong). Garry is one of those people who has so much character that his personality is transparent even from chatting, so we got along really well before we've even met!

Christmas and New Year came not long after so I took the holiday period to really recuperate from a year of madness while Garry went ahead and pretty much organized everything. Sure enough a few days before I flew back to Australia I checked my facebook and Garry has got a team ready waiting for me. Garry relied on me for theme and ideas so pressure's on. Thankfully Canberra happen to have a lot of rain that week so one night while I was sitting on my bed with my pencil and paper I just happen to come up with a title "Shower in Blooms" And the imagination flows from there.

I really wanted to incorporate my flowers and wire work in 1 image so I decided to design my very first wired head piece and a peir of flower crystal earrings to go with it.

We had the shoot on Saturday 7th of February, which happen to be a very busy day for me. I had to deliver flowers for a wedding at 2:30pm and set up for my first bridal expo before 4pm. And so the shoot will have to finish at 1:30pm the latest.

I made everyone come to my house for the shoot so that I can keep all the flowers that I needed in the flower fridge- and everyone graciously did. There were definitely a lot of coffee being made and handed around the house. I woke up at 4:30am to work on the flowers of the head piece. I decided not to do it any earlier because out of all flowers, I find that blue flowers are the most fragile.

The only person that I have ever worked with is Marie Donnell from Myshairdesign - I adore Marie, and I'm so happy that she's able to do Paris's make up. Paris was my first preferance for model because of her captivating blue eyes. So when first Garry told me that we got her I was pretty ecstatic. Erika, Paris's mum was with us the whole time. Us kids cant function without her. She got us props, helped Paris to take her for dress fitting provided by Vicky from Rockstars and Royalty, and a steam iron last minute. And then there's my husband, Greg who loves people and stayed with us all throughout the shoot helping us doing small odd things that makes a huge difference.

After we finished prettying up Paris, I suddenly realized that she looked like Elsa from Frozen- which is ironic because I don't like Frozen at all. Marie even braided her hair so she looks like Elsa even more! Is it possible that my dislike for frozen is so apparent that I decided to subconsciously created one in real life??? And because I also dislike the soundtrack we started singing "Let it Go". I guess I was so happy and excited at the time I didn't really care.

Shooting was so much fun. Garry connected his SLR to his laptop so that we can see the photos that he took on LightRoom and comment as he shoots away. He took a lot of really funny ones and also told us a lot of really funny stories. Greg's brother Luke, is living with us at the moment. He reported that he heard more laughing than "the clicking of cameras" (his words) coming from downstairs. That's probably about right. We weren't the most efficient bunch, but we most certainly are a creative bunch that managed experiment a few different things.

After taking enough beauty shots to our hearts content, we tried this trick that Garry has been wanting to try called "Glam the Dress". That is when Erika and I lift up the outer layer of Paris's dress on either size, and dropped it on queue- and then it look like her dress is being blown! In this photo my fingers accidentally got caught on the dress so I flicked it instead of dropping it- but it ended up being one of our favorite!

And then because the title of this shoot is "Shower in Blooms" we also tried throwing petals around Paris so it looks like she is posing in a rain of petals . It was my idea, but none of us really know how to achieve it. So the first time tried it, Erika literally threw a bunch of petals on Paris's face- it was hilarious! We had a really good laugh out of that, but then we manage to do it again out of confusion. I guess we have to start from somewhere!

We tried throwing petals in different ways while Marie was concentrating on the photographs that appears on the laptop and constantly giving us feedback on what works and what doesn't. We finally manage to pull this photo out of a few experiments. Pretty amazing right? What we did was, Erika and me are throwing petals on either side of Paris from below. Greg also threw petals from in front of Paris but just lightly so it doesn't reach to her face. Even when the petals are being thrown from below, it still looks like it's falling from above on camera.

So that was it! It was a huge day for me and felt like I've achieved a lot to last me awhile. I found a lot of things that I need to improve on from this experience. And the one thing that I am most proud of (apart from producing these amazing images with a kick ass team) is actually how I managed to keep the flowers alive all throughout the shoot. Meanwhile, Garry, Marie and Paris went away and did like another 5 other shoots in the next 10 days. You just can't limit love and passion combined together. I hope you are inspired by these ideas and images!

Fionna

Erin's Birthday

Erin, Canberra’s queen of Vintage caravan, the mastermind behind ‘My Sweet Alice’ had turned 30 last week and she is throwing a classic vintage inspired garden party to celebrate! I felt so lucky to be asked to provide flowers and to be invited to stay for the event . The party was going to be an afternoon picnic at Canberra’s Old Parliament House Rose garden. Erin was so gracious in giving me the creative freedom for the flowers. As Canberra gardens flourishes in spring, especially of roses in October, I didn’t want to compete with that. Especially that Alice will be located in the rose garden itself. With that in mind, I decided to do something a bit different: a plant arrangement! I thought it would be the perfect decoration as well as a gift for Erin. She works hard cooking and baking every week so why not give her something she can use in her garden? And while I’m at it, I decided to use an old weathered wood that we rescued from revolve to custom make the arrangements container. I asked my handy husband to do the sawing and drilling. After he finished, he couldn't bare to let it go as the size sits perfectly on our new coffee table.

I have been to a Sweet Alice birthday event once, but Erin’s birthday was my first time helping them set up. It was a great feeling when everything was properly done. I have realized now more than ever what a perfectionist Erin is when it comes to parties. "If you're having a party, you have to do it properl."- she says as we were unpacking chocolate brownies, cupcakes and macaroons. And yes, yes I agree with that completely! Tess from ‘Style My Aisle’ was there to set up tables, chairs and picnic rugs, and Chloe had baked Erin her birthday cake topped with berries and roses. Beautiful gardens and objects, yummy food, perfect weather and company… it is good to be alive.

 Happy Birthday Erin! Wishing you many beautiful days like these, success and happiness in years ahead with Alice...!