Ellie and Anna are not your average florists…. inspired by a mutual love of flowers, illustration and all things English, they formed The Flower Appreciation Society, supplying beautiful and unusual arrangements to a multitude of customers from their studio space in Hackney. And that’s not all they do: Ellie also runs knitwear label EDE, and Anna is a nearly qualified midwife. Inspiring indeed. Ellie explains:
I studied Textiles at Manchester and Anna studied illustration at Brighton. After being made redundant twice in one year, I went back home to Wales and spent the summer helping my Mum (who is also a florist) with all her weddings. When I returned to London I decided I wanted to continue working with flowers. I started working at The Scolt Head pub in Hackney and met Anna. She had just finished a year long floristry course (which she’d found incredibly uninspiring) and we instantly became friends when we realised that we shared the same aesthetic and love for all things floral. It all started very organically. Anna was asked to do the flowers for a friends wedding and I offered to help. From then on we started doing weekly flowers at the pub and then decided to design our own website. The Flower Appreciation Society was born.
I love your idea! Flowers and illustration have always gone hand in hand, when did you have your epiphany and can you remember when you and Anna decided to combine the two loves?
It all happened very naturally. The Flower Appreciation Society began when we realised that we could combine our love of cut flowers with our appreciation of all things floral. Anna had done an illustration degree, so it seemed very right to use illustrations to add something a little different to our identity.
How much has growing up around flowers informed your love of them? what are your earliest floral memories?
My mother is a silk painter as well as a florist and a wonderful gardener, my Granny was a gardener and my Great Granny was a florist, so I guess you could say it’s in the genes. The house was always filled with flowers, be it fresh cut flowers or huge beautiful bearded iris’ which my mother painted onto the curtains in the sitting room. l was definitely surrounded by flowers from a very early age. My earliest floral memory has to be sitting on the lawn at my Granny’s house eating rose petals!
What have you learnt from your florist mum?
The most important things I have learnt from my mum are my appreciation and sensitivity to colour and shape. When she was training me she always banged on about the shape of the arrangement (which annoyed me at the time!!) but I’m so grateful for it now as its one of the most important things.
I love that you and your partner Anna have such diverse creative careers – can you tell us more about your knitwear brand EDE?
I set up EDE a year ago. I have always knitted, since leaving university and it got to a point where I didn’t have the time to knit myself anymore, so I decided to employ knitters from the area that I grew up, in Herefordshire. It was very important to me to keep the production in England and even more important to support my local community. I now have 15 knitters who work their magic on my designs and I sell them on my website www.edeengland.co.uk Anna and I are very excited about our next project, to combine EDE with The Flower Appreciation Society. Big floral prints on knitwear… we can’t wait!! *nor can I*
And Anna: Can you tell us about your midwife training – where will you be practicing once you are qualified and what kind of births do you hope to attend and facilitate?
I’m just about to finish my 3 year training and hope to practice as a midwife part time in London. I hope this will be the perfect balance, half the week delivering babies and the other half arranging beautiful flowers – two very different environments, somehow it works and I love having such a mixed week. I particularly enjoy working with women and their families from all sorts of backgrounds – in an ideal world they all would be lovely straightforward happy births!
How do your illustrations sit alongside and work with the flower arranging brand?
What’s great is that the illustrations have become an integral part of the brands identity without us even realising that’s what we were doing.
It’s so lovely for me being able to use my illustrations in this context, having the freedom to set my own briefs and being able to use my degree in a way i never thought I would. I love being my own boss.
How do you find the local growers who supply your flowers? Are there people growing flowers in London or do you have to go outside the city?
At the moment we buy most of our flowers from new Covent Garden market and get as much as we can from the English suppliers. Our plan for next year is to develop relationships with local allotment growers so that we can source the majority of our flowers within London.
What flowers does England grow best?
Our favourite English flowers have to be sweet peas, delphiniums, dahlias, hydrangeas and of course beautiful wild foliage.
Are there any particular scents that you love the most and try to include in arrangements?
Obviously there’s nothing better than flowers which smell. Our ultimate favourite is English lilac.
You’ve had some amazing clients: Florence and the Machine, YCN, Bompass and Parr, La Perla, Radley, Yellowdoor, Shona Heath, Lily Vanilli, Waterstones. Who would be your next dream client?
We’d love to start working with contemporary fashion brands such as Mary Katrantzou. It would be a dream to not only have our flowers decorating the catwalk, but also our floral prints/illustrations adorning the models.
Why should we all learn to appreciate flowers more – any simple tips to include them in daily life?
Flowers make us happy. We love the whole process, from building relationships and supporting the market boys to visiting amazing venues, to feeling like we’ve done a good hard days work. Just a single stem of a beautiful flower brightens up any room. Buy a coral peony bud and put it into a bottle and watch it open and the colour fade – quite magical.
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- An interview with fashion designer Fam Irvoll
- RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2011: Flower Trends