Name: Catherine Foxwell
Where did you grow up? Southeast London
Where do you work? Catford, Southeast London
Role: Florist and business owner of Floral Evolution specialising in weddings, events and workshops
Floristry wasn’t a job that I trained in originally. I worked all over the place: local government, charities, housing, mostly in public service. About seven years ago I did some floristry short courses at college and liked it, so then I took a two-year part time City & Guilds course. Once I finished that I decided to give up my day job.
At first, I worked in the flower industry part time, doing a lot of freelancing and working in quite a few shops in London – I feel that really helped me progress in the industry. I don’t know if there’s a good or a bad way to become a florist, but I did it in a very traditional way. I went to college, worked for others, and then started doing weddings myself. I grew my client base mostly through word of mouth and then I became a preferred supplier at venues which really helped to springboard things.
I do get out and do workshops. After I’d done my college course, I wanted to learn from someone whose style and approach I liked – I chose Susanne Hatwood of The Blue Carrot. I hadn’t really worked with the homegrown materials she uses, so I wanted to see how my floristry style would fit with that. I would really recommend it as she’s lovely and I learnt a lot. I also had an opportunity to go to San Francisco and work with Tulipina, which was an amazing, crazy experience. It exposed me to a different style of floristry – it’s an art. I think you’ve got put yourself out there and be brave because opportunities won’t come and find you.
What is the best thing about your job?
It’s making sure that what I do fits the occasion, and whatever brief I’m presented with, I do the best I can. Flowers are there for every occasion, happiness and sadness. I’m at my happiest when I’ve delivered an event and I’ve brought joy and pleasure to people through flowers.
What is the biggest challenge?
In London, it’s competition. I was never the type of florist who had lots of contacts in the media or the fashion industry – I’ve had to find it for myself. You’ve got to be brave, especially if you’ve gone the traditional college route and don’t have those contacts already. It can be dismaying to see florists on Instagram who’ve worked with amazing brands, but often for press and fashion shoots it’s a very different, commercial type of floristry. I think it’s an abnormal thing about London which makes it so competitive here.
I’ve always tried to be who I am and help people as much as I can. Whilst it’s hugely competitive, I think there’s a place for all of us. If someone really likes you and your style, they will work with you. Instagram is intimidating. It’s good because it’s an instant way of showing your work, but it doesn’t always show what’s true and you can be swayed through social media to adopt popular styles, which can cause you to lose your identity. Just because a trend is selling at the moment doesn’t mean you should do it. Choose your style and it will evolve, and remember trends come and go.
Also, when you’re a small business, everything is down to you so it can be hard to balance it all. A big challenge is pricing and getting that right. It’s harder to set prices when competitors do things very cheaply, and we’re all here to make a living at the end of the day.
What advice would you give to newcomers?
My biggest piece of advice is to learn the basics and then practise for at least a year, for example, by freelancing. It’s a way to build your speed and practise while on the job. There’s no better way of learning. Nine out of ten times, people will ask if you can wire flowers and do wedding work – so you you’ve got to get those right first. Then you can experiment with your own style, and that’s when people will start come to your business.
Also, don’t be scared to ask people for help. Tap up the person you love on Instagram and they’re probably going to come back to you. There are lots of social media groups where you can ask questions. And enjoy it. Florists are lucky to work with stuff that brings pleasure. It’s hard but the end result is always beautiful.