My life in Flowers: the 1st age and my late mum
I thought I would write a little piece to introduce myself and to explain my long term passion for flowers. And then I thought about it and realised there are several parts to our relationship.
I have decided I am in my 4th age of floristry at the moment…, which, when I am looking back from my 5th or 6th ages, I will remember as the COVID era.
So when were the first three ages of floristry in my life? Well, I’m 44 years old, and the 1st age probably started more than 40 years ago.
1st Age: My mummy – my greatest influence.
My mother was an avid flower arranger, and probably one of the younger members of the Sheffield Floral Art Club, part of NAFAS (National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies). Sadly she passed away nearly 12 years ago, as I would love to spend time remembering this period with her - I’m certain she would still be involved in the club aged 82 if she was still alive!
As a mother with a young child, she would simply bring me along to the various competitive or fundraising events and shows, keeping me busy with fetching and carrying buckets, soaking oasis and passing her flowers. She entered and won competitions, particularly at the annual Sheffield Show, and so did I!
She eventually won the coveted Bentley Bowl for Best in Show under the category 'Seasons of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness'.
At a young age my creations were generally vegetables restructured as animals and monsters, or fairy gardens, but as I grew older I created my own competitive flower arrangements and I have the certificates to prove my skills!
I seem to remember 'ET comes to town'(left), when I was 6 or 7, was made mostly out of swedes...
For a while my mother was in charge of organising the monthly evening flower demonstrations, held in Sheffield City Hall with its dark auditorium and velvety seats, with much revered guest demonstrators who seemed like celebrities to me at a young age, and I was often allowed to stay up and watch the flower demonstrations.
She was also in charge of organising the flowers at our local church, St John’s, Ranmoor. It is a large Victorian church, built in the heady success of Sheffield’s industrial past, and I later had the pleasure of marrying my husband there.
St John's Church today (Photo from www.stjohnsranmoor.org)
My mother would set up a rota for the weekly pedestals, but for Easter, Harvest and Christmas we were all hands on deck and the ladies would be assigned a windowsill or other installation. There were two pedestals, installations at the altar, 8 windowsills to be filled with arrangements, a side chapel, a font and the porch to decorate. We would pack the car (and old-style mini!) with flowers and foliage and I would squeeze in amongst it all. After unpacking at the church I'd help and then get bored...Oh the hours I would spend when I was little, playing games in amongst the pews, raiding the Sunday school toybox (there were no ipads or smartphones in those days). And again, as I got older, I would help where I could with the installations.
It was a rite of passage when I was assigned my own windowsill to arrange when I was about 11, and many years before I was trusted with one of the main pedestal arrangements!
My mum would also hatch plans for fresh themes and ideas, with wreaths and stars hanging by fishing wire from the pillars or triforium (this was a whole new area of the church to explore!), or collect cardboard postal tubes and paint them red to create enormous pretend Christmas candles for the windowsills. Her creativity had very few boundaries!
So from such a young age, I had learnt from her the mechanics of how to set flower arrangements up, I gained an understanding of the shape and proportion of flower arrangements and the positioning of flowers. Imperative was the knowledge of how to forage for the best foliage: to understand the shape of branch that was required to create the right movement and depth of arrangement. I also have no fear of finding a solution for a creative styling idea and have an inherent respect for churches and what decorations are suitable for it.
My mother and I (you can just see my socks and sandals!) finalising an installation circa 1985 (certainly when I was into hoolahooping as they were borrowed from me!) in Sheffield Cathedral.