Sunday, 18 December 2011

Silver bells, silver bells, it’s Christmas time in the city

I finished my work experience at Nikki Tibbles Wild at Heart this week. I remember literally jumping up in the air when I listened to my voicemail message telling me that I had an interview for a placement there. I had just got off a plane to visit a uni friend in St Helier, and I got a few strange looks from the other people who were waiting to collect their luggage!
Nikki Tibbles Wild at Heart is an incredible company. It does flowers for weddings, huge events, private homes, and has four shops in London. I’ve been to the concession in Liberty (which is one of my favourite shops in London; not that I can afford to shop there!) and it’s beautiful. It’s just what I want from a flower shop – an amazing selection of flowers, many of them scented, and florists who will work with your budget and brief to create something gorgeous. I’d also seen that Nikki had designed bouquets for The National Gallery, inspired by some of the work on display there. You may have gathered that I’m rather fond of flower arrangements inspired by culture, art and fashion, so I do love these. The Dutch still life arrangement, in particular, is something I would never have thought to try, but it works so well.
When I started working for Nikki and her team in November, I got to see what a typical morning in the Pimlico shop was like, as well as the warehouse that also serves as a studio. During my time there, I did the stuff you would expect to do as a floristry student, such as conditioning flowers and cleaning up (when there are lots of florists making up wreathes and flower arrangements, the floor gets covered in pine, stems and leaves pretty quickly), as well as other tasks that are key to the run up to Christmas, such as wiring dried oranges and pine cones, and ribboning cinnamon sticks. A LOT of cinnamon sticks.

I had the heart-breaking job of dismantling two humungous and stunning arrangements that had been made for a bridal sample – one consolation was the sweet smell of the beautiful O’Hara roses as I worked. I had some 'Banksy' moments, as my friend described them, spray painting ivy trails red or silver or gold. And, sometimes, I had the chance to make arrangements and get some fantastic advice and feedback from the other florists. I made a few wreathes, some table arrangements, and on my last day, the marvellous Leigh stopped lambasting my football team and taught me to make this lovely, Christmassy table centre, and some tulip domes.

On my last day, I also worked the morning in the Pimlico shop. After the usual conditioning of flowers, I made up little bunches of mistletoe. Finally, I hand delivered a bouquet that had been made by the shop's amazing florist, Ruth, who I learned so much from. As the film Bed of Roses has been one of my guilty pleasures ever since I saw it on a weekday afternoon when I was off school with a cold, it was nice to see for myself why Christian Slater’s character (a florist) enjoys delivering flowers himself. People’s reactions when they receive flowers no doubt vary, depending on the person and the occasion, but they’re a reminder of why corny old romantics like myself want to become florists.
I’ll finish this with some photos I took of the Pimlico shop on my last day. What a beautiful place to work.