I was so lucky to get a last minute space on one of Toria Brittens workshops! This happened by chance through a friend and like all things that come up for me at the moment- I jumped at the chance to be involved - because you just never know when an opportunity might lead to something, teach you something unexpected or just be a lovely experience- and to me it was all of those things.
Toria Britten is a Somerset-based British flower grower and florist. Her business is called Wildly beautiful flowers. Toria uses local seasonal flowers and foliage to create her designs and grows the majority of them herself, so that you are also getting freshly hand-picked flowers grown with love. She most recently gained a Gold medal at the Chelsea flower show for her hard work leading the exhibit for the ‘Flowers from the farm team’ of which Toria is part of. She is amazingly down to earth but has also been involved with BBC’s country file, filming with Mary Berry, been featured in the telegraph and created floral arrangements at Babington House for Rachel Ashwell’s most recent book!
The workshop I attended was a one-day ‘Oversized Urn workshop’ teaching the mechanics for creating a large floral display in an urn, then working with British flowers and foliage to create a natural and relaxed style of arrangement, learning tips and advice from Toria.
I love working with flowers, although i know i’m not a florist I do use flowers to add to the decoration at events and have loved making up dried flower bouquets to sell as part of 19. In-fact the experience of doing this workshop with Toria has encouraged me to follow my passion for flowers and do more, because I do love it! My arrangements are mainly for me anyway and at the events I host they are just there to be enjoyed as part of the atmosphere created…I’m lucky that really my only client is me! Therefore I can go with the flow!
Talking of going with the flow…its so funny because I teach this, i preach this! but in practice I’m rubbish!! I got totally over-whelmed by the task of ‘creating an arrangement’ and started to get all worried about the outcome and that I don’t have florist skills…but Toria was so sweet, she said to me- “practice being in the moment, roll back your shoulders and just trust, trust your instinct for what comes next…because the creative in you knows what feels right. Loosen up and your arrangement with look looser and more relaxed as the outcome”. Toria’s style is a natural garden style - she create arrangements, displays and floral masterpieces with a lightness and focuses completely on the natural beauty, allowing the stems to drive the process rather than being too fixed on the outcome. She loves a stem with character and invites the shapes they give to lead her- it is inspirational to watch someone work who can be in flow with their creativity.
The workshop day began with tea and biscuits in the relaxed setting of Toria’s home, we had time to arrive, say hellos to fellow attendees (There were 4 of us: @hannahlwilcock, @inbloomdevon, @rebeccaflowers2018 and me @vandthings) and settle in. I loved this, as you can forget the frantic-ness of getting somewhere on-time (probably just me!!) or the journey, the drive etc and just focus on the wonderful day ahead. We then walked down the lane to the farm where Toria has a studio space in one of the old buildings (I want to say cowshed, piggery or hen house…but i’m not sure) It was delightful and of-course full of flowers & foliage!! Toria demonstrated to us, firstly showing us the importance of the mechanics, the structure that will support our arrangement…my notes are then so funny!: Itea- good, Cryptomeria- dries lovely! Queen Elizabeth rose - Tall…but I have since looked all these back up and i’m glad i noted them down.
Then Toria began to build her arrangement with us all watching her!! She added the foliage first to create a base and ensured the branches and stems were in securely. She reminded us that we are creating a 3D display and therefore to not get so focused on the front- the back and sides add depth so must not be forgotten. There ideally should be space ‘a butterfly should be able to fly through’ ( not a chance of that in mine!!) but i totally got what she was saying. Allowing space around each flower head is important and adding the flowers at angles so that the eye is stimulated and mystery is created if the flower head is not facing you front on. I also loved how she talked about lightness while she selected her stems and began adding- just enough. The flourishes of extended stems and sweeping or trailing foliage is what really gave the piece shape and character. Toria added ‘Give it a friend’ to add meaning so that no stem was hanging out of the arrangement on its own, without purpose.
Then it was our turn! I Built my mechanics- not something I am use too as usually I just add a piece of wire and hope for the best! I selected a bucket of mainly orange dahlias and then chose my foliage. ….then, well things got abit…in true me style i wanted all that i loved… and I started adding Molucella, dried Japanese cedar, Amarathus, bracken, Fennel, Purple Orach …I do love foliage and seed head perhaps really more that blooming flowers. We all shared a joke about the hashtag #prettydeadcrap that is used by people who like me admire the beauty in the death of a flower too…lucky as my clients aren’t brides so I can bring this into my arrangements without worry.
I would say my arrangement was fairly abundant and a bit maximalist - Toria kindly said it looked like a dutch still life arrangement, which was so lovely. I was so pleased with it and hope next time I can loosen up some more and give things a bit more space. I went home and impatiently got a large jug and made an arrangement out of my left-overs and the orange dahlia’s that ended up not being featured in my urn arrangement. I also pulled the van over twice on the way home to cut branches off the hedgerow and pulled some seed heads into the van…for future projects! I can’t wait to embrace my floral explorations.
Autumn is such a lovely season for my favourite colours and the rich tones…I think it reflects the season so well having the flowers & foliage mixed with golden bracken and seed-heads. I’ll be decorating the next gathering on 26th Oct…with lots of beautiful dried stuff #lovelydeadcrap!! always.