Allow me to introduce the second instalment of our 'Connect and Create' interviews. A glimpse into the lives, working spaces and minds of some of our favourite creatives.
I love seeing the different ways people do the creative best they can with their lives and their talents. And I also love hearing about the real stuff. The challenges and the mundanities, overcoming obstacles and sourcing inspiration when it runs dry.
If you love similar things, then like me you'll find this interview with Bek Towns of Floral Pines Design Co to be nothing short of gold. I am humbled with the honesty and generosity that Bek brought to this interview. She is literally a floral artist that creates incredible beauty, it was so much fun to watch her do her thing in her studio whilst Aaron Hughes captured her in action.
She is definitely one of the muses for our linen aprons and it's an honour they are even a very small part of the incredibly beautiful work that she does.
How long have you been a florist? How did you end up doing this?
I’ve been doing floristry since 2014. I honestly fell into it. I was studying something I was really not passionate about, but also struggling with quite severe mental health issues. It got to the point where I couldn’t keep studying at all, and even leaving the house was difficult. I had previously done flowers for my own wedding & a friends’ (without knowing anything at all really!) but I had loved the creative process, so I was encouraged to take a bit of a ‘sabbatical’ year, to study floristry and enjoy working at something creative & joy-giving. I loved it and have been working with flowers ever since. I still struggle with anxiety and depression, which makes running a small business difficult, but working at something that I enjoy and am passionate about has been a really healing and helpful thing.
How do you stay inspired/passionate? What helps for you when you're not feeling it?
I love finding inspiration for my floral arrangements in places outside of the the natural world too. It might be the shape or structure of a building or an interesting colour palette or a beautiful interior. I’m often in the paint section of Bunnings, finding inspiration for palettes in their paint chips, or flipping through a magazine or scrolling through Pinterest. When I’m not feeling it with flowers, I find it really helpful to spend time playing, creating just for myself, with no pressure or agenda. It’s a great way to practice and grow my skills, and to remember why I do what I do.
What do you love most about your craft?
I love that no two stems are the same, no petal is the same colour or shape, and no combination of flowers or arrangement ever looks the same. It’s an amazing thing to get to create with such incredible beauty, and exciting to see each different stem come together to make something new and interesting.
What do you find hard?
For the most part, I work alone, which can feel really isolating. It can be hard having no one around to converse with, or run ideas by all the time. But I am thankful for a wonderful community of other florists who all support & care for one another, sharing ideas, information & encouragement. It definitely helps me feel less alone.
It can also be really hard as a creative who earns a living from their work when others don’t see the same value in it and are just looking for the cheapest option. Monetizing a creative passion has had a few more hurdles than I first thought. But at the end of the day, I can’t help but be ridiculously thankful that there are people out there who do see the beauty & hard work & who give me the opportunity to do this full time.
What does an 'average' day look like for you?
I really have two types of ‘average’ days. When I’m doing flowers for a wedding I do a 30-40 hour work week within two days. I’m up at 3am on Friday & drive to the flower markets in Sydney. A few hours sourcing flowers there & I’m back at my studio in Wollongong around 8am. Lots of unpacking, filling buckets with water, stripping stems & prepping each flower. Then I’m arranging all day - bouquets, table arrangements, buttonholes etc. On Saturday I’m up early again, usually traveling an hour or so to a few locations around Sydney, the south coast or the southern highlands; dropping off the bouquets, setting up & styling an arch or some other arrangements at the ceremony, and then on to styling & installing all the reception flowers. If the bride requires pack up at the end of the night, I’m usually in bed around midnight. So it’s a long few days full of stress & adrenaline-fuelled creativity to pull off a wedding or event, but always so worth it when seeing people enjoying the end product.
When I’m not working with flowers, I’m writing up quotes & designing mood boards for brides, responding to emails, and always working on maintaining different aspects of a small business - finances, marketing strategies, my website & other social media platforms.
What are some of the non-glamorous sides of your 'business' that most people don't see?
Hours of washing out vases & slimey buckets; dry, dirty, scratched hands from stripping hundreds of flower stems, sorting through piles of receipts from growers at the market & trying to stay on top of finances - they’re just a few!
Anything cool you're currently reading/listening to/thinking about?
I’m reading a great book called Humble Roots, which draws from the way plants and flowers exist in the natural world to reflect on our need for humility and dependence on God to find real rest and peace from the pressures and anxiety of this world & ourselves. I’m also really enjoying listening to the new Gang of Youths album, and watching a Netflix documentary series called Abstract, which follows a range of different designers across a variety of creative fields.
Any advice for someone thinking about making a living from their creative passion?
Go for it. Maybe don’t quit your day job straight away, but absolutely throw yourself into whatever creative pursuit gives you joy. It is a hard road - learning to value your creativity and trying to convey the passion and significance of your work to others. But it is a life-giving pursuit, and a way to bring a lot of joy to others. Find yourself a creative and encouraging support network too - I could not have done this without a lot of love and help from a team of amazing people around me who have lifted me and backed me the whole way.
What are some of your favourite daily or weekly rituals?
Tea is a big part of my life and a favourite ritual. I can’t drink coffee, so I go through numerous cuppas each day. I have a chair in our living room from my grandparents’ old house that gets the morning sun. I love sitting here each morning, drinking tea, and spending time reading my bible, praying & journalling.
All photography by Aaron Hughes of In Your Shadow
Bek wears the Nourish and Nest Linen Apron in Rust.