LOUISE MIDGLEY meets Jay Archer whose new floral design and flower school offers courses that break free from traditional methods
It’s not surprising Jay Archer has followed her dreams and blossomed into a creative florist. During her formative years she spent happy summer days in her grandparents garden cutting sweet peas and crushing lavender pips between her fingertips.
Jay’s grandmother, Eva, would spend hours in the garden with her granddaughter giving her little jobs to do which sparked her imagination and love of flowers and foliage.
Roy her grandfather, passed on his deep love of wildlife along with oodles of knowledge to little Jay and ignited her lasting love of nature.
At the age of 18, Jay enrolled on a floristry course but soon realised the structured method of arranging flowers went against all she had loved from her childhood days of picking natural bunches of garden flowers.
Controlling the shape of flowers with wire and sticking them into oasis that wasn’t even biodegradable, was not how she envisaged flowers should be displayed.
Undeterred, she pursued her craft by experimenting with flowers from her own and neighbouring gardens and after creating arrangements for a friend’s wedding felt confident enough to set up her own floristry business.
Over the past nine years, Jay has developed a naturalistic flower-arranging style; one that’s loose yet fluid, giving garden flowers the freedom to do their own thing. If one has a crooked stem and wants to bend, she uses that feature as an asset in the design.
She has no strict rules about what colours go together; mimicking the rules of nature and her forte is to create large show-piece arrangements for weddings using a wide tapestry of colours.
The launch of Jay Archer Floral Design four years ago was well timed to mirror a similar aesthetic being used by garden designers who were favouring wildlife-friendly wild flowers and grasses over more formal garden-planting schemes.
Jay, 27, is a staunch supporter of the British Flowers Industry and sources locally grown flowers and foliage from British growers such as The Real Flower Company and Plant Passion. They provide seasonal flowers that are English garden classics and bestowed with old-fashioned scents, perfect for the wedding market she specialises in.
Over time, her business has grown through word-of-mouth recommendations from clients seeking out her specific style, one that has earned her the moniker ‘The English Romantic’.
With an instinctive eye for colour and form, Jay was quick to be recognised within her competitive industry. In 2012 she won the ‘Hitched Breakthrough Award for Best New Wedding Florist. Her work has appeared in numerous glossy magazines and wedding blogs.
She recently became part of the internationally-renowned Chapel Designers, a collective that brings together the highest calibre of floral design talent from around the world.
And in June, Jay was one of five UK florists chosen to front the campaign for British Flowers Week, organised by New Covent Garden Flower Market.
New venture: The Flower School.
This year Jay has embarked on a new phase of her career by opening her very own flower school. I was recently invited to attend her new premises, close to the picturesque Hampshire village of Odiham to watch and listen to her captivating floral demonstration, followed by the chance to make my own floral crown.
Jay explained that she has always wanted to teach and opening a flower school was very much part of her life plan. She appeared to have all the qualities a good teacher needs, empathetic to those around her, a lovely relaxed manner and a real desire to share her knowledge of how best to arrange flowers . She’s determined to stay at the helm and will be teaching all classes personally.
Courses start in September and will be held in a beautifully converted old farmhouse, next to her workshop, overlooking Hampshire woodland.
The school is bright and airy but with all the mod cons required for teaching.
Each student has his/her own workstation and there is a lovely chest of drawers full of ribbons, string and embellishments to decorate the arrangements. The room is decorated in a clean shabby chic style and will comfortably accommodate about 10 students.
Jay offers a wide variety of floristry courses, designed for all ages and abilities. Retirees looking to develop their existing skills and reinvigorate their creativity may be interested in booking a ‘Dinner Party Table Flowers Course’ or a ‘Dutch Masters Golden Age Floral Design’ course.
Or the more committed may want to enhance their skills on one of the career courses, with a view to working as a florist. Students learn how to create their own arrangements and gain an insight into growing flowers and foraging for them safely.
For full course information and available dates visit www.jafdflowerschool.com
Prices start from £37.50 for a two-hour hobby workshop up to £1,950 for a five-day career course.
Classes are taught personally by Jay and include lunch/refreshments, a goodie bag and in some instances the vases and vessels containing the arrangements.